My sister was my maid of honor. She wore a blue dress which had been hand sewn by a friend of mine. We had picked up the dress the day before the wedding. It was entirely too small. My sister couldn't raise her arms, she couldn't take full breaths of air. No one told me. They didn't tell the guests. She didn't complain. I was the bride and my family didn't want anything to tarnish the day.
All throughout the Bible the church is referred to using marriage imagery as the Bride of Christ. Read a good explanation here.
I am concerned that believers have forgotten how to treat a bride.
Listen. I get it. People have been hurt at church. They have lost their way. Leaders have sometimes broken trust. Priorities have been misplaced. But that is not the full picture. Certainly not the full truth. But frequently it's all people talk about, write about, think about. Most of the blog posts online I see about the greater church are not positive. They are critical. Our society is soaked in criticism. Why would new people bother going to church if all her members do is complain?
The tone of the conversation about church tends to be a sneer or a shrug. Music is too loud. Too long. Not long enough. Teen group too fun. Not fun enough. Too much Bible. Not enough Bible. No one says hello. They make me say hello. For the love.
You know that part in the wedding where the pastor asks if anyone knows of any reason the wedding should not continue? Sometimes people have to stand up and say stop. Happens in churches too. Martin Luther. Those awful child abuse stories. When the truth is being hidden or distorted.
However. Most of the time, people at weddings stay seated. They do so out of respect and kindness and awe at the beauty of the bride. Guests shouldn't stare critically at the choice of flowers or music or dresses. They certainly don't throw tomatoes. They don't trip the bride.
My favorite thing to do at a wedding is to watch the expression of the groom. When he sees his bride. Eyes light up. Tears fall.
Seems like instead of throwing every criticism we can find at the church and her leaders perhaps we should watch the groom. He loves his bride. Jesus loves his bride enough that he laid down his life to save her.
You know what a bridezilla is right? When a bride is mean, picky and crazy. The only time a bride isn't lovely is when she focuses totally on herself and forgets the groom, or forgets her guests. Same is true with the church. Eyes on Jesus and she shines.
I know most people writing critically about the church are simply trying to remind her to keep the faith. But the constant criticism and lack of cheer can do harm. At a wedding, ultimately, it does not matter what flowers are chosen or what dress the flower girl wears. The wedding will proceed. Save your complaints about church for eternal concerns and don't worry about the details.
May I throw out a thought? Perhaps what the church needs is more people to cheer her on. More people who say thank you to leaders. People to tell their stories of grace and joy and friendship and love. More people who stand when she walks down the aisle. My guess is more people would respond to the invitation if the guests made the wedding sound fun. So fellow believers, when you see a problem within the church, solve it. But do so in a manner that does not demean or degrade. My sister dealt with her dress in grace. I appreciated it.
The truth is that people are healed at church. People are found. Leaders keep the faith. Conflicts are resolved. Wrongs are forgiven. The church is the bride. She's not perfect. But she is loved.
Feel free to share a wedding picture in the comments or a story of how the church has made a difference in your life.
We spent most of last week camping with a pile of friends out in the high dessert of Eastern Oregon right next to Mount Jefferson. I am a huge fan of Mount Jefferson. Great backdrop for impressive sunsets.
The campsite was just over the bluff from Lake Billy Chinook which hosts speed boats, inner tubes, kayaks and the occasional party boat. We are of the party boat clan. One little guest called it the potty boat. Pretty accurate since its the one place on the lake you can convince littles to go.
I am frankly not a competent camper. I like cruise ships and hotels with room service. First evening of camping I hauled the kids and piles of cleanish clothes and my makeup bag over to the showers. Groaned when I realized that my toothpaste lid had failed and blue sparkly toothpaste now covered every item. I washed and dried and threw out the toothpaste. Ugh. Took more pictures of the sunset.
My youngest is a colorful one. She is a fan of rainbow t-shirts, fancy headbands and watermelon. She ate a lot of watermelon.
Some of my favorite colors are these blue eyes and sunkissed freckles. My girls chased bugs and found rocks. Road bikes and watched geese. Pointed at deer and watched the stars. Earned Jr. Ranger badges and rolled in the grass. Giggled with friends and cuddled in at night.
We had one stormy afternoon. At one point you could see the moon, a rainbow, lightning and these amazing clouds all at the same time. No filter. I think God was showing off.
Next morning I hauled my filthy children and my makeup bag to the bathroom to change. Dropped my makeup bag. Are you aware that fingernail polish is much harder to wash off than toothpaste? I wasn't fast enough and as a result my hands are now chapped from polish remover and stained slightly pink. It took quite a while to pick out the glass shards. Threw out my toothbrush. Who takes fingernail polish camping?
The contrast between my attempts at coloring my life and God's joyful painting may be the point of camping. Its about being out amongst the color and sounds and smells that are real. Blue sparkly toothpaste and pink fingernail polish have nothing on sunsets and watermelon. If you are feeling cynical or stressed try turning off the reality TV (or the election coverage) and go take photos of the sky. Take a walk. Eat veggies from the garden. Count the colors.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Psalm 19:1
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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