I’ve had weddings on the brain lately. Mainly, because four couple-friends of mine recently asked me to marry them. But also because two new bridal shops just opened on the same block as the print shop where I work (in addition to the two already in our neighborhood.)
Occasionally I’ll wonder what it’s like to spend your whole career working with brides, especially the inevitable “bridezillas“. Fortunately, I can’t imagine any of my four bride-friends falling prey to this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, as the Bride of Christ, we in the Church seem to fall into it all the time.
Maybe you’re engaged, and worried about becoming a bridezilla (or groomzilla!) Or maybe you’re just a Christian who’s prone to tarnish the historically positive reputation of the Church. Either way… I’m here to help. Jeff Foxworthy style.
You might be a Bridezilla if…
you believe you’re entitled to the best of everything.
Money is no object… even when it is. Why should only the wealthy enjoy the designer gown? or the 7-tiered bridal cake? You’re an egalitarian! Every bride deserves the very best on her special day! Right?
As Christians, we often seem to be keenly aware that we are the Children of God. The Elect. The Chosen. A Peculiar People. We’ve been told to expect “life more abundant,” so why shouldn’t we live it up? We see this especially borne out in the prosperity doctrine movement, where it’s literally taught that God has promised us the best of everything, and we’ll receive if we believe.
But even outside this niche movement we see far too many examples of entitlement. It really is true that God blesses those who believe in him, and often gives us far more than we deserve in a material sense. But if we fail to respond to these blessings with generosity and grace to those around us (and fail we do) then we are liable to experience the fate of the Unmerciful Servant.
In other words, God loves to lavish gifts on those who know they don’t deserve them.
you live entirely in the future.
It’s all about the big day. Months and months and months of planning are invested in the proceedings of a single 24-hour period: where everyone stays and stands, what everyone wears and eats and drinks and speaks and sings. And on and on. All compacted into the single most important day of your life that you can later relive ad nauseam through photographs and videos and mementos. And the value of each day during your engagement can be accurately calculated by its productivity in preparing for The Coming Day.
I’ll have to admit, I like the song “I’ll Fly Away”, especially when sung in full harmony and accompanied by some Sufjan-style banjo. But that’s just the tip of a gigantic iceberg of songs sung by the frozen chosen who can only look forward to the Day of the Lord, while the present flies by unnoticed.
Jesus loves talking about the Kingdom of God, and when he does, he always uses “already/not yet” language. It’s here and it’s coming. It’s within you, and it’s ahead of you. We run afoul of the real gospel when we neglect either one, because God has given us genuine good to do today, and he’s given us something genuinely amazing to look forward to. Let’s enjoy both.
you’re convinced that it’s all about you.
And for the most part, you can get everyone to agree with you. “Well, it is her big day, after all,” or “She’s been dreaming about a fairytale wedding since she was a little girl.” Perhaps you began as a humble bride, but were egged on by a mother or a maid of honor to stick to your guns and bend others to your will. And now, anyone who forgets to make you the absolute center of attention is going to get a little reminder…
I know there are mixed feelings about Rick Warren, and his book The Purpose Driven Life, but the first line of that book is poignant: “It’s not about you.” The question is, why would Warren feel the need to begin his book that way? If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we’ve been living like it is all about us. We can often see this in the church when we build buildings to suit our needs, sing the songs we like, and occupy the neighborhoods that appeal to our own sensibilities. Obviously there are exceptions, but I often worry that even my own church body projects to the world that the people we mostly care about are ourselves. Reaching out is good, but we’d really rather reach in. And we’d appreciate a little help, thank you very much.
you have precise expectations for everyone you know.
All the people you really like are expected to attend, with a gift off your registry. All the people you’re really close to are expected to pay for their dress/tux and their travel expenses to stand on the stage with you. All the parents and grandparents are expected to chip in to pay the bills. And everyone, no exceptions, is expected to agree with your tastes, behave themselves, and gush about how they’ve never seen a more beautiful bride than you.
Since we, as Christians, have been given the Truth, we naturally feel the responsibility to provide “guidance” to everyone around us, Christian or otherwise. If our fellow church-goers are somehow failing to live up to our interpretations of scripture, they should be made aware of it. If the “pagans” out in the world are so bold and thoughtless as to behave like “pagans”, then we have a divine duty to protest their behavior. After all, if the “People of the Book” don’t give a correcting word before it’s too late, who will? Certainly not the Holy Spirit.
you feel free to neglect and discard important relationships.
When there are plans to be made and tasks to be accomplished, who has time for friends? or family? There will be plenty of opportunities for that after the wedding, right? Let’s just hope there are still a few people who can stand you when it’s all over.
I believe that relationships are actually the most important thing about life. And that the value of everything you encounter, every job, every activity, every experience, can be measured by how well it contributed to the health of one or more relationships.
That’s why we need to take a hard look at the way we “do” church. We may be worshipping, and we may be learning, but how is it likely to benefit our relationships with one another if we aren’t allowed to talk to each other throughout? or ask questions? or add comments? How much are we really getting to know the people we share a pew with?
The temptation is to focus so heavily on education, outreach, worship, etc, that we’ve decided we don’t have time to actually build these relationships. What we may not notice, is that all of these other things fall apart, or never even come together, unless we develop a strong heart for our brothers and sisters.
And if you forget about them, chances are also good that…
you ignore the groom.
I think most grooms have been trained to expect it. The dating period was great (or else he wouldn’t have asked you to marry him!) And he assumes the marriage will be great (or else he wouldn’t have asked you to marry him!) But he’s fully prepared for the engagement to suck, while you spend all your time on “wedding stuff” and nearly forget that he exists. He knows his job is to simply “show up”, and he’ll feel lucky if you can at least pick him out of the groomsmen’s line-up. Fortunately, he can focus his attention on planning the honeymoon, where the two of you can re-kindle your acquaintance after that year apart.
Perhaps the biggest difference between your everyday bride and the Bride of Christ is the role of the Groom in the whole thing. Modern weddings relegate the groom to a glorified participant. But our spiritual Bridegroom (also known as the “Lamb”) expects not only to be involved, but to take the lead.
The earthly bride picks out a white dress that the groom is not allowed to see yet. The spiritual bride is clothed in the Groom himself, as we accept Jesus’ forgiveness, and allow the blood of the Lamb to cleanse the Bride’s soiled robes and make them dazzling white. (Revelation 7:9)
The earthly bride plans a reception, and arranges every detail. The spiritual bride is simply invited to attend the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, where he has made all the plans, and everything reflects his glory, including the gowns and tuxes he gives us to wear. (Revelation 19:7-9)
The earthly bride is the center of attention, as everyone stands to see her walk down the aisle. But the spiritual bride gives way to the Lamb of God, as the Spirit and the Bride say “Come!” (Revelation 22:17)
I believe God has given us the institution of marriage chiefly to paint a picture of his Son, and the amazing future (and present) that he’s given us to be united with him. So as we plan weddings, or attend weddings, or try our best to live healthy married lives, let’s not miss the point like so many Bridezillas. Because it really is all about HIM.