My dad was waiting for me that morning—that hot July morning nearly eleven years ago. He waited on my front porch as I laced up my shoes to head out for my morning walk. I would not walk alone this particular day. My father’s pace would accompany mine.
We walked in silence, longing for the words to benchmark this occasion. I could not find them, but my daddy did. And when he spoke, I listened for his wisdom.
“Elaine, you are giving your boys a good gift today. By marrying Billy, you are giving them the best chance of understanding just exactly how a man should love a woman.”
I know those were hard words for him to speak in that moment. True words, yet difficult because of what lie ahead on the other side of their release. For all of the slight reservations that my parents might have had about my marrying Billy, they never opposed our decision. If they had, I would have listened. But they saw something in Billy…something long and enduring and trustworthy…that allowed them to let go of their daughter for a second time.
This time, I would not walk the aisle on the arm of my father. This time, I would walk the aisle on the arms of my young sons, who adorned my simple gown with their charming smiles and handsome suits. They would give their mother away into the arms of the man who made them smile and who promised to love them and their mother as his own. With fear and trembling, I spoke my vows to Billy. I did not take them lightly this time, for in that moment, two sets of eyes desperately needed for me to mean them.
Ours has not been an “easy” love. We both carry some baggage. With divorce in my background, my bags hold some extra weight. Weight that includes…
Guilt. Insecurity. Anger. Control issues. Strong will. A caustic tongue. Unrealistic expectations. Fear. Suspicions. Condemnation. Selfish loving.
Marriage, for me, has been a difficult embrace. But Billy has always been here to shoulder my extra weight. Lovingly, and without restraints, he has patiently carried my luggage because his heart beats with the love of his Father’s heart. A love that mirrors an Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. A Christ-like, lay-down-your-life, kind of love.
His is a love that has kept my attention and has enabled me to lighten my load and to walk in the freedom of God’s magnificent grace. Billy was made for marriage, and his capacity for loving me has made me a better woman. A woman who loves deeper, clings tighter, and who more clearly understands the lavish love that Christ carries for his bride.
I have thought about my father’s words over the years. They have strengthened my resolve and given me clarity on days when I wanted to quit. Thankfully, I no longer want to quit. Somewhere between our beginning and our now, God’s grace permeated its way into my heart through my husband’s love, and my baggage has never carried lighter.
That is the way of a Christ-centered, Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. Over 2000 years ago, God released the gift of his Son to walk this earth in search of a bride. He found her in us. You and me…wrinkled and blemished and stained from sin. Our baggage was heavy, but our Groom offered his strength for the journey. Lovingly and without restraints, he shouldered our load upon his back until his steps carried him down the aisle to Calvary’s surrender.
There, he laid our sin upon the altar of sacrifice. There, he paid the bride price once and for all. There, he opened up his arms in anticipation of our arrival. His bride…dressed with the radiance of his righteousness. Spotless…without blemish or wrinkle…washed by his surrender to our sin. He tells us that we have been worth the wait…that we were made for such a marriage.
Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure if I was made for marriage. But there was something about my groom…my Billy…that anchored my hope in possibility. Indeed, my father was right. Billy was my best hope for understanding and for receiving the gracious love of a God who has named me as his bride. Love has found its home in our house, and grace has found its home in my heart.
I can never put reason behind God’s extravagant love for me. It is a profound mystery…an unreasonable portion of a second grace that is sometimes beyond my articulation, but I wanted to try. Wanted to tell you how marvelous and all-surpassing is the love of my God who specializes in second helpings. Thirds and fourths and fifths…as often as needed and always on time. God’s love doesn’t quit. He doesn’t look for the easy way out. Nothing can separate you from his pursuit of your hand in marriage.
No sin. No blemish. No wrinkle. No stain. No matter your past. No matter your present. No matter the road that lies ahead. Your God is after you, and his grace reaches deep into the darkest hour of your sin to find you and to bring you home as his bride.
God used a man named Billy to demonstrate this sacred truth to me. And just a few days ago, he took my hands in his, placed a new token of his commitment upon my ring finger, and told me that he would do it all over again. That I was worth the wait, and that, indeed, I was made for marriage. And so this day, in thankfulness I pray…
Thank you, Father, for scripting my life with a second helping of grace that breathes with an Ephesians 5:25 kind of love. I never imagined its embrace, but you did, Lord, and you called me deserving…worthy…bride of your heart. Thank you for giving me a husband who has modeled surrender, sacrifice, and unconditional love to me and to our children. Thank you for giving me your Son, who washes me clean from my sin and stands ready to receive me as his bride. A bride in life. A bride for all eternity. What wondrous love is this?! Amen.
Designed by Kim Maitland at Creative Metalsmith March 2008