Twenty-eight years ago last Saturday, Steve and I stood before family and friends and committed to love each other "until death do us part." This coming weekend, a dear young sister in Christ will stand before God, her church, family, and friends, and make a similar vow to her beloved. Anniversaries, bridal showers, wedding celebrations...it must be June!
Honestly, even after twenty-eight years, I have to admit that I do not have this marriage thing down. There are sweet seasons of delight, and then there are days when this feels more like the front line of a war zone. But I guess that shouldn't be too surprising: marriage is a war zone, and we have a cunning, ruthless, persistent enemy who wants very much to take us down.
In Ephesians, Paul spends a great deal of time talking about relationships within the body of Christ. Husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants (or "bosses and employees"). And then, right on the heels of a lot of very particular instruction concerning these relationships, we encounter the passage that tells us to "put on the whole armor of God." Why the leap from "love your wife" and "submit to you husband" - to - "put on armor"? Doesn't that seem a little strange to you?
Not when you consider that Christ loves the church and that it is precious to Him. This multifaceted jewel - the bride of Christ - reflects the radiance of the Gospel and of God's love for His people as we relate with one another. And it is here, in our most intimate relationships, that Satan labors tirelessly to discredit the Gospel and to bring dishonor to the Bridegroom. Paul exhorts Christian husbands and wives to arm themselves against Satan's attacks, and to STAND. Yes, it's going to get messy. Yes, we are going to get weary. It may even get so tough that we want nothing more than to flee the battlefield. But our command is to stand, stand, stand.
It's easy to get so preoccupied with The Dress that a bride forgets to put on her Armor first. Sadly, the lace and the satin won't provide much defense against fiery darts. All that said, what counsel would I give a young bride as she "suits up" for her wedding day?
First, young bride, always remain conscious of the truth that your eternal husband is Christ. The handsome young man standing with you at the altar today will be your husband for only a season. Five years, twenty-eight years, seventy years. I don't know how many years God will bless you to have together, but I do know that one day, this earthly marriage will come to an end. Enjoy your husband for the season God gives you, and let the delights of your marriage whet your appetite for the greater delights of Glory. Walk together through the trials you and your husband encounter in this life, and let those trials increase your longing for the wedding feast of the Lamb, where there will be no sin, tears, sickness, or pain.
Just as you want to know and love and serve your earthly husband better throughout your lifetime, seek also to know and love and serve Jesus better. Married life should not be a distraction that pulls you away from Christ, but a powerful vehicle for pulling you more and more towards Christ. Marriage is not just an opportunity to know and enjoy another person in an intimate way...It is an opportunity to learn and experience more of the beauty, grace, and sufficiency of Christ, and to extend more and more of that grace to one another.
I like to think of it this way: marriage is a living billboard of the love between Christ and His church. It is an interactive, earthly picture of a greater, eternal marriage. Yes, there will be times when we fall flat on this stage, or get our lines all wrong, but what a privilege to be part of this living drama!
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels. - Isaiah 61:10
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church...Therefore, take up the whole armor of God... - Ephesians 5:31-32; 6:13a