I always cry at weddings. There’s something so beautiful about seeing two people in love coming together to form a covenant and start their lives as a couple. It moves me to tears every time. There’s nothing like the way the groom looks at his bride as she’s revealed at the end of the aisle and time seems to stand still for just a moment as she smiles at him and he at her.
Yes, I always cry at weddings, but I knew that I was really going to cry at this particular wedding. Not only was it my little brother marrying his high school sweetheart against all odds, but it was my first wedding after my divorce. I’ll be honest, the weeks leading up to the wedding were rough. I didn’t want to be bitter. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t—I couldn’t be—jealous. I was so happy for them! So honoured to be in the bridal party! “Then why do you look so stressed?” I played the mom card and blamed any grumpiness on nervousness that my daughter wouldn’t be able to walk down the aisle as a flower girl (she didn’t and it was fine).
But all the while seeds of jealousy were taking root in my heart, scabbing over the still fresh wounds of divorce like an itch you know you shouldn’t scratch. If God loves marriage, why did He take mine away? If God says man was not meant to be alone, why did He leave me alone? The breaking of a covenant feels like flesh ripping apart. The wages of sin is death, but this wasn’t my sin, so how is it fair that I’m the one feeling dead?
All these brooding thoughts brought me so much misery. But I put on the bravest face I could and prepared to cry my way through this wedding, more out of self pity than rejoicing.
And yet when the day of the wedding came, there weren’t tears of self pity and angst. No, I watched my brother watch his bride come down the aisle and I was amazed. Maybe it’s just because he’s my brother and I know that under his playfully blustering personality he’s a softhearted romantic, but I’ve never seen a man look at a woman with so much devotion and love as Matt. Maybe it’s just because we’ve sat up late on the couch with a bottle of moscato and talked about our life struggles so I know the tenderness of her heart, but I’ve never seen a woman look so ready to be married, so unafraid and ready to weather life’s storms like the Proverbs 31 woman, than Micaela. My first thought was, “I’m never going to have this… I lost my chance.”
And then Matt said something in his vows that shot an arrow into my heart. He called her the “bride of his youth.” It’s such a Biblical phrase and the way he looked at her with such intensity, devotion, and love when he said it… I’ve never seen anything like it. For some reason, the verse that immediately came to mind was Hosea 2:14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” And then it hit me… Somebody does look at me like that. Jesus looks at me like that.
Matt and Micaela did a foot washing ceremony after they’d read their vows. They wanted their first act as a married couple to be one of service towards each other. I’ll be honest…. when I first heard about it, I thought it was a little weird. I had never seen it done and honestly I don’t like people touching my feet, I’m very ticklish, so the concept just seemed bizarre. But oh my… What a testimony! As a medley of Great Is Thy Faithfulness and the theme from Pride and Prejudice (you know… the music that plays whenever Mr. Darcy looks lovingly at Elizabeth and every girl goes “I want that!”) played softly, Matthew removed Micaela’s shoe and washed her foot. I was a bridesmaid and couldn’t see Micaela’s face, but I could see Matt’s. The sun was shining on his face as he very tenderly looked up at his bride, all the love in the world written on his features. I can’t write about it without crying because in that moment, God was stirring something up in me.
It didn’t hit me until I was driving home in the middle of the night two days later, crossing the long stretches of highway from Virginia to New Jersey while the rest of the car slept. God whacked me in the head with almost all of Ephesians 5.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
I realised that I am not alone. A man may have broken his covenant with me, but God never breaks His covenants and He loves me so much that He didn’t just wash my feet, He sent His Son to wash my entire heart with His blood and to redeem me as His bride. I’m not alone. I’m blood-bought. I’m a part of the bride of Christ.
So often when young women in the church just want to be married, we encourage them to embrace their singleness as if singleness is an identity. But I would argue that don’t need to embrace an identity of singleness. We need to remember that Christ loves us. He is looking at us with the same love in His eyes as a groom looking at His bride and more. This isn’t any new knowledge, it’s all been in Scripture this entire time, all through the prophets where God’s people are described as His bride and repeated by Paul in the New Testament. Even Jesus describes the wedding feast of the Lamb. This love is a marriage. Why should I angst and moan about how an earthly marriage marred by sin failed me when I have so much stored up for me in heaven?
I’m so thankful that God used Matt and Micaela’s wedding to reteach me a little bit of contentment. I am happily single, awaiting the return of the ultimate bridegroom. God is good and He is always more than enough.
Congratulations to Matthew and Micaela Maynard, may you have a long and loving marriage and always remember to keep your focus on Christ!
Photography credit: Elizabeth Lauren imelizabethlauren.com