346 days ago, I committed myself to the woman I love. I knelt down on one knee in the middle of an apple orchard in Southern Wisconsin on a cold, nasty, rainy day and asked her to marry me. She said yes (Hallelujah!) and all of the sudden everything was different.
My life changed that day. In fact, pretty much everything about my life changed that day. I have spent the last 11 months reflecting on my engagement to my bride-to-be and seeking to understand God and his love for us through that lens. And God sure has taught me a lot.
Scripture gives us the imagery of Christ as the Groom and the church as his bride. There is perhaps no better description in the whole Bible to help us understand the love that God has for his people. The loving relationship between God and his church is similar to the loving relationship between groom and bride-to-be. I initiated relationship with Alyssa, I introduced myself to her, eventually we liked each other, then fell in love, then committed to one another – and now our wedding day is fast approaching. Likewise, God initiates relationship with us, reveals himself (along with his love and his commitment) to us, then we get to know him and eventually fall in love. When we reciprocate that love and relationship, we commit to one another. After all, love + commitment = relationship. Our time on earth is our “engagement” with Christ. It isn’t yet complete and we won’t fully know him until the wedding day, which is still to come as described in Revelation 19. We spend this life walking with him closer, getting to know him better, learning to love him better, learning to submit humbly to his wishes, and constantly preparing ourselves for the day that we will finally be fully present with him.
Here are just a few reflections on what God has taught me during my engagement:
- The day and the walk.
October 24, 2015 marks the exact date that the course of my life changed. But every day of knowing and loving my bride since then has been just as important. The engagement wasn’t everything – it was just the beginning of a beautiful walk toward the wedding.
The parallel: The exact day of our salvation is an important one. It is the day that the course of our lives changed, but every ensuing day of loving God and walking with him through life is just as important.
- Relational Exclusivity
When I asked my fiancé to marry me and she said yes, we committed to being in an exclusive relationship with one another. We committed to knowing and loving one another above all else no matter what happens.
The parallel: Though it seems more common sense in an earthly relationship, too many people basically commit to an open relationship with God – where say they love him but then live life loving other things. The problem is that God won’t allow that. When we commit our lives to Christ, we commit ourselves to being in an exclusive loving relationship with him. No matter what happens in our lives, we will walk with Him and He with us through it all. We must forsake our idols and demolish anything that threatens our love for God because he did the same thing for us when he destroyed sin and death through his resurrection.
- Her, not me.
When we got engaged, everything in my life changed. All of the sudden, every decision I made, every path I took, every dollar I made became about her, not me. I was giving up my independence. Giving up my selfishness. Giving up my right to live for myself.
The Parallel: When we commit our lives to God, everything changes and we forfeit ourselves. He paid for us, he bought us, and now we belong to him. Every decision, every choice, every dollar spent becomes about God, not us.
- Engagement is good, marriage is better.
Our time of engagement has been wonderful. We have fallen in love with one another on a whole new level compared to when we were just dating. Our time together is sweeter, our love is deeper, our commitment is stronger. As wonderful as our engagement has been, it is all still about the wedding and the marriage. The engagement is a time of preparing ourselves for an unending marriage. CS Lewis said, “If that [to travel hopefully is better than to arrive] were true…how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for.” The engagement, traveling hopefully, is not everything and it is not better than arriving. The wedding is arriving and the marriage is a permanent state of having arrived.
The parallel: This life with God, as sweet and wonderful as it is, is simply preparing us for eternity with him.
- Wedding preparation is hard and expensive.
Though the engagement has been wonderful, preparing for a wedding is hard. A large portion of the engagement is focused on preparing for the wedding day. We’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours preparing for the wedding. We’ve argued, we’ve disagreed about the way it should go, the clothes we should wear, the number of people who should come, and much more. The process itself has forced us to humbly love one another and put the other’s wishes ahead of our own. Not only that, but it has cost us quite a bit.
The parallel: Spending this life preparing ourselves for eternity with God is hard. It requires effort, blood, sweat, and tears. And it will cost us dearly.
- The wedding and marriage are worth it.
Though it is hard, stressful, and has cost us a lot – the wedding and marriage are worth every penny and every drop of blood and sweat. That day will be the best day of our lives. We have to keep reminding ourselves of how amazing the wedding day will be in order to help us endure the hard parts of the engagement.
The parallel: Though being in a relationship with God and preparing for eternity with Him is hard and requires commitment, time, energy, and sacrifice, it will all be worth it. In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul writes, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” Though it is hard, it isn’t even worth comparing to the glory of an eternity with God in loving relationship. Though following Jesus in this life can be painful, we must keep our eyes fixed on eternity with him – only then will we see our “present troubles” as the insignificant things they really are.
- The whole process is about the love between two people.
It is easy to get caught up in the food, the drinks, the music, the ceremony details, the clothes, and so on. Though it is all important, and the wedding day couldn’t happen without all of those things, all of that preparation and work is simply a part of the big picture – which is our love for one another.
The parallel: All the Christian “stuff” of this life is important, and the wedding day couldn’t happen without our obedience, our prayers, our Scripture reading, our church attendance, our discipling of one another, mission trips, small groups, etc., but all of those things are just a part of the big picture – which is God’s love for us and our love for him. We mustn’t lose sight of that during the engagement.
There are far more than 7 things that I’ve learned throughout the last 11 months. These were just the most prominent and big picture ones. What parallels do you see? What else can we learn about God and his love for us through the Groom/bride and engagement/wedding imagery that God has given us?