Do you ever have those moments when something hits you out of nowhere? Like a thought comes to your head and you think, “Huh. Never thought of that before.”?
Every once in a while that will happen to me. When it does I usually get lost in a strange fog of thinking and talking to myself while absentmindedly dealing with the kidlets. I realize this makes me sound a little crazy, and I don’t really have much evidence to the contrary. Oh well.
Anyway, I had one of those moments as I was doing laundry today. Somewhere between the load of reds and the load of whites, my mind started to wander to the Bible, my life, the Church, everything. And I zeroed in on the specific verses found in Proverbs 31:11-31.
I have studied these verses a lot. I have studied them for my personal quiet times, for a book that is in the works, and to teach different classes for younger ladies. For as long as I can remember I have been looking to those words as a guide. In my Bible I even have “orange?” printed next to every mention of her being clothed in scarlet – something I did in the orange-obsessed days of my youth.
There are several resources centered on these 21 verses. There are a ton of blogs, books, magazines, and websites. There is also a plethora of frilly stuff, from Bible covers to inspirational wall hangings to throw pillows, all designed to encourage women to become that wife of noble character.
What hit me today, though, was the idea that the Church is the Bride of Christ.
Now, this isn’t something that I think of very often. Truthfully, I really only think about it when we are singing songs in church, and even then I don’t stop and consider what it really means.
But today I can’t think of much else.
I am stuck on this question: Does the Church, as the Bride of Christ, display the characteristics of a virtuous wife?
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Are we doing this? Are we bringing glory and honor to the name of Christ? Do our actions as the Church bring good to our Groom? Or do we harm him?
Our Groom walked among the worst of sinners. He built his ministry with the outcast, and he offended all of the religious people.
Do we as his bride live the same way? Do we draw more people to him? Do we extend his grace and mercy? Do we offend those who think their righteousness means something?
Or have people been hurt, turned away, angered, abused, and outcast by a Bride who is disregarding the wishes of her husband?
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands… She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks… She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
As I read through the verses that talk about the work that the Bride does, I think that yeah, the Church pretty much has that part down. We know how to work hard, and we know how to make a profit. We take care of our own, and we reach out to the poor.
So basically, when it comes to housekeeping chores, we pretty much rock.
But for what purpose? For whose glory?
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
Really? Is our husband respected among the elders of the land?
Sure, we as the Bride respect our husband, but do we act in such a way that causes others to respect him too?
Have our actions led everyone to see the greatness of our Groom? Or have we caused him to be laughed at? Has our Groom become a joke? A punch line? A swear word?
And if that is the case, then whose fault is it?
Our Groom did nothing wrong.
I try and take solace in the fact that it’s a fallen world and people are evil.
That’s true. And that’s not our fault.
But then I think of the words of an Ethiopian man so many years ago asking how he can understand the Gospel if no one will teach him.
And then I remember the words of my Groom, telling me to go and teach others. Go and help others understand. Go and share the Good News.
Have we done that as his bride?
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Strength and dignity.
Is that the way we are described?
And do we laugh at the days to come?
Or do we run, scared of the tough times ahead?
Do we embrace the reassurances that our Groom has given us, or do we cling to the rights that the world has given us?
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Is this the praise we will receive from our Groom?
Do we as his Bride surpass the goodness of everyone else? In taking care of the poor? Helping the sick?
Or have others had to step in to pick up our slack?
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
We as the Bride have learned how to be beautiful. We have spent a lot of money adorning ourselves on the outside. We have created our own entertainment, and it is really easy for us to sit back and congratulate ourselves on being a charming and beautiful Bride.
But charm is deceptive. And beauty is fleeting.
So that leaves us with one option – and that is to fear the Lord.
I know that the Church does not always represent Jesus. And that makes me sad, and angry. I can get really worked up, and I have plenty of heated conversations with myself – and at times, others – about how much everyone else is messing up.
But then, after I congratulate myself on my Jon Stewart-esque rant, I settle into silence. And in that silence I face the question that I dread, “And what about you?”
And I know the answer. And I don’t like it.
And so I will try to do better. I will cling to the Groom. I will try to help others see Him.
And I will fervently pray that that as his Bride, we will become a wife of noble character. Our Groom wants to transform us… we just need to let him.