Bringing His Bride with Him

Once upon a time there was a king.

Now, this king was everything a good fairy tale wants. He was powerful, but also good. He was just, but also merciful. He was wise, faithful, and fiercely protective of his kingdom. And he loved his citizens, not as one aloof or stoic, but with passion and vehemence, as if they were sons and daughters.

One day the king called for his son.

“My son, and true heir, with whom I share all glory and dominion! My son, united with me in heart and purpose!” the king proclaimed at the sight of the prince, embracing him with delight.

But as the king stepped back, his eyes were fierce with righteous anger. Yet in a swirling, torrent of emotions, staggering sorrow etched his wrinkled brow and aged-lined face. His hands weighed heavily on the prince’s shoulders. And the prince, so radically connected to his father, knew the emotions as well.

“Oh my son,” The king was grave, “I must send you on a perilous mission, one so perilous it is such the world has never seen. Were there another way, I would have it so. But you alone can be the rescuer. You alone are anointed.”

His voice was still thick with grief and outrage, two sides of the same coin. “Your future bride has been deceived and stolen by our ancient foe! A dragon most formidable and full of rage and fury guards a tower that reaches heaven, a tower formed from impenetrable stone. In it he keeps her, captive.”

And the son felt the equal weight of wrath and agony. How could this possibly be?

perilous“But there is more. What I ask is more than you know. To rescue the fairest, most lovely, most gentle, beauty in all the land is one thing. However, this is not your feat. Rather, your lady fair is not fair at all. She is crushed by her oppressor, lower than a slave. But she has no understanding– he’s beguiled her so. She thinks she’s free. Yet she is filthy, dressed in rags. Her heart is broken, torn apart by guilt and shame. She is blind. And lame. And her body is wracked with leprosy. She is utterly destitute. Day by day she sits in ashes,clothed in despair.”

“There is more. She hates you with malice so violent, so hostile, and so deeply rooted, it consumes her. My son, I send you to rescue one who is thoroughly unlovely. But she belongs to the kingdom, a citizen. I love the unlovely. And I want her back.” As he said the last, his hand clenched in an emphatic fist.

“My son, still there is more. Our ancient foe is no ordinary dragon, and you’ll not slay him by ordinary means. To defeat the master deceiver, you must become as the one you rescue. You must exchange your resplendent, spotless cloak for a threadbare rag saturated with the stench of human waste. You must put on her blindness. You must become lame. You must see your body wrapped in rotten, leprous flesh. You must wear her ashes and take her despair. And after all this, you will surely die. My dearest son, I love you more deeply than language can describe, but I love my citizens too. I love this wretch. Son will you lay aside your glory? Will you lay aside your fame and renown for a time?”

you must
The prince weighed his father’s words in a balance. The father’s glory was his glory. The father’s kingdom, his kingdom, but his father asked a task almost incomprehensible.

Become a leper, unclean, cast out? Be blind? Be lame? Dress in filth? Die?

He returned his father’s gaze. He loved his father with loved that encompassed all, and he would do his father’s will.

Without hesitation, the son knelt, and presented his sword.

“Yes father, this thing you ask, I’ll do it willingly. I will go. I will redeem the unlovely one, taking her blindness, her leprosy, her ashes, her despair. I will wash her. I will bind her broken heart, and it will be whole. I will set her free. She’ll be liberated, no longer captive! I will clothe her with a beautiful crown and a splendid garments. No longer will she sit in ashes. I will give her the oil of joy. I will comfort her gently. I will provide for her needs. I will love her with unquenchable love. And yes, father, to defeat our ancient and formidable foe, I will die for her.”

“My son! Oh my marvelous son, how I delight in you! You will destroy the foe! You will crush his head. And you will rise and come again to me, bringing your bride with you. And she will be yours. And she will be beautiful because you will make her so.”

Now time will not suffice to tell you all, but the prince did embark. And the journey was exceedingly perilous. The cost was exceptionally high.

It was an extravagant rescue mission, such as the world had never seen. All came to pass just as the Father said.

All came to pass.

The son died.

Yet he did also rise.

And he returned to the king, bringing his bride with him.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning and splendid clothes instead of despair, and they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him. Isaiah 61:1-3


This post by Ami appeared first at Intentional By Grace.

Advertisements

An oak of righteousness? Two years after death.

???????????????????????????????Two years. Such small, seemingly insignificant words, yet they carry enormous weight.

Be warned, however, this may not be a tightly woven, finely crafted, highly polished train of thought. It’s one of those times I just need to let the words take themselves where they want to go.

Has it really been two years since Jon last kissed me, last made me laugh, last told me he loved me? The passage of time is both an instant and an eternity.

I didn’t believe the friend who told me the “seconds” can be more difficult than the firsts. But she was right. In year two reality set in. “This is my new life.”

I miss him daily, sometimes badly. Someone once asked me if there are days that go by that I don’t think about him. The answer to that is no. And it will always be no.

In the second year, careless words still hurt, pregnancy announcements still caused a twinge of sorrow followed by genuine rejoicing, and loneliness proved a powerful battle. Though grief’s crashing waves were less frequent, it’s reality that, at times, they were still ferocious. This year it was harder to tell people when I was deeply struggling. I wondered if it was still ok.  I’m thankful for close friends who remind me it’s safe to share the struggle.

I admit there were some unmet expectations. I thought surely, by now, I’d be headed to remarriage, toward someone taking care of me, toward not living alone.

There were fears, such as knowing a day is coming when Jon will have been gone longer than we were married. Not sure I’m ready to tackle that one.

Indeed, It took its own shape, this second year. I can think of several themes that encapsulate it: waiting, binding up, defeating lies, learning deeper trust, relinquishing expectations. In a word, sanctification.

“But God, wasn’t death enough? I’m really ok with mediocre. Can’t we take a break from transformation?”

He said no.

Praise God, He’s far more committed to my sanctification than I am! And I’ve started to realize that’s an incredible thing. Let me illustrate.

A couple weeks after Jon died, my pastor and his daughter stood at my door. With puffy eyes, unwashed hair, and clothed in sackcloth and ashes, I heard him say, “We picked this journal intentionally. The tree symbolizes the far reaching influence of Jon’s death. A seed falls down to the ground and dies, but from death there’s abundant life. I think God will grow a tree ridiculously more beautiful than we know. Jon’s life and death. Your life. The gospel will explode, and there will be abundant fruit. Ami, God’s going to use this. And He’ll use you.” 

I had no words to thank him for such a touching gift, but I doubt I believed him then. I didn’t know if there was truly life beneath the ashes.

A tree can be reduced to cinders in minutes, a mere glimmer of time. Fire sweeps through, destroying something strong and lovely. From all appearances the tree is dead, or at least so severely debilitated it may never produce foliage again.

That was me, ashes in an instant.

Ashes in an instant, but it takes many years to grow a mature tree. It took me awhile to embrace that idea. The new sprout must be tenderly cared for, lest it be trampled under foot and die. Likewise, growing means weathering harsh winters, droughts, and fierce storms. Did you know it takes at least 20 years (and sometimes up to 50) for an oak tree to produce acorns? That’s a long time to wait for fruit.

But I want “instant tree.” I want to know what God is doing. I want to see the result.  Yet, just as it takes time to grow a tree, apparently it takes time to grow me.

However, there is beauty even in the growth. Each year brings new blossoms and fresh green leaves. The colors of fall are magnificent.

“That they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

Why oak? I mean, why didn’t God say willow tree? Well, oaks are symbols of strength and endurance.They grow to massive height, up to 100 feet tall, and spread 150 feet across. And as any one who’s ever desired quality furniture knows, oaks have some of the hardest wood on earth.

Also, I learned that a sprout growing from a stump of a burned (or cut down tree) grows significantly faster than its counterpart budding from an acorn.

This is what God is committed to, not just shaping and growing me, but a people. He’s committed to His church. He makes it fit to be with him. He spreads its influence through the nations. And He is passionate about His own glory.  He makes oaks of righteousness for His renown.

Therefore, I’m learning to embrace sanctification in all its forms, for God will complete the work He began.  He made me a citizen of the kingdom, a part of a people, totally set apart for Himself.

He’s making me evergreen, with leaves that do not wither, and in due season will produce much fruit (Psalm 1). It’s transformation empowered only by Jesus, and it’s possible only because he was cut down. One day I’ll be never ending new. And all of this because He’s deemed it so. And all this because He says it brings Him praise.

What an incomprehensible thing to think that the God who is already exalted, who already has all honor, would cause my faltering, weak, easily damaged sprout to magnify Him. What a incomprehensible thing to be so loved by God.

Finally, beneath the theme of sanctification ran a flowing current of grace. He empowers. As in year one, grace was tangible, God was abundant.

Grace was strength to sort through Jon’s clothes, give some away, and put some in a yard sale. It was watching a sweet old man walk away with Jon’s slippers. It was nine women invading my home, packing boxes and cleaning my bathrooms. Grace was stepping into a new house without Jon. Grace was pursuing and accomplishing new career goals.

It was bearing sorrow with others and walking alongside dear friends newly embarking on grief’s messy path; shared mourning creates a rich, unique bond that many may never experience.

Ministry blossomed and flourished, writing opportunities expanded. Grace looked like writing post, upon post, upon post, which stretched me and kept me utterly dependent. Grace was excitement, laughter, and a reunion with the Ami who existed before death.

Grace is God answering the constant cry of our marriage. “Father use us. Please let the gospel flow from us. Let us be a part of your kingdom work. Be glorified above all.”

How then, can I not rejoice in this second year?

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shalt exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with robes of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.”

Isaiah 61:10-11

.