Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Kind of Bride Am I?

Recently I was asked to do a devotional for a bridal shower. As I thought about what to talk about, I, of course, ran to our great mothers—those great brides in the Bible. As I looked at these wives and their attributes, I began to wonder, What kind of bride am I?

Am I Eve? Do I, like her craving the forbidden fruit, manipulate my husband to get what I want? In the same manner as she listened to the voice of the serpent, do I heed the voice of my own desires or other influences rather than the authority God has given me?

Am I Sarah? Rather than building up my husband’s faith, do I, like Sarah in her fit of laughter, ridicule God’s faithful promises by my own lack of trust? And also, do I meddle into things which are between him and God—as Sarah meddled with the need for offspring?

Am I Gomer from the book of Hosea? A prostitute who ran from the man who God had called to serve her. Am I unfaithful in my thoughts or words? Do I run from my husband when I should be running to him?

If I’m honest, I must admit, yes, I am like these women a lot of times. But I long to do better, to reflect the others we learn about.

Am I Rebecca, Rachel? Beloved of their husbands and blessed of God.

Am I Ruth? Humble. The faithful wife who longs to support and serve the man who loves her.

Am I the Shunamite Woman (Solomon’s beloved)? Her passion for her husband engulfs all her life, and she longs to serve only him. Am I like that?

I hope to more closely resemble the faithful ones. But as I study these ladies, something aside from their character strikes me:

Each of these faithful women has been especially chosen by her husband.

Think about Rebecca, Rachel, and also Moses’ wife. All these women were simple daughters, interested in livestock. There was nothing exceedingly amazing about them. They were not born of kings, they weren’t exceedingly wealthy. Just good, upright women. But the main thing these women have in common is that they watered their herds at a well.

And what happened at the well? A husband, or representative of a husband, sought out each one of these women, Rebecca, Rachel, and Zipporah, courted them, and claimed them for his own. These women were called to be part of God’s family by the patriarchs themselves. Not because of who they were, but because of the simple fact that they were chosen.

What about Ruth? Was she much of anything in the world’s eyes before she married Boaz? We know Ruth was a woman of good character, but in earthly terms, Ruth was less than a nobody. A widow. A foreigner—not an Israelite. There was nothing earthly to recommend her to the noble farmer, Boaz. Yet, in God’s providence, Boaz chose her for a wife. Redeeming her life from poverty and bitterness.

What about the Shulamite woman? The great, beautiful King Solomon (did you catch that? A king!) took this woman—a young country girl—and in his great, overwhelming kindness, he didn’t just wed her, but passionately without reserve, in utter fleshly desire and spiritual delight, he adored her.

Song of Solomon 4

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! ESV

Again, we see the kindness of a husband, who welcomes a bride into his arms, despite the woman’s lowliness.

Back to the question. Which sort of bride am I? I still wasn’t sure. I looked in one more place, near another well, an old, old well, yet during a different time.

John 4
5 Now Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's WELL was there;

What was there? A well? Have we heard this before? Do you think John knew that in the first five books of the Bible the place to get wives was at a well? Let’s keep reading:

so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” … 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Immediately we see that just like Boaz, King Solomon, and Hosea, Jesus has no earthly reason to pursue this woman. Why?

Let’s talk about the Samaritan woman for a second. What do we know about her?
1. She’s a woman. Not good during that time. A rabbi wasn’t allowed to talk to women.
2. She’s a Samaritan—What does that mean? Less than a half-breed. Rejected, outcast.

We’ll get to more later. But for know we start to glimpse that Jesus is like those former husbands we’ve seen. He goes to a well and talks to a woman, not because she’s extra worthy, but because of something about the man’s character. There’s something the man has been called to do. Something in God’s bigger purpose.
Verse 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Not only did Jesus lower himself to talk to her, he gives her something better than she has. Let’s skip to verse sixteen.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

So we come to the other issue with this woman that would make a normal person stay away from her? What is it? What makes her more than a lowly woman, a rejected Samaritan halfbreed? An outcast of outcasts?

She thirsts.

Not for water. She thirsts for husbands. She’s had six. Six. And none of them could quench her thirst. They only left her dry, weary, tired. And thirsting even more.
What does this woman need? She needs a seventh husband. Seven, the number of perfection. She needs the perfect husband, who is Christ. And he doesn’t turn her away. She deserves to thirst forever because of her sin—her many, many sins. She does NOT deserve to have her soul quenched. She does not deserve to be Christ’s bride. Not the beautiful Christ. The lovely husband. She deserves to die in her arid loneliness.

We are that bride.

We are that faithless one, who thirsts for what does not fulfill. Our sins make us outcasts of outcasts, a Samaritan, Eve, faithless Sarah, Lot’s wife, Gomer—despised, rejected. We do not deserve to have a beautiful, strong, honorable husband seek us out and call us his bride.

But then … what happened to the Samaritan woman? Do you remember? Jesus quenches her thirst for husbands with Himself—the most beautiful husband there is. Better than the Old Testament grooms.

Yet, the story is not over, for, “This bride will not come cheap.”

Christ calls her to him, but he must pay a price for her. “Quenching his beloved's thirst will require him to endure the horror of the cross in her stead. For it is there, nailed hand and foot, that Jesus, the source of living water, would cry out, "I thirst." Christ goes to the cross to thirst in his bride's place, taking on her sorrow, grief and sin.”

Dear friends, our groom gives himself to us. He pulls us from our dirty, desperate estate and just as a husband will take his bride’s hand to claim her as his own, Christ takes ours. As a bride is clean, fragranced, adorned in a beautiful dress and jewelry, hair perfectly coifed, so our we as our great husband raises us from the filth of our sin and brings us to him.

And I wonder, what kind of bride was the Samaritan Woman? First, she embodied all those unfaithful brides, but then, after an encounter with Jesus, she blossoms into the Shulamite woman—the wife of King Solomon, passionately in love with Jesus.

The water he gives her overflows out of her abundant love for him. And she can’t help but tell others about him. She preaches the gospel to her loved ones, and you can only imagine the change her life took on. Do you think she continued to live in sin after falling head over heals in love with her new seventh husband? The perfect one?

Of course not. That living water never runs dry. His love for her never runs dry. And then it overflows from her heart—from our hearts. Love for all around us flows uncontrollably and the recipients include … our husbands.

The love for our heavenly husband is fleshed out daily in love to our earthly husbands. For as we adore Christ, we will be patient, kind. We won’t boast or envy. We won’t insist on our own way, or be irritable or resentful. We’ll rejoice in the truth, bear all things, believe all things, endure all things. In Christ, we become the wife he’s called us to be. Not out of resentful duty, but out of overflowing love for our heavenly husband whom we cherish.

So my advice, to the soon to be bride. Fall in love with your savior, and your love for Him will overflow to your groom as well.

*Special thanks to Scott Hunter and Brett McNeill for their help!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Many Times Have I Told You?

“How many times have I told you?”

It seems like my mommy job is a never-ending treadmill on futility.

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but seriously, how many times do I have to tell my son to stay out of his sisters’ room? And how many times must I instruct my princess-adoring daughter, Gabrielle, that, “Sweetie,” (my teeth are clenched) “Cindrella wouldn’t make smacking sounds when she eats with Prince Charming”?

We had a spell of this type of “forgetfulness” today. Christian, my five-year-old rough and tumble knight, has a bad habit of putting his fat fists on, and in, things he’s not supposed to …

First thing this morning, he ran to the front porch to “help” retrieve the milk from where the milkman left it. Before I could get there, he’d knocked over the egg carton also nestled with the milk. So fun cleaning up a bunch of egg yolk (actually, not so much).  How many times have I told him to ask for help when getting the milk?

Later, he dumped out my daughter’s big, perfectly organized, box of … beads. Yeah, millions (well, it seemed like millions) of sparkly pink, yellow, and gold beads all over the floor. How many times have I warned him not to touch Gabrielle’s things?

And finally, without thinking it was even wrong, he smiled at me and grabbed my daughter’s newly beaded necklaces (a big pile she’d been working on) and balled them into a tangled mess. I sent him to the corner. When he got out, where do you think the first place he raced to was? That same ball of beads.

Definitely ingredients for a frazzled mom’s frustrated outburst, but the moment that went beyond frustrating was when the same five-year-old repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) loses his temper. Such defiant words coming from my silly boy’s mouth. Such an inability to control his fists and his stomping feet.

After about six of these incidents today, I just wanted to cry. Will he ever learn? Will his heart ever soften to my instructions?

And then I heard echoes of my heavenly Father. My own sins go far beyond those of my sweet children. I think first of my own needs more times every day than I can count. When my frustration explodes in words that shame Him; when I snap at my husband rather then giving him the benefit of the doubt … It’s like a neverending treadmill of futility—my repeated sins.

Yet, God’s grace and forgiveness never end. I can never sin more than He will forgive. Did you hear that?

I can never sin more than he will forgive.
Even if I ask for forgiveness one minute then rush and do the exact same thing the next, well, Jesus paid for those sins—the first one and the second.

My Heavenly Father never gets exasperated with me—he never says, “How many times have I told you to be patient with the children I’ve entrusted to you?” It’s so hard to believe, but it’s true. He always let’s me climb back on his lap and whisper one more, “I’m sorry, Abba.”

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18