Courtney Tarter reflects on marriage, Christ, and the Church.
Every summer you can always find me at the nearest Target a little more than usual. It's not that I get a sudden urge to shop there when the temperature rises, it is simply that my summers lately have been filled with weddings and wedding showers for friends. At the dawn of the first day of summer the wedding invitations begin pouring in, and our weekends are quickly booked with all of the festivities of our friends and loved one's happy nuptials.
As women, many of us have been planning our wedding since we were five years old, down to the color of the flowers and the number of attendants that we have already chosen. All we're really missing is the groom, and we are pretty certain that he will come soon to sweep us off of our feet and carry us off to wedded bliss. This is not wrong. In fact, we should desire marriage and look forward to that day, should God choose to give us that. But the end result of our wanting to be married should be a hope in a marriage as the corporate Bride to a very different man-the God man, Jesus Christ.
Marriage exists to point people to the Gospel, and it's really easy to lose sight of that when we desperately desire marriage here on earth. We often have a Hollywood understanding of marriage, thinking that our life will be complete when that "perfect man" comes to our doorstep and promises us love and happiness forever. The perfect man did come, and will come again to redeem His Bride, the Church.
For many of us, our days are spent dreaming of a marriage here on earth, even to the extent that with the first "hello" from an eligible bachelor we are planning the big event before we even know his name. And for others, we can probably confess that we are all too guilty of confusing a phone call with a marriage proposal. Are we content with our only marriage being the final marriage where we are eternally joined to our Bridegroom, Christ? Carolyn McCulley says that if Jesus came back tomorrow and you are disappointed because you aren't married yet, you are idolizing an earthly husband, and desiring the wrong marriage. I think she's right.
The marriage we should long for is the final marriage that all marriages should point to, Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). Jesus is not our own personal boyfriend/fiancé/husband. The marriage supper of the Lamb is not an individualized marriage. We will not each be personally walking down the aisle to Jesus in the last day, despite what some women's Bible studies and worship songs express. He is the Bridegroom of the Church collectively, of which we are a part if we are in Christ. In our preparation to meet our Groom, our lives should reflect less of an American, individualistic ideology, and more of the reality of the Christian community found in the book of Acts, where our brothers and sisters laid down their lives for the building up of the local church. This might mean that we should spend more time changing diapers in the nursery and sitting in the pews under the Word of God, than picking out our wedding songs and drooling over designer dresses.
We muddy the Gospel when we bank all of our happiness on a marriage here on earth. Instead, let us cry out with the whole earth "come quickly, Lord Jesus!" All of our right, earthly desires for a husband are here to give us a temporary picture of an eternal reality-the Gospel.
I am all for marriage here on earth, and I love going to weddings where God is glorified in the joining of two Christians declaring a covenant before God and His people. As Calvin said, our hearts are idol factories, and every good and biblical desire always has the potential to replace God as our object of worship. Whenever I am struggling with whether or not a desire is an idol, a question I always ask myself is "if God chose to never fulfill this desire in my life, would I still love Him? Would I still desire to serve Him?" Those are hard questions to ask, because more often than not, I find myself chaffing at the idea of not getting what I want. But as we seek to honor God with our desires, let us keep an eternal perspective. Resolve today, dear Christian, to love and serve your local congregation, members of the Church. And dream of the greatest wedding party of all, where thoughts of the Vera Wang dress will fade away in the face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready."-Revelation 19:6-7