by Alida Oegema
May 27, 2014
6 min read
Two of my close friends got married this past weekend. It was a celebration that was simple and stunning, and clearly reflected the deep and breathtaking ways that God has woven love into their lives. It was a familiar setting, as weddings and engagements have occupied significant and frequent spaces in my calendar in the past few years. But as I watched my friends say their vows with all the promise and anticipation and excitement of a young couple, and as I danced and laughed with friends from near and far and tried to keep my happy-weepy tears to a reasonable quota – I couldn’t get past how absolutely stunning love is and how it reflects the heart of God.
The thing about marriage and about weddings is that they give us a glimpse of the depth of God’s love in a way that few other things do. Marriage is a sacred commitment and a sacred space. It’s so pure and powerful. And it moves us. There’s something in the romance and wonder and commitment that invites us to taste and see that God is good. Because, at the heart of it, love that comes alive and continually grows to maturity is one of the closest human reflections we have of the gospel narrative.
It’s a picture (tainted and limited yes, but still breathtakingly clear) of the kind of love we were made for: a love that sweeps us away in its grandeur, a love that celebrates the beauty and quirkiness and scars of each individual heart with a specific and deeply personal, “I choose you.” It’s a love that is committed and rooted and won over moments and seasons and years – of both beauty and pain and struggle and happiness. And when this kind of love unfolds in people’s lives, we notice.
Marriage reminds us of the centrality of love in our lives, both within our own stories and in the lives of those around us. Weddings remind us that beauty is always meant to be shared, always meant to shine beyond individual stories. In marriage, love is a journey with your one person and a journey alongside many others. It’s the way that a joy-filled glance and ceremony and pictures can testify to the necessity and impact of love, a love that’s meant to encourage the collective whole and not to isolate the privileged few.
The object of our affection and the desire of our heart is not romantic love, but Christ himself.
I’ll admit, there are moments when romantic love seems to be the prize of the privileged “lucky” ones. Those are moments when weddings and romance feel like almost cruel reminders of what I deeply want and do not yet have. There’s heartache there – heartache that is as real and as deep as the joy that also abounds. In the same way that Father-Daughter dances and the iconic walk down the aisle now make my heart feel like it may stop beating since my Dad died. Or the spaces where a couple struggling to have kids watches friends around them celebrate baby showers and the excitement of new life. Or for those whose love stories seem to have turned from a dream into a nightmare. Or the loneliness of a widow. The spaces of heartache are real for so many of us. And, any amount of excitement does not negate that heartache.
But the depth of God’s love means that we can lean into the heartache and find God present there too. That we can cling to His goodness amidst the pain and the spaces that feel too painful to even articulate.
The beauty – and necessity – of marriage is in no way diminished by a lack of romantic love or the realities of hurt that may render us hesitant to embrace its beauty fully. In fact, the spaces of heartache may reveal even more of its importance. Because love also invites us to lean in close to the reflection of God’s goodness and glimpses of deeply woven beauty. It invites us to grab our dancing shoes and celebrate the good things He is doing in the lives of those around us.
If we make weddings and marriage about us, we’ve missed the best parts of what they are meant to show us. At their core, romance, marriage and love are not about us. The object of our affection and the desire of our heart is not romantic love, but Christ himself. The point of marriage, in all its nuances and ups and downs, is to magnify Jesus. The point of weddings, in all their celebration and newness, is to magnify Jesus. The point of relationships and friendships and community and every stage of life is to magnify Jesus.
Love is not about us. Love is about the glory of God – not only in the life of the husband and wife, in ways and depths that only they will know the full extent of – but also in the community around them. Love is about God’s glory. But love is for us. The glory of God on display is for all of us. It exists to point us back to Christ and to remind us of His beauty.
A friend of mine once told me that she fell in love with her husband all over again at every wedding she attended after getting married herself. Why? Because she was reminded of how much of a gift the depth of love was, and how much the radical commitment of loving another person mattered. I think there’s so much beauty and wisdom there. And, although I can’t yet say the same, I can say this: if I’m willing to look for it and willing to lean in close – wedding celebrations and Christ-centered marriages make me fall in love with Jesus all over again. I’m enamored with him, because these displays of love remind me of how deeply and fully He loves us. I need that reminder constantly. And it’s a reminder worth leaning in close to.