Our Perfect Day Won’t Be Perfect

During the last few months I’ve had the exciting task of planning my wedding. (It’s tempting at this point to spend the rest of this post talking about how wonderful my fiancé Tim is, but I’ll try to stay on topic!)

Those of you who have been involved in planning the wedding of a family member, friend, or of your own, may know the pressure to achieve “the perfect day”, an elusive aim that seems only to have grown more elaborate with the advent of wedding magazines, blogs, and fairs.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ve had to really strive to maintain a balanced and godly perspective on wedding planning, but doing so has caused me to reflect upon my desire for perfection, and to realise that it points to something even more wonderful than the wedding itself.

The Best Laid Plans . . .

You see, however much I obsess over and plan the practical aspects of our wedding day, I already know that our perfect day will not be perfect. Perhaps it will rain, or some of our guests will be unable to come, maybe we’ll forget something, or make a mistake. Most of my married friends have amusing stories of things that didn’t quite go according to plan on the day, and I recently spotted an article online which advertised a “bridal emergency kit” containing more than 40 items in an effort to cover every eventuality!

WeddingAnd yet, even if everything should proceed flawlessly on the day, I must remember that this beautiful event is a metaphor, a picture that points to something higher and better outside itself. An event which will include everyone who loves and follows Jesus Christ: His wedding and eternally faithful marriage to his spotless and perfect bride – the church.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless . . . 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25-32

The Perfect Day

On this wedding day there will be no shame and no imperfections or failures. The setting will be a redeemed and restored heavens and earth, flawless in its beauty. The bride will be radiant and completely without blemish. The all-consuming nature of her love will be life-giving and utterly fitting. In return the groom’s love will be selfless, staggering in its intensity, totally satisfying, and eternally faithful. Their love will make even the best earthly marriages look weak in comparison to its fullness and perfection.

In fact, as I meditate on this heavenly wedding, I’m even more excited about taking part in its earthly counterpart. Yet this also frees me from relentlessly striving for perfection on our earthly wedding day. If something goes wrong or it fails to live up to my expectations in some way, it won’t crush me because I know that it’s the dress rehearsal for a heavenly wedding that really will be perfect. And as I experience the incredible joy that I’m sure our wedding day will bring, I will be humbled to know that even this is only a foretaste of the joy to come – what a thought!

A Hope for All of Life

This is a principle which also holds true for the disappointments or failures or losses which we face in this life – and there are many. We take heart in the certain, joyful hope of that future perfect day when the whole, ransomed church of God will be radiantly married to her loving Lord and Saviour forever.

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” Revelation 19:6-8

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:1-5

For now we are those who watch, and wait, and long for our perfect heavenly wedding day.

 

Nim

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Arbitrary Measures

Sometimes I find myself measuring my ‘progress’ or maturity in Christian faith in random and arbitrary ways:

Here are some of them: (laugh if you want, I deserve it!)

  • Read a chapter of Calvin’s Institutes (super holy behaviour!)
  • Listened to a John Piper sermon in my free time.
  • Ate some vegetables (my body is a temple).

Why do I think in this way?

Arbitrary Measures

All human beings are legalists at heart. We forget (or refuse) to trust in the radical rescue of Jesus, and instead we obsess about the things we do as markers of our success or failure. Or we give up on godliness altogether and settle for creating our own more achievable standards.

But godliness isn’t about random acts of self-discipline or an arbitrary standard of choice.

God’s standard is absolute perfection:  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) An impossible standard for you and I!

Jesus is very clear about this in the story of the rich young man who wanted eternal life (found in Mark 10:17-27). The disciples are impressed by the outward holiness and worldly success of the man, but Jesus sees things differently, and uses the situation to teach them:

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle . . .26 The disciples were amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Exchanging Measures for Mercy

Here is Calvin’s explanation of how God’s perfect standards should cause the Christian to react:

dismissing the stupid opinion of their own strength, they come to realize that they stand and are upheld by God’s hand alone; that, naked and empty-handed, they flee to His mercy, repose entirely in it, hide deep within it, and seize upon it alone for righteousness and merit. For God’s mercy is revealed in Christ to all who seek and wait upon it with true faith.
True Christian maturity is rooted in Christ, in his perfection on our behalf, and in the gradual changes that he is working in those who follow him. But it’s a work of relationship not rules. Arbitrary rules and habits (and even those found in the Bible) cannot save us, they simply point us to the person who can.

So, I don’t need to make arbitrary rules for myself, instead my measure of holiness is Christlikeness, enabled by God’s Spirit, and achieved by knowing Jesus and trusting in his once-for-all rescue.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 

Nim