Young men dream of marrying a beautiful bride. Young ladies long to be swept off their feet by the man of their dreams - to know they are beautiful, loved and desired.
Then marraige happens...and childhood fantasies get dunked into the sea of reality. She is not the front-cover model of 'beauty magazine' everyday of her life, and he is certainly not prince charming - who mysteriously knows how to love her well.
Truth is, no matter what fantasy we dreamt up, we are all children of Adam and Eve, the once beautiful, amazing creations called male and female who portook of the original deception. We are fallen creatures who have been tainted by sin. We are not as beautiful and charming as the movies and magazines portray.
So lets stop kidding ourselves. OK, deal?
Yet despite our shortcomings, God calls us to live an extraordinary life. This is what He tells us about married life, recorded in Ephesians 5:21-25 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church..."
Say what? How in the world do we do that?
We don't! It is not something the world knows how to do. We need Christ to do this through us.
How does Christ love His Bride?
Ephesians 5:25-27 goes on to say this, "...(He) gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless..."
Jesus loved an unlovely Bride.
Have you ever stopped to think about what Jesus might feel. My mind just happens to work that way :-). Just imagine for a minute how He must feel about His Bride.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that "He endured the cross for the joy set before Him."
What was the joy set before Him? It was probably several things, like being at the right hand of the Father, ruling over evil, rescueing His people from sin into evelasting life...to name a few. Yet the greatest joy set before Him, I believe, is the beautiful Bride He died and rose again for.
At face value, He got a raw deal. He laid His life down for a beautiful, spotless Bride. Look around - do you see Her anywhere?
Sadly, I see a motley, divided Bride with so many spots and stains She is hard to even identify. I would hardly call Her beautiful!
If I were Him I might file a complaint asking for a rebate. She is certainly not worth the price He paid. 'Where is the "spotless Bride" I was promised up front? Where is this "beautiful Bride" hiding?'
I for one believe She needs to go through a "year of beauty treatments" like Esther and the other virgins were required to go through before being presented to the king. ("...let beauty treatments be given to them." Esther 2:2-4). Truth is, I think we are going through such beauty treatments, and I believe that God is getting Christ's Bride ready.
The Father desires for His son to have the beautiful Bride He promised Him. Yet, I believe He also understands Her current shortcomings quite well.
Look at what God calls the prophet Hosea to portray in his life: Hosea 1:2-3: "When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, 'Go marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.' So he married Gomer..."
Not only does she have a funny name, but she is an unfaithful bride. She cheats on him repeatedly, and God calls Hosea to marry her and to love her.
How do you do that?
The same way Christ does, I guess.
This is a prophetic picture of God with Israel, and I believe with Christ and the Church. How many times did the children of Israel turn from the Lord, like an unfaithful woman? Is Christ's Bride any different today?
Truth is, WE are His Bride and we - yes you and I included - have been part of Her unfaithfulness.
Is this what He died for? Is this the "Joy set before Him"? Are we the "Beautiful Bride" He is coming for?
Some talk about this being the "last days". Well if it is, we have some serious beauty treatments to endure! Christ is coming for a beautiful Bride and we still have curlers in our hair, not to mention arms connected to legs and legs connected to ears... we are a totally disfigured, disunified Bride with great need of beautification before Christ entertains coming back for us. He died for a beautiful Bride! Not a dysfunctional, self-serving, pleasure-seeking promiscuous woman.
This is what Hosea prophesied to the children of Israel, and I can hear the cry for us today: "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:1-3
Hosea lived a painful life in a prophetic posture depicting the very marriage between God and Israel. Gomer was an unfaithful bride, yet God told Hosea to marry her and to love her in the midst of her unfaithfulness.
This is a picture of Christ's love for His Bride - The Church!
This is the kind of love God calls us to live out in our marriage and as His Bride.
"...In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body...This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Eph 5: 28-33
Truth is, we are not the "supermodel" or "knight in shinning armor" we depict one another to be, yet we are the Bride of Christ and in so keeping - regardless of what we see - He sees us as beautiful.
His love is making us into the beautiful spotless Bride He died to restore and be united as One with.
We are the joy set before Him! He is cleansing us in order to draw us into eternal intimacy with Him - our King and Bridegroom!
Enjoy the Journey!