Broken Bride

I’ve always believed God wanted me to be a bride, but I could never see myself as one. I’ve never really been a bride even though I walked down the isle in a long, white gown forty-two years ago. After a year of dating and a summer of living together, I made it clear to my boyfriend that we were either going to be married or I was leaving. Billy said, “Fine, you pick the month, and I’ll pick the day.”

I picked September because it was August at the time. He selected the 31st, and I was thrilled that he remembered that we had met on the last day of September. I said with surprise, “You remembered!”

He quickly proceeded to recite, “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November….” I cried and told him I wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on earth. He felt guilty and told me to pick the day. I opted for the 15th and down the isle we went.

Twenty-nine Septembers later, I left a marriage that was never meant to be. I thank God for my son and granddaughters that came from my marriage, but I realized early on that I was not, and never would be, a bride. I missed my chance to be a beloved bride, so I put my fairy tale dreams away.

My idea of a bride came from the perfect princesses of childhood stories. I never imaged a bride could be broken until this morning when God made it clear that His bride is a broken one. The church is described as the bride of Christ or His body to emphasize oneness with Him.  Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit are One; Christ died so we could also become one, as well. Husbands and wives join together in a unique and beautiful union, so Christ used the powerful metaphor to make His point about the power of love to unite.

God knows I am not perfect, but He never expected me to be. He knows His bride is broken; it’s why He sent His perfect Groom. The church isn’t perfect by any means, and neither are the individuals that make up the body of Christ. Christ  finds belovedness where the world sees brokenness. It’s the biggest difference between God’s way and the way of the world. I’ve always seen myself as damaged goods; perhaps that’s why I could never see the beloved bride He created me to be. The use of bride to describe is not about an earthly marriage; it is about my relationship with Him.

A bride loves her groom with abandon and cannot wait to be with him. A groom cherishes his beloved bride more than anything or anyone else. That sometimes changes after the wedding; but before the ceremony, there is an air of exhilarating expectancy in both the bride and the groom. The difference with Christ and His bride is that expectancy becomes eternal exhilaration when they are joined together.

I cannot begin to imagine how wonderful eternity with God is going to be, but I get a sweet taste of it while I wait and prepare my heart to meet Him. Before I can begin to wait, I must first see myself as His beautiful, beloved, broken bride. With the help of His Holy Spirit, I caught a glimpse of that bride in me this morning.

An earthy bride wants everything to be perfect for her special day, but Christ’s bride understands that brokenness prepares the heart for the perfection God will provide when we are finally in His presence and filled with His Son’s precious love.

Worth the Effort?

Worth the Effort?I love searching for shells, smooth stones, and sea glass on Topsail Island. I keep my treasures on a wooden tray in my bedroom because the girls love playing with them. Looking at the shore for shells relaxes me as nothing else can. I love cleaning and sorting my stash because I wonder at the beautiful diversity before me. The entire process heals my heart and soothes my spirit.

I had to laugh while Edie and I were out searching. She’s younger and far more agile than I am, so she bends and stands back up easily. She was bending over, finding beautiful shells, and handing them to me at a rapid pace. I found myself watching her rather than the shore. I wasn’t getting my normal stress relief, but I was getting a kick out of her generosity. When I began pointing out shells and telling her to pick them up for me, she cut her eyes at me as only she can; but when she saw my grin, she knew I was messing with her. We both laughed and experienced an even better kind of stress relief.

Combing the beach takes a lot of effort; in fact, there are those who do it for a living. A decision has to be made in regard to each object in the sand. Is it really worth the effort bending over and picking it up with cost me?

God made it clear this week that He loves all His children and bends over backwards to pick up each and every one of them. He starts with the broken ones because they need His love the most, but He never wonders for a moment whether or not they are worth His effort. He knows they are!

I was humbled when I realized loving like God would mean picking up every tiny piece of shell on all the shores in the world. I couldn’t do that on one stretch of Topsail Island in a lifetime. I can, however, make an effort to pick up some of His broken children by being a loving presence in their lives. It takes effort, but it is worth bending my heart down and picking it back up again to experience the kind of love God desires for my heart. We wiggle out of His hands or bite like those pesky little gnats on the beach, but God picks us back up and loves us anyway. He always will, no matter what.

I could spend a lifetime searching for the perfect shell, but God knows I won’t find it if I pick up every shell on every beach in His world. They is no such thing as a perfect shell or a perfect person. He did, however, have one perfect Son, who made the effort to bend down in loving obedience so He could pick me up off the shore. I wiggle when I’m worried and bite when I’m angry, but He loves me anyway. He holds me especially close when I’m hurting because He understands my pain like no one else can.

I plan to tell Lilly and Mylah about all the shells, stones, and pieces of glass I found while at Topsail Island; but I want them to understand that shells, like people, need more love when they are broken. I think we’ll make a little shell hospital so we can wrap up the little hurt shells and give them the extra love they need.

The Nature of Love

God is love, so loving Him is what Christianity is all about.  God created me to love Him and others. It was, is, and will always be the message Christ relays. His life is a life of love, and the world crucified Him for loving in ways they could not understand. The world doesn’t want someone telling them to love everyone. People wanted, want, and will always want someone to tell them what they want to hear. God allowed, allows, and always will allow earthly things to take the place of His love in the lives of His children even though it breaks His heart. God never has and never will coerce or cajole because that isn’t love.

Love is something you fall into. It might happen at first sight and feel like jumping, or it might take a while and be more like a gentle slide. The fall depends upon the individual, but falling in love changes everything. Just as all human relationships are different, so is the love between God and each of us. I am sick to death of theological arguments, denominational disputes, cajoling, coercing, how-to books, and hierarchies when it comes to Christ’s body. None of those work with love. God is love. We are His creation. He loves us and wants us to love Him back. Humans got, get, and will always get that wrong and make a mess of God’s simple truth.

John 17:18-22 beautifully describes Christ’s desire for me.

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;  that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

The nature of love is oneness, so why doesn’t the world look more whole and less like a pile of broken glass. No one is perfect. God knows that, and He loves us anyway. Jesus knew that, and He came any way. The Holy Spirit knows that, and that’s why He’s here to stay and encourage us not to give up. I cannot love as God desires or find the oneness Christ offers without the help of the Holy Spirit. On my own, I’m just a piece of broken glass being crushed by the weight of the world’s desire to be right. With God, I become something more than I can be without Him. It’s what love does.

Oneness isn’t about forming a club or creating a new church or denomination so I can find those who are like me or criticize those who aren’t. Oneness is seeing God in everyone and everything. It’s loving those who do not or cannot love me back. It’s living in the mess knowing that that I am part of something wonderful. I’m part of God. I am love too!

I did an exercise this week that humbled, but helped me see the importance of keeping my focus upon love.  I took 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and put my name in front of the descriptions of love. I’m sorry to say I didn’t do as well as I thought I would when I took an honest look at how I compared to the nature of love. Try it yourself to see where you need some help and ask the Holy Spirit to help you where you need help so you can get you closer to God and others.

Here’s the verse with the blanks where love should be:

___________ is patient, ______________ is kind ________ is not jealous; _____________ does not brag and is not arrogant, _________does not act unbecomingly; ______________ does not seek her own, ____________is not provoked, ___________does not take into account a wrong suffered, ___________does not rejoice in unrighteousness, _________ rejoices with the truth; ________bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I hope you did better than I did, but don’t worry if you didn’t; love is patient 🙂 Thanks be to God!!

The Nature of Love