This is not a sewing post.
I want to talk straight about the last month. I want to process this magnificent life change that has taken my river, broken its dams, and having flooded the banks, begun to settle into a newly-created bed. Three and a half weeks ago, I married a man I’d known less than a year. In fact, our wedding date was on the first anniversary of the first time we set eyes on each other. We both attended a weekend workshop on God-given creativity, and I remember seeing him as I found a front row chair. The next day, he watched from the back as dancers pirouetted, and he heard God say, “You know you’re watching your wife dance.” I was the only young, single woman in the group, so he stepped out in faith, arranged to meet me through mutual friends, and after a wild ride of a year (wild even for a passionate pistol like myself), here we are. We married as virgins just weeks shy of our 30th birthdays.
The week before the wedding, we did not know where we would live. Between us, we had three part time jobs, none of which qualified us as renters. I was going on interviews, we were looking for housing, and I was managing anxiety moment by moment. And yet we were simultaneously full of faith, repeating, “God has a plan, we don’t have to know what it is.” We stood on a history of His faithfulness in our lives, even as we stretched to hold onto Him in the present.
Before we met, God called both of us to give up our lives and follow Him wherever He led. My husband left his home and livelihood in Northern California and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. As we met, I was in the final weeks of preparation to leave my home in Nashville, Tennessee, and move to Northern England. These big risks – following God, giving up security, material possessions, income, relationships – ultimately paid off, but they “shook everything that can be shaken”. My husband went through a year of the aptly named School of Supernatural Life, and I gave all I had into the newly-restored House of Prayer, Europe. Returning to the States after three months, rather than the promised year, I found myself reeling, confused, and very, very hurt.
We wrestled through with much prayer and good counselors. We had heartaches and breakthroughs, joys and failures. We were poor but provided-for, discouraged but tenacious, willing but at times unable to love, unable to even articulate what we were feeling or what we needed. But by the kindness and mercy of God, we returned to Him, and we returned to one another.
And so we came to the beginning of a new beginning. I went on another interview the Tuesday before our Saturday wedding. They called back within a few hours offering me a job! But the next day I was feverish, unable to pack (though we still had no home). Thursday, still sick, I moved from my friend’s house where I’d been staying, topping off a storage unit for the time being. Meanwhile, my husband secured us an apartment with my parents’ and his best man’s help and finished moving out of his friends’ home where he’d rented a room. The apartment would not be ready until we returned from our honeymoon, so he packed his things into the storage unit, too. Still, we were thankful and excited, happy for God’s faithfulness, saying, “He is never late, though He misses many opportunities to be early.”
A bridesmaid rode with me to pick up my wedding gown and head to the state park lodge where family and friends were already gathering. As I gingerly laid the gown in the back seat, I caught my cheek on the edge of the car door. It struck a vein and began to swell, and I could not control the tears. We turned back to where we’d gotten the gown, received an ice pack and first aid instructions. My bridesmaid then drove my car out to the park while I kept pressure on the bulging bruise. As we talked about our lives and our work with children, she mentioned a recent bout of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Later, finally settling into our suite, I found red sores in my throat. Sores appeared on my hands and feet the next day, and a quick googling confirmed the diagnosis. I cried.
Or rather, I mourned. All the preparation, all the excitement, all the waiting, and here it was, almost my wedding day, and I had a black eye forming and an infectious, painful virus with no treatment, just an imperative to keep away from people. Impossible! This wasn’t bridezilla drama. I loved my dress, didn’t care if everything was perfect. But this mattered! I wanted to be well, I wanted to be beautiful, and I wanted to freely hug and kiss friends and family, not to mention my husband! I had waited and fought the hard fight to have this day, to be a “pure and spotless bride”, only to be literally spotted with sickness that would quarantine me any other day, and to top it off, I looked like I’d been punched in the face!
But The Lord, my sweet Daddy God, spoke to me. He understood. After all the prayers and declarations and expecting Him to heal, I stood in the shower claiming Scripture and praying promises, forgiving and blessing, following every Godly principle I could – but still the sores and sickness remained. And God said, “Welcome to the prophetic.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but with God, I think one word is worth a thousand. I had four thousand to unpack in understanding, but my heart knew immediately what He meant, and it took the anxiety and disappointment and drained their power, putting them in perspective.
I looked through Scripture for the phrase “pure and spotless bride”. Shockingly, I could not find it. There are references to New Jerusalem coming down as a bride (Revelation 21:2), and the Spirit and the Bride saying “come” (Revelation 22:17), but that particular phrase, which I’ve heard for years in Christian circles, was nowhere.
What I then understood is this: first, Jesus knows what it is like to marry a diseased bride. His Bride, the Church, is covered in the symptoms of contagious illness. These may be hypocrisy, judgment, religiosity, ignorance, gossip, bigotry, racism, idolatry of a political party or idolatry of a healthy lifestyle. He understands the pain of disappointed hope. To know there in that moment, on the eve of my wedding, that I was perfectly understood by the One who made me and loves me more passionately than words can say was – and is – tremendous.
Second, while He is there for us in our pain and takes us on a journey of healing our attitudes and behavior, still God chooses us in the moment. There seems to be an expectation in the Church that Jesus is waiting for us to be “pure and spotless” before He returns, as if our sinlessness, or at least our earnest striving to become so, will finally prove to Him that we have enough faith to satisfy His criteria, allowing Him to hold up His side of the bargain. In other words, as long as I sin, I am not worth Jesus returning. If I am not pursuing radical holiness, Jesus is not pleased with me – or not as pleased as He could be. So while I do not believe it is the intent of those who preach such messages to burden listeners, my heart somehow understood it that way, and here I was, supposed to be representing the Church as a bride, utterly failing at spotlessness.
Later, as it turns out, I learned that I got sick from my interactions with children at my new job. Essentially, what God used to provide for me also made ill. There is a metaphor there, too, about God accomplishing His perfect plan through imperfect circumstances and imperfect people. There are no guarantees that following Him will not have side effects, and there is no promise that those effects will fit my sense of fairness – as if by choosing to follow Him, He owes me comfort and ease.
But coming to the point: I followed Him to the best of my ability – not only in giving up my life for Him, but also in choosing to follow Him in sexual purity, trusting Him to open doors for me and provide for all my needs. And I might even say that had I been less stressed, I would not have gotten sick. Had our apartment been in place sooner, or my job secured earlier, my wedding would not be on the verge of ruination (I mean, can you imagine no hugs and kisses at your wedding, for fear of infecting others?)
All this hit me in those simple words, “Welcome to the prophetic.” The truth is, He doesn’t choose us because He hopes one day we will be pure and spotless. No, He knows life is messy and ugly and we will experience negative effects we cannot control. But none of that negates His love. It is the same simple truth as salvation, yet it means so much more now we have history together.
And I realized I have committed myself for eternity to One of whom I still know so little. We have been together for eighteen years, and He surprises me with His tremendous love. How freeing to be understood, how freeing to have peace, no matter the storm, disappointment, or fear.
Not a person got sick from me, I’ll have you know, and I hugged and kissed freely. My bruise was pale enough to be covered by makeup for the wedding, too, though it darkened into accusing purple on the honeymoon.
The wedding night was a memorable adventure, and we spent our honeymoon mostly off the grid, watching the lake rise from almost incessant rain. I discovered poison ivy on the arches of my feet, presumably from taking pictures in the woods in my sparkly sandals. After dealing with hand, foot, and mouth, this old nemesis was annoying, but not powerful, so I wore socks to bed à la Flight of the Conchords. We came home to a whirlwind move-in, barely getting a mattress into the apartment before returning the truck. It took us three days to fully move, and then I started my new job.
Without belaboring the point, it was “not a good fit”. I could feel it in my guts, and my intelligence was continually insulted by the company’s practices, which contradicted all the training I was receiving. Poor husband listened to me rant and vent each evening. Still, I was shocked when, four days in, they let me go. As the tears cleared, husband suggested I follow back up with a school that called on the honeymoon. I started new hire paperwork with them last week, and husband just got promoted as well. To say the least, we are thankful. Credit where it’s due – this is His plan, we just don’t know what it is!
So we are settling in to make life happen. Name changes are processing, our apartment is free of cardboard boxes. We bought a desk for husband to work on writing and film, and God led me to a yard sale where I got a table for my sewing machine (more on that to come). We have close neighbors and are part of a loving community. We are excited about life and enjoying marriage. It’s all a story I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s a story I love to tell, because it’s ours. Here’s to the future – we’re smiling at you!