A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my dear friend Erlinda as she married her best friend, Mike. As Erlinda spoke her words of commitment to Mike a tear slipped down his cheek. He tried to control his emotions, but was overwhelmed by the love he felt and the joy at hearing Erlinda’s words. It was beautiful and sweet and soon the tears ran down my own cheeks.
Erlinda and Mike walked a long road to meet at the altar that day. Erlinda was married before and from something the pastor said I believe Mike may have also. They dated for several years as their friendship grew and finally they were united as one.
While sitting in the congregation witnessing the ceremony I was overwhelmed with an image of being the bride of Christ. Isaiah 62:5 says “your children will care for you with joy, O Jerusalem, just as a young man cares for his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” In all the years since I have become a Christian I never had such a clear picture of this aspect of my relationship with Christ.
As the ceremony began Mike waited patiently at the altar for Erlinda to come down the aisle to him. When he saw her his face lit up in a huge smile. The love shone through his eyes. I imagine it was the same for the Lord as I lingered in coming to Him. He waited patiently. When the day finally came that I walked down that aisle to Him, the love illuminated His face and His eyes were deep pools of emotion. I, the bride, approached nervously. This was the moment when rejection or acceptance could come. What joy when the bridegroom came down off the altar and to guide me to my place.
Like Erlinda I spoke the words of my commitment and love for Christ. Oh what beauty of knowing He was so overwhelmed with emotion that tears fell from His eyes. He had waited for so long for me to come to Him and accept His gift of love. Finally, there I was and His love could no longer be contained. He rejoiced over me there at the altar.
This view of Christ as a bridegroom is one that is sometimes hard to get your mind around; especially for people who are not Christians. Many may have never even heard of this word picture if they haven’t been inside a church for many years. Honesty, it’s not something that is a frequent discussion topic in the church circles I have been involved with.
I think, too, that it is often harder for men to envision themselves as the bride of Christ than for women. We women are brought up knowing that if we choose to walk the marriage road we will someday be a bride. Men on the other hand see themselves as the groom. They see themselves waiting at the altar for their bride so the feminine picture of the bride doesn’t sit comfortably in their mindset.
But, I think this vision of us as the bride of Christ is important. It envelops the whole idea of our coming to Christ and partnering with Him and that really is what is at the root of the Christian relationship just as it is for marriage, joining with another in relationship to face day-to-day life. I believe that we were created to need relationship and I think that the world we currently live in highlights that desire. I see people who profess not to need Jesus (and people who know they need Jesus) searching for ways to fulfill their need for relationship. The ways vary and are many. Some choose to try to fill the void with human relationships; we jump from partner to partner and from marriage to marriage. We chase the latest fad diet, drug, or self-help guru. We acquire material things, pursue bigger and better adventures, or grasp for more knowledge. These things don’t fulfill the need because they were never intended to do that.
I am not randomly pointing the finger. I have been down this road. My Christian friends have been down this road. The searching doesn’t necessarily get easier the moment we take Christ up on His offer. We still struggle with the same things everyone does; we are human after all and that humanity gets in our way a lot. Christ knows this. He walked the earth as a man and He understands the trials and temptations we face. But the truth is that Christ waits for us even as we wander down other paths. And just as in human marriages that moment of bliss at the altar doesn’t mean the road will suddenly smooth out and be bump free. It just means that we don’t walk it alone anymore. There is someone pledged to be with us throughout our journey.
The day I came to Christ, just as Erlinda and Mike were joined on their wedding day, I was joined with Christ. I left behind an old life and began a new life. This life was built on love, trust and respect. Just like Erlinda and Mike’s marriage it is intended to last forever. From this day forward I am a new person united in love. And, from today forward I will never think of being the bride of Christ without thinking of Mike’s tears of joy over his bride.