My parents just celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary. Thirty-four years – year after year, more beautiful, more enriching and more satisfying.
Whilst we were all sharing their delicious anniversary cake, I sat marvelling at the work of God in their lives. I remember very clearly how they brought me and my brothers up to love God and walk in His ways. It was a top priority for them. In their ups and downs, they remained faithful to God and to one another and, undoubtedly, God looked after them. They learnt how to serve one another in love and how to honour, encourage and uplift one another.
As I thought of my own imminent marriage and the million details I had to finalise, I knew that I have a great example to look up to, for which I’m deeply grateful. Needless to say, life will be stormy at times, but a house built on the rock of Christ shall never collapse.
Relationships of all sorts can be difficult and complicated, but at the same time meaningful and magnificent. When God intends to bring two people together, then surely it is His way, His plan, His idea. The future and all the coming days are only guaranteed in God’s hands and under the shadow of His wings.
Bible love stories
The Bible relates some beautiful love stories: Adam and Eve (the first love), Isaac and Rebekah (love at first sight), Ruth and Boaz (redeeming love- in a field so close to where I live!), Jacob and Rachel (a rather long love story), and most beautifully, the love of Jesus for all humanity (supremely demonstrated on the Cross).
And yet, all around we see so many broken relationships in every culture. My heart breaks. Human beings make such a mess of what God intended to be a mirror image of his own heart: sacrificial love, complete partnership, humble servant hood and more. But God never gives up on us. He reaches out to us, to the very core of our existence and shortcomings. He touches, He forgives, He heals. Only He can make all things new.
It’s a bittersweet moment when the big day comes and a father gives away his daughter and a groom receives his bride… With the vision that a new family might start built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the most precious words ever written about love ring out:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
“Transfiguration” of the bride
I will always always remember our wedding day. It was a joyous occasion and the most beautiful day in my life. It brought together more than 360 people, friends and family, who had travelled from near and far – from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Egypt to England, USA to Hong Kong – to celebrate the bride and groom, two becoming one in love and one in Christ.
One Palestinian custom – “The transfiguration of the bride” – stood out for some of our guests. One who saw the tradition for the first time commented:
“A most beautiful Middle Eastern custom at the wedding reception of Grace and Michael this week [was] a ceremony with candles called “the transfiguration of the bride.” It’s a very moving and mystical custom no doubt based upon the transfiguration of Jesus when his garments became brilliantly white, bathed in light. The custom celebrates the beauty of the bride on her wedding day, and in Christian weddings, it takes on great and mystical symbology.
“During the ceremony, the bride bears two beautiful candles and the women in the wedding party also carry candles, reminiscent of the lamps of the wise virgins in the Parable of Jesus in Matthew 25, and the men in the wedding party march with the bridegroom to meet the bride. How beautiful is this!”
Whether God intended for us to be married or single in life, this reminder of the beauty and majesty of the Lord Jesus is something none of us must ever lose sight of. And it points us forward to the biggest celebration of all – when Jesus the Lamb is united with all His people, His Bride, a Bride transfigured by His love (Revelation 19:7).
Meanwhile, as we live in the everyday ups and downs of relationships, Paul reminds us: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)