There are those who wonder why God has chosen to make us wait so long for His Son’s return. The apostle Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But as we strive to share this hope, God is also obviously using our time of betrothal as a means of deepening our spiritual affection, and revealing the wonders of grace that come when we persevere.
I suspect there were some people who wondered if my wife Jane and I were ever going to get married. We met our freshman year of college and dated for four years before announcing our engagement. Then we wanted another year until we completed college to marry. Even my proposal was a process. Several months before I officially asked my wife to marry me we picked out a ring at a local jewelry store and put down a deposit. Every month we visited the ring and made a payment. Jane would put the ring on her finger and we would stand at the counter and admire it for several minutes before giving it back to the salesman to place in the safe until our next visit. When I was ready to propose I secretly paid the balance and the ring and took possession.
During the five years we dated we became familiar with each other’s personal likes and dislikes, idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses. We grew close to each other’s family members and met extended family and friends. There were ups and down, frustrations, disappointments, doubts and fears.
I don’t think there is a biblical design for engagements (except for the purity part), but I can vouch for the value of taking time to prepare for life together. While I believe wedding ceremonies should be well planned to give them the significance they deserve, the time we spend preparing for an event should never take precedence over the time we commit to the marriage. I have met couples who think nothing of spending thousands of dollars on a ceremony, but recoil when they discover they are asked to pay a few bucks for marriage counseling. When it comes to marriage, are the things we do to meet the expectations of friends and family members really more important than the one to whom we are pledging our lives?
Perhaps this is why God planned a long betrothal for Jesus and His Bride. Obviously, the generation that is alive when Jesus returns will be the exception. But for the other, a lifelong walk with the Lord, complete with trials and temptations, can reap spiritual riches. As the wedding ring is tested by fire to make it pure, our faith is brought to maturity.
This is how it is for the Bride of Christ. He washes us clean, loves us intimately, and prepares us for the day we will see Him face to face. We can relate, but not entirely, for the mystery of Christ’s love for His Bride surpasses our human understanding. Therefore, we learn what we can and live as we should. But there is one more important picture we must examine before we move on to other things.