It’s your wedding day, my patient friend. Many of us rejoice with you in prayers answered, waiting (of this sort, anyway) over, and expectations long hoped for fulfilled.
During the past 10 or so years, while some of us were busy with the blessed distraction of worldly things – like how to please our husbands – you have been busy devoting yourself to the Lord. You got those stamps on your passport and those certifications for which you studied. You’ve discipled women, evangelized many, mastered your French, and advocated for those in need. You’ve frequented hundreds of coffee shops, edited more pages than one thought humanly possible, shopped thrift stores, and simmered and stirred some fabulous soups on your stove-top. You’ve stumbled and you’ve gotten back up by the grace of God. You’ve feared and you’ve trusted. You’ve struggled physically and you’ve clung to the hope that your inner man is being renewed daily. You’ve paid down debt and remembered that your God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.
We’ve been watching God at work in your life these past years. We’ve wondered where He would lead you next and how He would use your amazing gifts to magnify His great name. The mysteries that sometimes frustrated us because they seemed so mysterious always have made perfect sense to Him. Now we see through a glass dimly; then face to face.
Today certainly isn’t the culmination of all for which you’ve waited. I know you’ll agree that won’t occur until the day you see Jesus as He is and are made to be like Him. And, of course, today isn’t the stopping point of God’s leading in your life. But it is a providential pause. A special time to celebrate this new season, new role, and these new responsibilities. So as we pause to observe this particular point in God’s plan for your life, I have a few words of encouragement for you.
1. You’ll be a good wife because you’ve already proven to be a faithful bride. One thing that has impressed me over the years is how important the local church is in your life. From those days in grad school when some thought they’d wait to join a church, you made it a point to identify yourself in a meaningful way with a local body of believers. You have loved the churches (meaning the people not the buildings!) of which you’ve been part, and with your geographical moves have made it a point to pick a church (people) first, a job second. You are always a loyal support to your pastors and church leaders. You take ownership. One thing I love is that it’s your habit to refer to your church as “my church.”
It isn’t coincidence God uses the imagery of marriage when referencing His relationship to His people. The parallels are striking. So to you, faithful bride of Christ, I say, be faithful to Brad in the same way. Call him “my husband” with all the affection and loyalty that title embodies. Support him through the hard decisions he has to make. Let him cast the vision for your family and allow him to share his dreams with you. Then get busy accomplishing them together!
2. You’ll be a good wife because you’ve already proven to be an empathetic friend.
An evidence of the Spirit at work in your life I’ve noticed these past years, is the grace God has given you to rejoice and sorrow with others. You sent me flowers on the due date of one of our miscarried babies. You bought blankets for my newborns and my favorite striped socks for my feet. 🙂 And you’ve fulfilled your role of bridesmaid as if it didn’t really matter if you were ever the bride.
Be that empathetic friend to Brad. Although you are one flesh, it will still be hard at times to hurt when he hurts as if you yourself were hurting. But try to. Rejoice with him over the things that bring him joy. Don’t minimize what he’s going through but feel what he feels deeply right along with him. This brings the unity of marriage to a whole new level and will let his heart grow to trust in you. He’ll know he’s safe with you. The Bible describes this in the Gospels as doing to others what you would have them do to you. And that’s the perfect starting point. But don’t stop there. Learn what he wants (because it might be different than what you want!) and do that for him!
3. You’ll be a good wife because you’ve already proven to be a submissive help. It’s obvious to everyone you are a competent woman. You’ve been formally trained in theology more than many pastors. Your mastery of the English language and the poetic way you express your thoughts are a God-given gift. Your knowledge of global crises and gospel-driven and philanthropic relief are impressive. You have not used your abilities as a way to draw attention to yourself but as a means to serve. You have used them to submit to your church leadership or those over you in your employment to help draw attention to the Giver of those gifts. You have set up adoption funds through your local church and were able to see some of your friends give precious children forever families. You have applied your theology instead of letting it grow stagnant in your brain and contentious in your heart, using it to help others by entreating, teaching, encouraging, correcting, and even keeping silent when necessary. You have written some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read which have served in helping me strive to be better at what I do and in the way I make use of the gifts I’ve been given.
Be that submissive help to Brad. Make it easy for him to lead in your home. Don’t intimidate him or use your skills as a means of manipulation. Make him a better husband by the way you exercise your gifts. Use your abilities in a way that helps him and doesn’t make him feel like you are competing with him. Your desire will be to rule over your husband. Master that desire. Don’t master him.
4. You’ll be a good wife because you’ve already learned to hold your earthly relationships with loose hands. This last point takes me back to our final year of undergrad (1998) in Senior Study Hall. There we were (me, you, and Marica), with our heads often bowed in prayer, well-worn Bibles laid out before us, journals filled with entries expressing all God was doing in our hearts, and Christian hedonism fresh on our minds. Others looked and saw tables of wood and melamine. But we knew those tables where we sat were holy tables. God was doing business with us and we were learning from Him.
I remember catching an unintentional (honestly, it was!) glimpse at your journal one night. I saw something written at the top that I have never forgotten. You had the lyrics written out to the final verse of the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” What I saw looked something like this:
“Let goods (house, car, books) and kindred (Mom, Dad, Josh, Matt, Luke) go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.”
Today, you’ll add a new name to that list of kindred. You know marriage is a gift for this life only. You will be married to Christ forever, but to Brad for a vapor. If Christ doesn’t return first, your relationship will eventually return to the dust from which your bodies came. So keep eternity in mind each day as you interact with Brad. Don’t waste your role as a wife. It will soon be over. Obey God in this new season like you’re living for a Kingdom that is forever. Your being a wife can serve God best only if you continue to be most satisfied in Him. Not your role. Not your husband. So hold tightly to Christ and loosely to Brad. To use a Piperism, love Christ most and you will love Brad best.
I love you, my Joy-driven friend. It is my supreme delight to share today with you. It is an honor to stand next to you and witness the covenant you and Brad make with each other before God. I will be rejoicing too, that because of a covenant God made with you both and keeps for all eternity, you really will live happily ever after. That’s something to celebrate!
Erica, that was beautiful. I know this post is for Joy, but it was a great reminder to all of us wives. Joy, happy wedding day! I'll be thinking of you and Brad today.
I don't know you, but I do know Joy, and this is just beautiful. Thank you for posting this. What a wonderful encouragement and rebuke to the rest of us.
This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing it and letting the rest of us share in it.
thanks so much for reading this tribute to joy, you all. it was a blessing to me as i thought through all the ways God has evidenced grace in her life and prepared her for this new step.
<3 Revisiting this after 5 years this month. You are a gift, Erica. To your family, to the Church, to so many, and to me. <3 ~joy