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Category Archives: Gospel-Rich Weddings

Waiting for Your Wedding: Reflections on Advent

'waiting at the door' photo (c) 2006, Joe Flood - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

This post is dedicated to my husband’s cousin, James, and his precious fiancee, Malia. They are quickly approaching their wedding date of December 21st, and as I thought about their final preparations, I was inspired to spend some time meditating on the similarities of advent and engagement.

Dear Jimmy and Malia,

There are seventeen days left in your engagement. As my children count down the days until Christmas morning, you are counting down the days until you are “man and wife.” As I thought about the excitement and anticipation of the final days of my engagement, I realized I was just a bit envious of you both. This is a special time, unlike any other we experience in human relationships. And yet, as with so many things, it’s just a shadow of something so much greater.

It’s hard to explain to young children what it might have been like for God’s people to wait hundreds of years between prophecy and fulfillment. It’s hard even for me to understand. We sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and talk about the anticipation of Christmas day and how that’s just a tiny bit like what the people awaiting Christ felt as they waited and waited. But we don’t fully understand it. We’re not a culture that waits well. We demand instant gratification, determining worth by an object’s immediate availability, rather than its inherent value.

But you two–you’re getting a glimpse now of what it means to wait. You’ve awaited this day for so long already. And yet you continue to wait–just a few weeks more. You are blessed to know the day and the time, but that only eases the waiting slightly. I remember wanting to just hurry and get married already! There is a yearning–a longing for oneness–that only the arrival of the wedding day can satisfy. For millions of people, December 21st is just another day. But for you, it’s the day. The day it all changes. The day of joy and celebration, the culmination of years of prayers and tears and laughter.

On this day, friends and family will rejoice with you. They will witness something remarkable–the union of two people becoming one. But you two will experience something more.

Jimmy, you’ll know a piece of the joy of our Bridegroom, Christ. You’ll know what it is He sees as He looks on us. As your bride walks toward you, your heart will swell with happiness. You chose this bride and you love her dearly. And this is just the tiniest shadow of the love Christ has for the bride He redeemed with His own blood.

Malia, you’ll know in a new way what it means to be the bride of Christ. You will be clothed in white, walking toward your groom. You will be united with him, finally his bride. As he watches you coming toward him, you’ll know how dearly you’re loved. You’ll see it on his face and as you take his hand, you’ll feel it there too. And this is just the tiniest shadow of what it means to be the bride of Christ.

During Advent we rehearse waiting–remembering the anticipation of the Messiah’s first coming, readying our hearts for His second. We feel longing and yearning for oneness. We linger in the “already, but not yet,” just as you two are promised to one another, but not yet one. Even so, we know the joy of being found in Him, but not yet with Him. So we wait, and we invite others to join in the waiting along with us.

I’m jealous of you two as you wait during these next seventeen days. You are living out a beautiful metaphor. I pray you wait well, that in His grace your Father will give you joy and peace in the waiting. I pray for joy and peace on the wedding day as well. And I pray that all present on that day will know your love not just for one another, but for your Savior–your true Bridegroom.

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 the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”

Revelation 19:6-8

On Interfaith Marriage and Weddings

til faith

Over the weekend I spent some time reading Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America by Naomi Schaefer Riley. This book is fascinating in its description of modern marriages, 45% of which are interfaith unions, and the religious beliefs of  various married couples. Riley discusses everything from the wedding to raising children to divorce rate comparisons, and she writes from a first-person perspective based on her own experience of meshing her Jewish background with that of her husband’s Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Riley points out what she perceives as both weaknesses and strengths of interfaith marriage, although at times I found it difficult to view the “strengths” as such.

This post is not a review of the book, but as I read, one particular quote in the Conclusion chapter stood out to me:

[…] it is easy to see why interfaith marriage is growing by leaps and bounds. We like diversity; we believe members of other faiths are not only decent, but can get to heaven; we see marriage as a largely individual decision; we will meet our spouse and marry him or her with little forethought about his or her religious beliefs; when we find a potential partner, we believe the relationship between spouses will be an all-consuming one and that our families and communities do not have any kind of competing claims on our loyalties; we think religion is important but it is for kids and parents, not for young, single adults.(p.205)

As I set the book down, I wondered, “So what do we do with this?”

Parents may be raising their children with certain religious convictions or participation (or not), but we read and hear many reports stating that college students are widely prone to leave whatever faith system they were formerly part of. Whether this means a period of religious experimentation, or, as the author purports above, no importance at all placed on religion, we see it increasingly is not a make-or-break factor in many marriages.

The book described spouses from various backgrounds (LDS, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, mainstream, evangelical Christian) in marriages with those from other backgrounds. Many of those interviewed thought of their religion very little until time to make decisions for the wedding or when determining how to raise children. I found the author’s description of how couples celebrate holidays (such as Christmas) fascinating. She writes, “I have heard many interfaith couples use the analogy of a birthday party to explain the celebration of holidays to children: You can help your friend celebrate his birthday by going to his party and singing and eating and giving him a present. It’s not your birthday, but you can still participate. We can help dad celebrate Christmas even if it’s not our holiday.” (p.99)

I confess it’s difficult for me to imagine all of this. I know there are many couples who experience changes after marriage in their religious identity–some deny the faith they formerly claimed, others convert–but the thought of starting out marriage from such different points of view seems to be an enormous challenge.

Of course, the assumption in all of this is mentioned in Riley’s quote above: “We like diversity; we believe members of other faiths are not only decent, but can get to heaven;” This belief opens us up to marry whomever we wish–if he/she is a good person, why not? But then the questions come:

“Should we have mass at the wedding if one spouse is Catholic and the other Protestant?”

“Should we mention the name of Jesus if one spouse is Christian and the other Jewish?”

“Is it possible to raise our children in both faiths? If not, how do we choose which one?”

So how do we respond to this in our own churches and homes?

I can’t speak to other faith traditions, but I can just a bit to evangelical Christianity. So here are a few reasons why I think we’re increasingly seeing interfaith marriage as a possibility in the Church:

First, we don’t know what Christianity is. We don’t know what it means to truly follow Christ. We’ve reduced our “faith” to a common experience–to traditionalism. If this is the case and if all the “take up your cross” and “deny yourself” (Matt. 16:24-26) stuff is merely a suggestion for the truly devout, then Christianity might just be compatible with various religious systems. But if “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:21), then our lives mean far more than many of us realize.

Second, we don’t know what marriage really is. What does it truly mean? If it’s a social construct, then by all means we should marry whomever we wish. But if, as the Bible states, it was created by God to demonstrate a far greater reality, then our marriages mean far more than many of us realize.

But maybe you’re reading this and feel I’m simply stating the obvious. And here’s where the third observation comes in. IF the Christian life is about more than moralism and tradition, and IF marriage is meant to represent a far greater reality, how do these truths apply to our weddings?

The third truth is this: We don’t know what a wedding is. We don’t realize that not only did God create marriage, He orchestrated the first wedding. Running through the pages of Scripture is the beautiful metaphor of marriage, a picture of an intimate, loving husband and His bride, awaiting their ultimate union. Our weddings should reveal this expectancy and excitement, the tension of the already/not yet of the Kingdom. Marriage is common grace, God’s good gift to the world, but Christians should “get it” in a different way. And if we did, our weddings might reveal this truth to all those in attendance. We might rejoice in the greater reality of what we’re truly doing. And we might see how incompatible this reality is with faith systems that deny the deity of Christ–our true Bridegroom.

So I write all this not to motivate us to despair or try harder, but to encourage us to truly see Christ and point others to Him. We shouldn’t respond in fear of the future of evangelicalism, but maybe with a mix of hope and sadness. Love compels us to see what our friends and children are missing–we’re not fearful for the future of a “system” from which they’re turning away, but rather heartbroken that they haven’t truly seen the love of Christ.

From the outside, we may seem exclusive or intolerant. But the love of Christ compels us to share with others this great truth–Christ is all! A life, marriage, or wedding without Christ misses the point. This realization spurs us on to love and good deeds, powered by the gospel truth and the Holy Spirit to demonstrate through our imperfect lives and marriages that there is a far greater reality to come. So as we await that reality, we invite others to the ultimate wedding celebration to come.

In-Law Week

I’m deeming this “In-Law Week,” but it may turn into “Weeks” because I have several great guest posts and comments lined up to share with you. There is so much negativity out there regarding this relationship, so I hope we can redeem it somewhat in this space.

What we won’t do, however, is give a check-list of “How to Be a Great Mother-in-Law” or “Daughter-in-Law.” It’s not that simple, or rather it’s actually much simpler. When the love of Christ invades our hearts, all relationships are radically changed. No check-list will produce heart change, but being adopted by our Father and loved by Christ so dearly can change even the hardest heart.

So this week the posts you’ll read here are not about women we should all try to emulate. Rather, they are examples of what the love of Christ can do. He’s done it in other hearts and relationships, and hopefully reading these accounts will give hope that He can do it in your situation as well.

The guest posts will start tomorrow, but first I want to invite you to participate by writing a post about your own mother-in-law or daughter-in-law and sharing the link in the comments this week. Or, feel free to just leave a comment telling us about what God has done in your life through your in-laws. I think it would be so encouraging to read these things, even if they are in difficult circumstances. He works through those too. Thanks for joining us and I pray you’ll be encouraged!

Music Monday – Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder

I might be late to the party, but I just discovered this song and really love it. It’s certainly not your typical “wedding song,” but it tells and sings of the glorious redemption story, which makes it perfect for the wedding of two believers.

Revelation 1:5b-6 says,

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This song rejoices in the blessed truth that Christ has washed us with his blood. There is nothing better to sing about on your wedding day!

This version is recorded by Jars of Clay featuring Martin Smith. Lyrics by John Newton and music by Laura Taylor of Indelible Grace.

New Series for the Fall

This past week I traveled to Branson, MO with my mom, my grandmother and my two children. I had planned to sneak away for a bit and write, but realized an hour outside of Nashville I left my computer sitting inside the door of my home. So I had an unexpected vacation from blogging. Truthfully there wouldn’t have been much time to write anyway, and my kids probably enjoyed some extra time with their mom.

My oldest starts Kindergarten next week (let’s not talk about it…I’m about to drown my sorrows in a pint of Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream) and things around here will soon get into some semblance of routine. Once that happens, I’m excited to explore some new blog topics:

– Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law relationships

– Wedding vows

– Thank You note tips and etiquette

And of course the random non-wedding-related posts thrown in there as well.

I’m also going to be doing a series on pre-marital counseling, using some ideas and thoughts from readers (thanks!). I actually wrote some introductory thoughts on this subject, posted this past week on the Revive Our Hearts blog.

Read What Premarital Counseling Didn’t Teach Me here. And, just as an aside, this is not meant to belittle premarital counseling. Most of my counseling was actually in the form of books I read. I know many counselors who do a great job preparing couples for marriage. The point of the post is that no amount of counseling can prepare us for the unknown–only understanding Christ’s supreme value can.

Thanks for reading!

Weddings on the Web–Lies Brides Believe and Vows After 20 Years

Today I want to highlight a couple of recent blog posts that should be helpful for couples currently planning or heading toward that stage.

The Wedding Vows–20 Years Later –  First, this post by Steve McCoy is a reflection on the wedding vows he and his wife committed to one another twenty years ago. It’s honest and heartfelt and beautiful, and something you probably only fully understand when you’ve walked through twenty years of marriage. All the same, it’s a truthful look at marriage in a culture that either romanticizes or demeans it.

Lies Women Believe While Wedding Planning – This helpful post by Brittany Lind looks at five common myths about weddings and wedding planning. This is a great one, and as an added bonus it includes a picture from Brittany’s own wedding, which looks like it was spectacularly colorful and super fun.

Happy reading and have a great weekend!

Submission as Weakness

'Holding hands' photo (c) 2009, Quinn Dombrowski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Erik and I are coming up on our 8 year anniversary and lately I’ve been reflecting on our early days together. When we were engaged, we spent a lot of time talking and praying about our marriage. Much of this time was focused on our personality differences. I am a natural leader—strong, opinionated, capable and confident. Erik is not a natural leader. He is non-confrontational, servant-hearted, gentle and laid-back.

But we believe he is to be the leader in our home, which means he is being forced to do something counter-intuitive. In taking on the role of leading our family, he is repeatedly shoved out of his natural realm of comfort. I, also, am being forced to do something counter-intuitive. In taking on the role of submissive wife, I am continually repressing what comes naturally to me. (Okay, not always. But sometimes.)

It would make much more sense for us to have a marriage in which there is no set hierarchy or structure. Erik would find fulfillment in exercising his gifts without being forced to do something he finds so difficult. I would find fulfillment in exercising my natural leadership. We would be fulfilled in our work for the Lord.

And if we were called to a life of personal fulfillment, that would make sense. But that’s not what we’re called to. We follow Christ, who told His disciples to set aside their personal ambitions to serve one another, just as even He “came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Through His life and death, Christ has taught us life is not about self-fulfillment or our rights. And it isn’t even about what I can offer Him. We see this in Philippians 2 as He did not insist on holding onto His full rights as God, but submitted Himself to the will of His Father and became a humble human.

Rather than self-fulfillment, our lives are meant for the glory of God. And trusting a sovereign God means trusting His plan for our marriage—the good design He laid out from the beginning as a foreshadowing of Christ’s relationship with the church.

Now this does not mean I don’t believe in equality. Erik and I are equal in Christ. We have been given the same gift of salvation. I do not hold a lower position in the Kingdom; nor does he hold a higher one. But equality of standing does not require identical roles of service.

What it comes down to for us is this: it would be far easier to do it another way. Erik would not have to lead if he didn’t want to. I would not have to repress leadership if I didn’t want to.

And yet as we look back on our marriage, it is clear to us both that we are more dependent on Christ because of the structure of our marriage. Erik must depend on Christ to lead our home. I must depend on Him to not demand my way or take control.

This dependence is far sweeter than I could have imagined. It is possible only because Jesus Christ came, lived a perfect life, died in submission to the Father, and was raised again. It is possible because He has proven Himself good and trustworthy. It is possible because He showed how strength is made perfect in weakness.

Therefore, I can be weak and set aside my desire to lead and control, or even to have equal say in all decisions. I can do this because I know strength does not come from me anyway. Real strength comes from abiding in Christ through my weakness.

So I depend on Christ as I submit to my husband. This dependence causes me to stop and pray before speaking. It allows me to rest. It causes me to rejoice at answered prayers. It draws me to Him for comfort when things are not as I wish them to be. And the same One who loves and strengthens me does the same for my husband. What sweet fellowship we have, knowing we are both relying on He who is far greater and more capable than ourselves!

This is not everyone’s story, nor is our marriage perfect. It’s simply my testimony of the way in which God has used my marriage to show me my weakness and His sufficiency. I pray it encourages you today to see Him as sufficient as well.