(This is my my longest post ever! I didn’t plan to get this much off topic, but I didn’t want to scrap sections of the writing, because it proved extremely therapeutic, and I like how it turned out. This is also my most personal post so far :). )
Some little girls grow up making plans for their dream wedding. For me, the wedding craze didn’t hit until college, during my first relationship, which got serious fast. But, belated as it was, when it hit, it hit. I never got engaged, but with the idea on my mind and girls around me launching into matrimony, I got wedding fever. Bad.
I began frequenting the “wedding” tag on Pinterest, often entering my own items into the search bar. I looked at wedding dresses, cute hand-painted signs, “bridesmaid proposals,” and even weddings inspired by my favorite Disney movie, “Tangled.”
I wanted my boyfriend to be each of my favorite fictional love interests. He was Gilbert Blythe because he had pursued me, in spite of initial discouragement. He was Mattie from “13 Going on 30,” because, after all, he was a photographer and liked to take my pictures.
When the topic of marriage came up between us, I began to dream. Big time. There were some dreams about being married to him, absolutely. There were other dreams, lots of them, about the wedding. Hence the frequenting Pinterest. But of course, before the wedding, there would be a proposal. And it was going to be the most magical proposal, full of romance.
My boyfriend was a surfer, and at first, I had a horror of being proposed to on the beach. We were ALWAYS going to the beach together. As a result, I developed a love-hate relationship with the beach. Much of the time, I resented going to the beach and hated the hours of waiting for him while he caught up with his best friends, the waves. But because we were on the beach so much, I got to where I wanted to be there, sometimes. I did actually enjoy it when the weather was right and I didn’t get a sunburn and I had a book or would call my mom and wasn’t attempting to do homework (nor feeling guilty for not doing homework.)
But, wow. Back to the point. At first, I didn’t want the proposal to be on the beach, or the wedding (which I was initially convinced he would also want on the beach. I dreaded him marrying me in his usual get-up: a T-shirt and shorts). But as I looked at engagement photos on the beach, I could see the romance factor. The beach, by night, is especially romantic. Sometimes too romantic.
So the beach was doable, but definitely not my dream. No, it was going to happen in Disneyland (well, that was my dream of dreams). But I could settle for this dear little gazebo near the hotels. I mean, a date in the theme park would be soooo amazing. C’mon! We were going to school twenty minutes from Disneyland, after all.
He would get down on one knee, of course. Oh. And he probably should bring a ton of photos of us (I got this idea when I saw how his housemate decorated for his own proposal. Roses wouldn’t hurt. Candles would be nice. And food. It’s hard to go wrong with food, when it’s Italian.
And speaking of Italian food, another great place for a proposal would be Il Farro, the nice restaurant he took us to for our very first date. Or even Stearn’s would be super cute!
You probably haven’t even heard of Stearn’s. And if you have, you’re probably wondering why I’d want to get proposed to at some random company (which I, frankly, don’t even know the purpose of). That would be because, en route to the aforementioned Il Farro, he asked me a few times if I knew where we were going. We passed more than one Stearn’s, I think, and I joked that we were going to Stearn’s for dinner, and we’d missed the turnoff.
Then, probably a year or two into our relationship, we did go to Stearn’s. It turns out, there’s this beautiful pond surrounded by trees and seating outside the office, so it really is a great place for a date.
But enough about my obsession with the proposal! (Thanks for hanging in there with me. This has been extremely therapeutic because… drumroll please…)
This weekend my boyfriend and I broke up. And it was a peaceful thing. Not a jumping-for-joy decision, but one we’re both receiving Christ’s peace in. After nearly three years of dating, we want to pursue friendship with each other.
But, in spite of the drumroll earlier, that’s not what I’ve been building up to. What I’ve been building up to is the wedding (not mine!) we attended yesterday (aka the afternoon after we broke up). We had been invited as a couple, and had the opportunity to begin our adjusted relationship as “just friends” in one of the most romantic settings you can be in. (Also, I wasn’t about to announce our break-up during the happiest day of my friend’s life, so there was also the matter of finagling around questions about our relationship.) Over the phone, my mom helped me see the humor in this by envisioning myself and my new friend as Chandler and Roxanne from one of our favorite shows (and if you’re trying to picture someone named Roxanne in “Friends,” don’t. They’re from “7th Heaven.”)
So, the wedding… WOW.
Throughout my relationship with my boyfriend, I struggled a good deal with the idea of how romantic our relationship with Christ is, how it’s more exciting and fulfilling and full of love than any relationship between two humans. Over the past half a year, He has been changing that for me.
The week of my birthday, when my mom and I didn’t have money to spare, a woman at the grocery store gave my mom a slice of pizza. My mom thanked the woman, and told her she was giving the slice to me, as the beginning of my birthday celebration. She told the woman about how we didn’t have money for my birthday, as well. I was at checkout at the time (and had been wanting pizza!) when my mom came over with the pizza. She pointed the woman out to me so I could thank her on the way out.
When I went to thank the woman, she pulled out her wallet and gave me twenty dollars with the words “Jesus loves you.”
A few weeks later, I had a similar experience. My mom had been encouraging me one morning about how much Jesus loved me and wanted me to know it. Then later that day, while we were in the library , minding our own business, a woman singled me out. “Don’t forget. Jesus loves you,” she told me.
I have seen Jesus pursuing me, and as challenging as the path to the break-up has been, I felt His calm in that moment when it was time. That night, He told me that I was going to see Him more than ever before. He told me that it will be tempting to hide in things: social media, success… but that now is the time to hide in Him.
So the wedding and Jesus pursuing me… again, wow.
I sat right next to the aisle to see my dear friend get married. I wanted to be as close as possible to see her walking down the aisle.
First, the relatives were seated. Then the groom walked to the front and stood there, with the pastor, waiting for his bride. What I saw… the love in his eyes… the anticipation, just blew me away. (I have been to two weddings recently, but I didn’t really know the bride or groom at either. I was just with my boyfriend, who was photographing/filming.) So the look in his eyes as he waited for her… I think I wasn’t prepared for it. And when she walked down the aisle… I had been craning to glimpse her as soon as possible, and she was the perfect bride.
She wore a delicate lace dress, and a golden circlet upon her head. She’s gorgeous and slim. But more than that, she exudes grace. When she walked down the aisle, it was so apparent that she merited her groom’s excitement, anticipation, and love.
He cried throughout the ceremony. He cried so naturally. I mean, I’ve read comments (Pinterest again) from ladies who say that if their groom doesn’t cry when they walk down the aisle, they’ll walk right back down the aisle, without marrying him.
But this groom’s tears weren’t for show. They weren’t because he was supposed to cry. He couldn’t help it. He was marrying the woman of his dreams.
And here’s where it got crazy and really ministered to me. The ceremony started with the traditional reference to marriage foreshadowing Christ and His bride. But with the groom’s tears and all, this time it really hit me.
The same way the groom was looking forward to seeing his bride… with that same delight and anticipation… that’s how Jesus, Yeshua Hamasheach, is looking to me as His bride. Remembering it makes me cry. Because seeing the bride yesterday, looking so gorgeous in her fairylike regality, it made so much sense that the groom would cry. He was getting a huge catch. But “huge catch” doesn’t begin to describe her. Like I said, she’s graceful, full of love, and compassion. And energy, enthusiasm, a terrific laugh.
It made perfect sense that the groom would cry for joy as he envisioned a life with her.
It’s a fight (and one that, by God’s grace I’m strengthening in), to think that I can be even acceptable to God. I’ve had trouble truly believing that He wants me, with an active wanting, not just an indifferent (or likely reluctant) shoulder shrug.
But I saw it in the groom’s eyes. In the groom’s eyes and in the ceremony foreshadowing the Great Love Story, I saw that in the same way, Christ is eager for me. Like that groom, He can hardly stand the anticipation of waiting.
I think that I’ve had trouble with the whole Christ-as-bridegroom thing largely because I’ve had trouble seeing myself as someone that He would really desire to that extent. I’ve spent so much of my life striving to stay on His good side (as if He had one).
It’s crazy to me. That Jesus does desire me. Really desire me. And not even in the way the groom was desiring his bride (which was a ton), but so so so much more. Because while the bride seemed entirely worthy of his admiration, eagerness, and desire, I don’t usually feel that way.
But that doesn’t change the beautiful truth. Jesus knows how screwed up we all are. And He sees us as that gorgeous, beloved bride. He’s not deterred or put-off by our sins. He doesn’t scrunch up His nose and take us on as a duty.
He doesn’t cry because He’s obligated to as the groom. He cries because that’s how He desires me.
He can’t help it. He cries in eager anticipation of life with His bride.
His beautiful, beautiful bride.