This is me getting ready for my wedding (No, not recently. I know, I know – aside from growing my bangs out, I haven’t changed a bit. Ahem.) I loved being a bride! I bought my dress the day after we got engaged. I loved all the planning. I loved making centrepieces and bouquets. I loved writing my vows. I loved picking out my something old (my grandma’s handkerchief that she carried on her wedding day), something new (my dress), something borrowed (the crinoline belonging to my bridesmaid, Christa) and something blue (which was well-concealed by the time I approached the aisle, by the way). I loved having our family and dearest friends surrounding us and supporting us and celebrating us all day.
There is a lot of work that goes into being a bride. Stuff that the groom doesn’t have to think about, and probably doesn’t want to know about. The final look has probably required months of strict diet and exercise regimes, multiple hairstylist appointments, a throng of professionals attending to rough heel skin and unkempt cuticles, an unfathomable (and usually painful) process of hair removal, layer upon layer of lotions-oils-creams-powders-and-sprays, and the surgically precise application of make-up.
No bride gets up on the day of her wedding and has a 3-minute shower, thinking “Hurray! Floor-length gown means I don’t have to shave!” No, this is her day. This is the most beautiful she will look in her whole life. If ever there was a day to be excessive in the preparations, it’s today. She will be resplendent. Everyone in attendance will be in awe. Her groom will go weak in the knees when he sees her radiant beauty.
The bride. This is how the Bible depicts the church. The aforementioned description is the image that is invoked when we hear “the Bride of Christ”. Oh, the pure, spotless bride. Such a romantic notion, is it not? I guess that means we, the church, need to put all our effort into looking pretty on the wedding day, right? Pristine sanctuaries, Grammy-worthy worship performances, bounteous donations to missionaries and other worthy charities…so pretty!
And so far from what our Groom wants.
Jesus wants a dirty bride! A church whose feet are cold and calloused because she’s given away her shoes. A church whose dress is splattered with the food she’s been serving to the poor. A church whose shoulders are soaked from comforting the bereaved. A church whose face is scarred from intervening in attacks against the defenseless. A church whose knuckles are bloodied and bruised from fighting injustice. A church whose nails are torn and filthy from helping the most destitute climb out of their pits of despair. A church who reeks from embracing the unbathed, the drunk, the disposed. A church who has given and given and given until she doesn’t have the strength to walk down the aisle.
That is the bride that Jesus wants. Her beauty will not be found in her pristine appearance, but in her purity of heart and in her steadfast determination to love Him with everything she has. He will meet her on that wedding day and He will carry her to the celebration. Only then will He transform her into the rapturous beauty that far outshines all other brides.
Until then, let’s get dirty.