God willing, I will be getting married three months from today.
In contemplating that throughout the day, I’ve experienced a wide range of reactions: excitement, longing, nausea, dread. The first two are normal and expected. The other two may be just as normal but are certainly not as celebrated.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to get married. God has done so much to sanctify Ben and I to the point where we can pick a date and start planning our eventual life together. I am so ready for all of that to happen.
With all of its joys and frustrations, engagement is a glorious state to dwell in—temporarily. Ben and I are at this crux in our lives between the life we’ve always known and this wonderful, terrifying, humbling, crazy, awesome thing called marriage. We get to see how God has prepared us as individuals to sacrifice a measure of our independence to serve Him together.
So, in anticipating marriage, I have this tangible picture of what it means to anticipate Christ. Right now, I don’t see Ben nearly as much as I would prefer. And even when we are together, there always comes that point when, yet again, we have to say goodbye. The logical part of my brain tells me that those goodbyes shouldn’t be getting harder. After all, we sure have practiced. But in reality, those goodbyes are yet another reminder that we weren’t designed to be apart from each other.
It’s the same with Christ. Sometimes, prayer doesn’t seem like quite enough. My Bible doesn’t seem like quite enough. And it’s not that those things are not sufficient. They are. But, just like the engagement period, they’re meant to be temporary. One day, Christ will return for His church. He will take her to Himself as a bride and begin the best marriage in all eternity.
But the one thing I’m realizing about marriage is that I’m not going to be able to get away with my habitual selfishness. Today, it was something along the lines of, “I’m going to have less than 12 Saturdays left where I can hide in a corner and read all day. Ben is such a jerk. Why would he take those from me?” Because, of course, that has to happen and Ben is marrying me specifically to take my books away. Exactly.
From there, it digressed to, “Abbie, that was selfish. With that kind of thinking, you’re going to be an awful wife. I don’t even know why you think you can do this. Do you have any idea what you’re getting Ben into?”
Sin is sneaky, isn’t it? I seized on this petty little thing as a platform to first villainize Ben and then sink into a puddle of insecurity. I cycled through that on and off throughout my day. At times, I decided that Ben’s existence offended me because he was somehow threatening my independence. On purpose. I couldn’t articulate why. But I felt the truth of it, okay? At other times, I flirted with the idea that it would be better for both of us if I wasn’t around. I knew that I couldn’t force myself to be the kind of wife that he deserves. So why be in the way of someone who could do a better job?
In the midst of this, I texted Ben to give him a general heads up about what was going on in my heart. He responded as the sweet, loving, dependable man I agreed to marry.
I was smitten. Yes, my heart was overwhelmed with love. But I also felt like a fireball launched from a catapult had just crashed into my chest. He simply told me that he was praying for me and asked me if there was anything I needed him to do. He didn’t say, “You’re dumb. Stop it” or “Not again…” He didn’t lash out with anything like, “It makes me feel awkward and unwanted when you start questioning the validity of our relationship.” He showed love without reproach.
The reason why Ben can respond the way he did is because, in committing to marry me in three months, he’s committing to love me as Christ loved His church. He knows that I’m a mess. And he somehow sees it as not just a duty but a joy to tackle that mess with me.
In dying for hopeless sinners, Christ took our sin on Himself. He made our mess His responsibility. And, “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). As a result, we get Jesus’ righteousness and a restored relationship with God.
I might be frustrated because I can’t snap my fingers and fix my selfishness. I might panic because I know that I won’t be able to be a perfect wife. But I’m not supposed to fix those things. If I could, then I would rest in the pride of my own effort. Rather, I am called to submit in all willingness and humility to God because He’s the only one that can change my heart.
When Ben and I say “I do” in three months, we are making a commitment to love and serve each other. But we in no way can make that commitment on our own strength or willpower. Rather, the confidence behind those words will come from knowing that the Spirit of God in us is working to conform us to the image of Christ as we seek to do everything—even marriage—to the glory of God.