Monday, November 19, 2012

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE THE BRIDE?

My daughter Betsie's latest writing on Flesh Made Flesh:

My heart is slamming against the inside of my chest, thwamp thwamp thwamp thwamp. It is pulsating so quickly that as it pumps my blood, it pumps tremors that course into my stomach and set it aflutter. I am simultaneously crippled with fear, and wild with excitement. Today, I will commit to the greatest decision I have ever made or ever will make during my lifetime. Today is one of those defining moments, one of those crossroads moments. Today, I leave behind the young girl I was and begin the long journey to womanhood. It is a serious occasion, but it is also a joyous celebration. Today, I will take my independence and everything it entails, and fold it up like an old sweater that is no longer appropriate for the season, place it in chest where it will be safe, and take on the new, stunning dress of life shared with someone else.

Wedding groom and bride

I am scared, but I will not allow my fear to hold me back from this. From saying yes.

“We are gathered here to unite these two hearts in the bonds of holy matrimony which is an honorable estate. Into this, these two now come to be joined. Betsie MacLellan, do you have this man as your lawful wedded partner, to live together in the estate of matrimony? Will you love him, honor him, and keep him in sickness and in health; forsaking all others, be true to him as long as you shall live?”

“I do,” my voice shakes as I answer, but I answer.

“Do you have this woman as your lawful wedded partner, to live together in the estate of matrimony? Will you love her, honor her, comfort her, and keep her in sickness and in health; forsaking all others, be true to her as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.” His voice is strong and true and his eyes full of love as he answers.

Two perfectly round gold bands are revealed. Our wedding rings. “Behold the symbol of wedlock. The perfect circle of love, the unbroken union of these souls united here today. May you both remain faithful to this symbol of true love. Please join hands and repeat after me: I, Betsie MacLellan–”

“I, Betsie MacLellan,”

“–take this man–”

“Take this man,”

“–as my wedded partner–”

“As my wedded partner,”

“–to have and to hold from this day forward–”

“To have and to hold from this day forward,”

“–for better or for worse–”

“For better or for worse,”

“–for richer or for poorer–”

“For richer or for poorer,”

“–in sickness and in health–”

“In sickness and in health,”

“–to love and to cherish–”

“To love and to cherish,”

“–till death do us part.”

“Till death do us part.”

“Now do you take Betsie MacLellan as my wedded partner–”

“I take Betsie MacLellan as my wedded partner,” His eyes twinkle as he repeats all of his vows. He chose me as his own long before I ever knew him; this day is special to him because it symbolizes my admittance of something that he knew all along: that I am his and he is mine.

“For as much as this woman and this man have consented together in wedlock, and have witnessed the same before this company of friends and family, and have given and pledged their promises to each other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining hands. By the authority vested in me, I pronounce this couple to be united in marriage.”

And just like that, my life is forever changed.

My name is Betsie MacLellan. I am 17 years old and a senior in high school. I have been single for over two years, and yet, there is a wedding band on my ring finger. In Facebook speech, “It’s complicated.”

I have walked the aisle, but only when it was necessary to reach my seat in the sanctuary or I am going to the altar for prayer. I have also worn a white dress in the church, but it was only a sundress and a huge fashion mistake. So why am I sporting a wedding band? I’ll tell you: On my 13th birthday, my father gave me a purity ring that had the inscription “True Love Waits” wrapped around its silver band. Before he slipped it onto my my finger, he asked that as long as I wore this ring, if I would commit to stay physically pure and save myself for marriage. At 13, I flipped between dreaming of marrying Orlando Bloom, and dreaming of joining a convent, so promising to remain physically pure until marriage wasn’t hard for me. Then. Two years passed, and I kept the promise I had made my dad at 13. However, as I discarded my dreams of convent life, and my path continued to fail to cross Mr. Bloom’s, it got harder. And harder. And harder. I began to realize that a mere commitment to stay physically pure was not enough when it was so easy to be mentally and emotionally impure. I was, too, on many occasions during those couple of years. I was saving my body, but was I saving my heart?

Fast forward almost two years. I am now nearly 15 and in Romania for one month on a summer mission trip. On one particular day, my team leaders decided that we should begin the day with some worship. So all nine of us met in the living room of the house we were staying in and began to sing as one of our leaders strummed a tune on his guitar. I don’t know how much time we passed like that–twenty minutes? Half an hour? Two hours? I sat on the floor, legs crossed, back against the wall the entire time. I sang the songs right along with my teammates, but in my heart and mind, very different words were making themselves heard. Harmless words collided with each other and formed frightening questions. Questions I had never honestly asked myself before. Questions like, “Am I withholding something from the Lord? What am I withholding from the Lord?”

His answer sucked the breath right out of my lungs. It’s enormity was hard to swallow, and it knotted and twisted and squeezed my insides. However long worship lasted–twenty minutes, half an hour, two hours–it wasn’t long enough for me and as my teammates huddled to talk and pulled out the playing cards, I stole away to an empty room on the second floor of the house so that I could think. The room held two beds, a table in between them, and a window overlooking the village. As I sat on the bed closest to the door and stared out the window, I gave back to the Lord what He had asked of me. I realized that it hadn’t been His for a very long time. I gave Him my heart.

For me, after that day in Romania, it wasn’t enough that I just save my body for marriage, I wanted to give my heart to God then. If you are a Christian, then you are also the bride of Christ. Not someday. Not when you’re 22 and graduated from college. Not when you’re 25 and financially stable. Now. Today. And it really doesn’t matter if you’re as young as 15 or as old as 50. As I grasped this concept, and glimpsed a portion of the love Jesus had for me, something began to happen deep inside of me. Something was awoken after sleeping for over 14 long years, and I experienced feelings I had never felt before. They were new and exciting and they changed everything. The grass looked greener, the sky was bluer and the birds seemed to sing more. All the fairytale movies I had seen and books I had read gave a unanimous diagnosis: I was in love.

For my 15th birthday that year, my parents purchased another ring for me. Except, this one was gold, thinner, without an inscription, and went on my ring finger on my left hand. It also did not stand for a commitment to remain pure, but rather, it was a symbol of my love for Christ and visible proof that I was His bride. Two years have passed, and the ring remains on the same finger the Walmart jewelry counter clerk first slipped it onto.

What does all this mean, though? Being the bride of Christ and wearing wedding bands even though your Facebook status claims that you’re single? Well, I personally think it means that when Christ calls you His bride, it means that you’re His bride. Exhibit a. Isaiah 54:5-6 “‘Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.”

Exhibit b. 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.”

Finally, exhibit c. Revelation 19:7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”

Even though you may never have a marriage license with the Lord’s signature on it, if you are a born-again Christian, then you are the bride of Christ. How seriously do you take that? No, I never actually walked the aisle and stood side-by-side with Jesus as a priest bound us in holy matrimony. But just as I would vow to forsake all others so as to be true to an earthly husband, so I have vowed to God; and just as I would commit before an assembly of witnesses to have and to hold a spouse from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both would live, so have I committed to the Lord.

Therefore, when someone I know goes nearly blind and ends up in the ICU with a brain tumor, I will still choose to stay faithful to the Lord and believe in His goodness even though it is hard to see it through all the sickness. When I hit a deer on my way home and end up with $2300 in vehicle damages and I’m only a high school kid who works a minimum wage job, I will choose to stay faithful to the Lord and believe in His providence even though it is hard to see it through all the phone and truck bills. When days come that I don’t feel in love, I will still choose to stay faithful to the Lord and choose to love Him and believe in His never ending love for me even though I can’t see it at the moment.

I may be young, but I have chosen. I am Christ’s, and He is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3) With joy I will embrace my role as the bride of Christ, and I will forsake all others and try to be true to Him for as long as I shall live.

Will you?

1 comment:

Mckenna Hammack said...

My best friend and I are planning on going on a mission trip to Swaziland this upcoming summer. We understand that your daughter has traveled with this particular organization (found on the website) and would love to talk with you about it. Please email me ASAP at h0101093@gmail.com
I have lots of cool connections to tell you about. (not to be creepy) Thank you so much!