When I was working for my dad, our bookkeeper was from India and had had an arranged marriage. Gheeta was only a few years older than me and since our cubicles faced each other, we often visited. Her arranged marriage fascinated me. To her it wasn't out of the ordinary and I think my fascination probably humored her a great deal. It was obvious that she and her husband loved each other deeply and had learned how to "do life" together. You could tell it was a partnership and that they did not have unrealistic expectations of romance and fairy tale endings. A few times she spoke of her family back in India and explained their marital customs. Most of what she shared was truly beautiful. Some of it was deeply disturbing. It was hard to hear how refusing an arranged marriage could end up in banishment, beatings or even death. And if a bride's purity was questioned or compromised, she was a disgrace to her family.
Some days, I joke with friends that we should have arranged marriages for our children. Spare them the turmoil of finding a mate, a partner.
Recently, I realized we are all part of an arranged marriage.
Jesus, our bridegroom, paid a dowry so that we could be His fully, forever. He paid a dowry so steep that no other bridegroom could ever pay it. We can't even pay our own dowry or win our own hand the way Merida did in the Disney movie Brave. Our poverty is so deep it extends past finances. We are poor down to our souls. We have nothing to offer that could ever pay the debt we owe to our bridegroom.
We, the church, are the reluctant and rather rebellious bride. We want to be loved, we want to be in love but on our terms. We want the bridegroom to love and protect us, to provide for our needs, but we don't want Him to know us intimately. We want to keep Him at arm's length. This marriage thing wasn't our idea, we long for independence, for self-sufficiency. We look for our fairy tale happiness in money, success, food, and relationships. Yet we always come up empty.
Our Father chose this marriage for us because He knows it's the only way we will ever find joy or peace. He knows we were created for this bridegroom's glory. He chose this marriage because He knows it's the only way we will ever have a relationship with Him. He knows this marriage is the only way we will ever find true love. Not fairy tales and candlelight romance kind of love, but true, deep partnership, love you forever and always even for the ugly parts of you kind of love.
Just like my friend Gheeta who didn't know her bridegroom and didn't love him until she surrendered her independence and her selfish desires, we don't know our bridegroom until we surrender. I once asked Gheeta about love. She said that she didn't love her husband when she married him. She barely knew him, how could she possibly love him? But as she got to know him, she learned to love him. And by the time we'd had this conversation, she was wasn't just "in love" with him, she was loving him, every day even when it was hard. Their lives and souls were knit together through hard times when they had no one else but each other (they were in CA, their families and friends in India) and since divorce isn't an option in these cultures, they knew they had to grit their teeth and learn to surrender. At the time, Gheeta was struggling to become pregnant. Being infertile is a disgrace in her culture, and while I'm not sure, I suspect her husband could divorce her for that reason alone. Yet, he hung on because he loved her.
There are things about me that are a disgrace to Jesus, my bridegroom. In many ways, each of us are a disgrace to our bridegroom. Our hearts aren't pure. Our minds are tainted. Even our bodies have been dirtied by our affairs with the world. He has every reason to divorce us. He could easily throw us away and start over. Yet, He hangs on. He waits for us to surrender. He waits for us to turn towards Him, lean in close and get to know Him. He yearns for us to give us all of ourselves.
To think that there's someone who paid my dowry with His own life, literally gave all He had for me, and that I continually deny Him myself makes my heart weep. I've scorned The One who loves me like no other and yet He hangs on to me, waiting for me to just give in and learn to love Him. Learn to love like Him.