There are several places throughout the Bible where we can see references to the Church as the Bride of Christ. We can see it in 2 Corinthians, we can see it in Ephesians, and we can see it in Revelation. Even in the Old Testament, the ongoing dialogue between God and His people is at times very evocative of unrequited love between an adoring husband and an adulterous wife. I must admit that I love this idea— so much more than any other I’ve come to know in my exploration of Scripture. So often, we think of ourselves merely as the children of God, and that identifier is just as true. But from the very beginning of my conversion, I experienced a kind of love in my heart that just couldn’t be bridled by the bounds of a parent-child relationship. At the time, I was completely unaware of the biblical verses that pointed to a spousal relationship between God and His creation. I knew only that I had fallen in love with Him, and I can’t describe how real that love was made when I finally discovered the biblical validation for it.
It’s not a concept that’s discussed very frequently, but I can always feel it poignantly in the hymns—pay close attention to the lyrics of your favorite hymns, and you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. The passion they express is so overwhelming, and they definitely aren’t the words I would speak to my father over coffee. Though it might be a challenging notion to grasp in the limits of our finite world, what God has helped me to understand is that every loving, human relationship we can ever experience here amongst ourselves is a symbol of God’s love for us. There are many aspects to that love, and though the human love we can give and accept from each other has very distinct boundaries—the love of a child for a parent, the love of a parent for a child, the love between friends and extended family, and the love between husband and wife—these separate relationships between us are meant to be the vessels through which we can express love for God and experience love from God—a love that is perfectly infinite, knowing no boundary at all. This understanding has given me the freedom to worship my Creator without restraint, holding nothing back from Him. And upon reflection of my own life, I take unrestrained joy in the knowledge that He has blessed me with a marriage that symbolizes my bond to Him in a way that I could never have even imagined He would. I’d like to share that story with you now, so that you might be able to see a similar blessing in your own stories.
When I was eighteen years old, I met a sweet boy named Adam. I know it sounds cliché, but there was something so refreshingly different about him, and he caught me. Looking back, I think it was the quality of innocence in his face and the kindness in his voice that captured my attention. Most of the young men I’d met up to that point had seemed to have this aloofness about them—a sort of coldness that suggested they had resolved to keep the world at arm’s-length. Not this one, though. This one was actually approachable, and more than that—he wanted to be my friend. At first, I didn’t exactly know how I felt about him in terms of a romantic connection. I just knew that he was special. He wasn’t the kind of boy I was likely to meet again, and I just felt so safe with him. It didn’t surprise me when I found out that he was a Christian, and although my own Christianity was on shaky ground, it drew me toward him all the more. So, we dated for a while, and the closer we became, the more I felt certain that I was falling in love with this sweet, gentle boy who had seen fit to make me such an important part of his life. He was the first thought in my mind when I woke up in the morning and the final thought to depart my consciousness as I drifted off to sleep at night. And for a time, I felt like I was living on a cloud.
He was the first real boyfriend I’d ever had, so I was still very naïve about the nature of human love and how it changes over time. After about three years of being in this relationship with Adam, I started to feel my love growing tepid, and I was very confused. I was finally coming down from that emotional euphoria that happens in the newness of love but that—maybe as a consequence of our brokenness—is always destined to fade with time. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to accept it as normal, but at the time, it seemed like the end of the world. I was so disillusioned, and it wasn’t long before the darkness closing in around my heart prepared a way for further self-destruction. There was another person in our lives at the time who, while I was in the midst of this inner turmoil, confessed to me one night that he had been harboring passionate feelings toward me ever since we’d first met. He had just accepted a job offer in another part of the country, and he knew that he would never see me again, but he told me that he was willing to see me one more time if I would admit my feelings for him. His words were like a poison coursing through my veins, and in my weakness, I agreed to his terms. In my selfishness, I was willing to betray the boy who had been devoted to me since practically the moment he’d first set eyes on me—just so I could feel the euphoria abandoned by my own calloused heart.
It wasn’t the same. It was cold. It was dangerous. It was unloving. And when it was over, I tried to hide from Adam that it had happened. I lied to him for almost a year, and I’ll never forget the night when I finally told him the truth. He didn’t react in anger. He didn’t start screaming and saying hurtful things. He just took it in—as I watched the pain in his eyes. And before he left my house, he took me in his arms. He kissed me softly on my forehead, and he said: I love you. Only in that moment did I fully comprehend what I had done. There I was, breaking his heart when he’d done absolutely nothing to deserve it, and even as I’m doing this—in spite of the torment I’m putting him through—he tells me he loves me? I wanted to die. It was so awful. To see his kindness reflecting off my cruelty was enough to break my heart, too.
I was separated from him for two years after that, and even now, I still see them as the most desolate two years of my life. He wouldn’t see me. He wouldn’t speak to me. And his absence had left such an emptiness inside of me. My world was just so cold and frightening without him, and at times, it was almost unbearable. Almost. Everyone I knew told me I had to move on. They encouraged me to see my time with him as a learning experience—and to accept that he wasn’t coming back. What I actually wound up accepting in time was that, while he had been a precious gift from God to me, I had tried to turn him into God, Himself. I had made him my idol, and I had unfairly burdened him with the task of fulfilling my every need. I asked for forgiveness—from him and from God, and I felt God starting to remind me of who I wanted to be. I felt God drawing me back to Him. The pain in my heart gradually became less sharpened, and I started to find peace. I hoped that Adam had, too.
Then, one day, I saw him walking down the street toward me. We must have smiled at each other, and though I hoped for it, I could never have fully allowed myself to believe that I would marry him three years later. I had proven myself unworthy, yet in love, he gave me his name—and I, quite literally, was granted the rare privilege of becoming “Mrs. Love.” Now, every time I sign my name, I’m reminded not only of the love my husband has bestowed upon me, but even more so, the love my Creator has bestowed upon me—even though I don’t deserve it. It humbles me. It amazes me. And it makes me want to bestow my love in return. What in this world could possibly be better than that?