I tried on one wedding dress. It fit. It’s cheap. I’ll take it.
I let my husband-to-be choose the Blue Hill china pattern and the Nouveau stainless. Who cares?
His mother and sister met the florist without me. Stargazer lilies and Akito white roses for my bouquet? If you say so.
I showed up on my wedding day.
And right before I walked down the aisle–in our awkward mother-daughter moment when I straightened her corsage because looking in her eyes only made it more awkward–my mom gave me her final words of marital advice: “All men cheat, so don’t get your hopes up.”
Cue music: Here comes the bride…
So how did I go from such disinterest in all things bridal to writing a blog posts under His Bride?
It began out of frustration with God. Supposedly, He loved me and cared for me. But I’d lost four babies to miscarriages. My husband Mark had lost his job. Debt had mounted. And our only child had tried to kill himself. Twice! Praise God from whom all blessings flow? Yeah, right. Where exactly were those blessings? Instead of feeling blessed by God, I felt unloved and abandoned.
At the time, Mark and I were meeting with friends who also felt a chasm between themselves and God. But because we had all once enjoyed a love relationship with Him, we desperately wanted to rekindle it. To help us in our struggle, the guys suggested an exercise from John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.
It seemed simple enough. “You must ask God what he thinks of you,” Eldredge writes. “What God sees when he sees you is the real you, the true you, the man he had in mind when he made you” (134).
Eldredge goes further and suggests that the “real you” will be embodied in “our true name” bestowed by God (132): “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). This renaming happens several times in the Bible: Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon becomes Peter. And each time, the new name reveals the person’s God-given identity and purpose. Given these Biblical precedents, Eldredge encourages us to ask God to reveal our true image–the one He sees–through a name. And when we know that name, it will give us “words of life, words that heal [our] wounds and shatter the Enemy’s accusations” (135).
I needed new life. I needed healing. And I needed to shatter the mirage, the lie concocted by Satan, that God had named me Unlovable, Unworthy, Rejected.
Maybe, I thought, I could love God again if my “true name” expressed His delight in me.
Maybe I could even love myself.
With so much to gain from knowing, why not ask? So I prayed that God would allow me to see myself as He sees me. I also prayed that He would give me a new name if it would enhance my understanding of that image. My group of friends joined me in prayer. As we listened for God’s word in the silence that followed, I heard the answer, a name, an image impressed on my mind and felt in my heart almost immediately.
But instead of feeling joy, I had a different response: ugh! (My actual response was, Oh hell no. But I can’t write that in a Christian blog, can I?) I kept the name secret for months, thinking surely I’d misunderstood. God couldn’t have meant that!
I wanted a name that spoke of my warrior spirit, the inner me who wielded the sword of righteousness. Xena perhaps? I suggested to God. You know, superhuman protector of innocence, star of the live-action series? He wouldn’t budge. Maybe it wasn’t churchy enough for Him. So I offered the name Joan–as in Arc–fearless warrior saint. Again, He refused. I sought out a Biblical name. He couldn’t refuse that, right? And so I begged: How about Esther, who risked her life to save her people? I wanted a name that was cool. One that was tough. One that fit me.
God didn’t argue. He simply repeated one name until I couldn’t deny it.
Was that how God saw me–as His bride? For real? I have to admit, I wasn’t just disappointed. I was also confused.
If you’re an evangelical Protestant like me, church teachings may thwart your understanding of the Christ-bride relationship. Not that our pastors are wrong. They just never talk about the metaphor as personal, linking it instead to Jesus and His church.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church of Ephesus, for example, he exhorted husbands to love their wives, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy… to present her to himself as a radiant church” (Eph. 5: 25-27). Here Paul offers the marriage of Christ and His church as the model for marriage between a man and a woman.
Many times in Revelation, John describes the new Jerusalem, the new church, as the bride of Christ:
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21: 9-10).
Like me, you may have also heard your pastor tiptoe delicately around the juicy verses in the Bible’s Song of Songs as he discussed it as an allegory for the intimate relationship Christ has to His church, never once mentioning it as a description of the love relationship He has with us individually. Or you may have listened to sermons about Jesus preparing a place for us in heaven, adding rooms to His Father’s house just as, according to ancient Jewish wedding customs, the bridegroom would have done to fulfill his responsibility during betrothal: “In my Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). But that bridegroom language wasn’t for the here and now.
These are accepted, Bible-based teachings on Christ and His bride, metaphorically representing His Church or His people. But this nebulous connection–as well as my own lack of bridal interest–had caused me to gloss over the metaphor.
Now Christ was calling me His bride.
Not symbolically or collectively or in eternity.
But personally. Intimately.
The thought made me blush! It also made me realize I didn’t have a clue what this name bride really meant. But I was desperate to reawaken the love I once felt for God. Desperate enough to launch a journey to figure out the meaning of an age-old metaphor.
What I learned breathed new life into my relationship with God and my understanding of myself. Like the dry bones described by Ezekiel, I came alive as I embraced my role as Christ’s bride.
Although the journey was personal, it unveiled a greater truth along the way: you are His bride, too! Won’t you join me as we discover how passionately our Bridegroom loves us and what it means to be His bride?