‘Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!’

I was 24 years old when I got married. We invited our closest friends and family to Clearwater Beach Florida where we said our vows on a dinner cruise around the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater was an important place to me as a child. I spent nearly every spring break there visiting my grandparent’s condo. It is a destination that has become almost mythical to me. I have incredible memories there of walking down the strip with my sister when I was fourteen years old. Sometimes a car filled with boys would go by and honk at us and I’d blush enjoying the attention. I would fish with my grandpa there. We had a special spot on the dock and he would take my sister and I. My grandfather passed away this year, and though I have many priceless memories of his time with me, many of the best ones are of the three of us fishing on that dock.

In high school my parents allowed me to bring a friend with us. I can tell you now that there is nothing like being fifteen, laying on the beach with your best friend listening to popular music and creating fake identities for yourselves. We could be anyone we wanted to be on the sand of that beach, and no one would ever know it. I had incredible memories in Clearwater Florida, a lifetime of memories really, and so when I was finally going to marry the man of my dreams I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to make one more new memory.
In all honesty, my wedding wasn’t so much about the day as it was about the man. Whenever people ask me about my husband who do not know him, I describe him this way; ‘he is literally the guy every father prays his little girl will find.’ His dirty laundry strung across my floor and bread crumbs on the counter remind me that he is far from perfect, because otherwise I think I’d forget. He had been my knight in shining armor, my biggest fan, my best friend, and soon was going to take on the title of patriarch of our new family. I met him in the sixth grade and the second I saw him I knew he was special.

At 11 he would call me and ask me to meet him at the park and I’d peddle bike the two miles as fast as I could. We would laugh and hold hands while sitting on the swing set. My religious philosophies were immature at best, but I was certain that if Heaven existed, it would include Seth Day, and a pair of swings.  If you read my diary in the sixth grade you would see his name littered across nearly every page. In fact, my father read a page from that diary when he married us and the words were as true now as they were then. I was madly in love with Seth and so when he asked me to marry him I experienced a type of excitement that I never had before. It was a calm happiness because I couldn’t picture my life going any other way.

We wrote our own vows. He could barely get through his. My husband is an emotionally sensitive person, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen him cry in the last four years. A few weeks ago he lost me at Wal-Mart. He went to the car and found my keys sprawled across the seat and after calling my cell phone several times and getting no answer he was panicked that someone had taken me. Apparently he had been calling my name over the stores speaker for a half hour and when he finally went to the car and saw the keys laying across the seat he felt a sledge-hammer swing to the bottom of his stomach.

When we finally did get reconnected, I saw him walking toward me. I had no idea he had been looking for me, and no idea I had locked our keys in the car. I was printing pictures in the photo center when I heard my name over the speaker. I headed to the front of the store and the gals at the customer service center looked at me as if they had seen a ghost. Apparently they were literally seconds away from calling the police.

When my husband walked in with the store’s manager I headed right toward him feeling guilty for what I had put him through. When my eyes landed on him, I squinted because I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was really happening. As he glided toward me I was certain that there in the duct of his eyes were tears. Small ones; the kind that turn your eyes into bowls as you hold them into place careful not to let one fall. I captured that image in my mind and stored it. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I would see him in that light again; vulnerable.

When he recited his vows to me on March 6th 2011 he cried and I loved him even more for it. He is now not just the love of my life but the father of my children. At the moment he is my financial provider, my protector, my best friend and my confidant. He is my groom; my husband.

I am often struck by this image the Bible provides us depicting Christ as the groom, and we, His people, His church as the bride. Christ is returning to collect His bride, but how will He find her? Is she waiting? Is she sitting at her window day and night anticipating the return of the love of her life? Has she been faithful while her groom is away? Has she left the porch light on so that when He comes He knows she’s not forgotten Him? Has she loved Him even still?  Or will He come knocking at the door, excited to see her, only to find that no one is home, or worse, another man is in His bed. My friends, we are the bride, and as the bridegroom prepares His return I have to ask, how will He find us?

Paul writes to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” Paul’s words are as much for that early church as they are for ours.

What does Paul mean when he writes that we are to be ‘virgins’ awaiting Christ’s return? Ephesians 5:25-27 explains this imagery by saying, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and 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.”

In Biblical times, there was a period between when the bridegroom has selected his bride, and the official marriage, that period of time was called betrothal. During the betrothal, all communication between the bride and her groom was carried on through the friend of the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom could also be the person who, knowing intimately the family of the groom, was able to select the perfect bride.

This is why John the Baptist says in John 3:29 “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” You see the Jews had been asking John the Baptist if he was the messiah they had been waiting for, and in his response to them, he claims the role of friend to the bridegroom. In other words, he is simply the friend of Jesus who is trying desperately to prepare the church for Christ’s soon ministry. Today, not only are we going to be the bride of Christ in His second advent, but we are also able to act as the friend of the bridegroom. It is our responsibility to prepare our friends, neighbors, and loved ones for the return of the groom.

The betrothal period was much more serious than we consider our engagement period. You were technically still spoken for in marriage. You would need a certificate of divorce in order to not go through with the marriage. To cheat on your groom during betrothal was a grave sin and was punishable by death. The church after the crucifixion of Christ has been in the betrothal period. We are supposed to be anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus. We are supposed to be at our windows keeping watch and listening for the sound of His footsteps. We are supposed to be looking in the mirror checking ourselves over making sure that on the biggest, most important day of our lives, we are at our best. We are supposed to be preparing ourselves for a wedding, but are we?

The truth is, we cannot be anxiously awaiting the return of a groom we do not love, and we cannot love a groom who we do not know. We must seek to know Jesus, and trust me, to know Him, is to love Him.

I fell madly in love with Seth because the more I knew him, the more time I spent with him, the more I understood how lucky I was that he wanted me. I anxiously awaited my wedding day and my husband is not perfect. There will be moments in my marriage that he will probably let me down, and I knew that when I said, “I do,” and yet I was anxious to marry him anyway. How much more anxious should we be to marry the God of heaven? He is not just supposed to be the love of our lives but the father of our children. He is our provider, our protector, and should be our best friend and our confidant. He is our groom; our husband.

Christ will never let us down. He is perfect and has had a plan for your destiny since before you were even a thought in your mother’s mind. He has loved us before we existed and with His dying breath as He hung on that cross He exclaimed through action the sweetest marriage proposal ever heard. Knowing all your imperfections, knowing all your idiosyncrasies, knowing all the times you and I would let Him down He still, with love and hope allowed Himself to be beaten and battered placed on two beams of wood. He died there, a sacrifice of love. I’m willing to bet that the only thing that kept His wrists secure as they drove in each nail was the thought of your face. The thought that just maybe, when He returned and made the walk up your driveway He could find you at the window; waiting.

Matthew 25:6 says, “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming…” Each time I turn on the news I am reminded that Jesus, the one whom they called Christ, is coming. Each headline of children murdered, genocides, bombings, terrorism, and all the hate now infiltrating our human nature are signs that the bridegroom is coming.

Surely a loud cry will be heard, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh!” But when He comes, how will He find us?

 

 

 

To order Heather’s devotional Cracked Glasses copy and paste the following link into your browser: http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/cracked-glasses.html

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