In this book, Ethridge really focuses on how Jesus has said He is our bridegroom and we, the saved, are His bride. Naturally, I have heard this analogy all my life, but it wasn't until I read this book I really started to think about what it means if Jesus is my bridegroom.
With regards to earthly marriage, I've always believed in the sanctity of marriage. I've never married, but I knew if I ever did, I would enter marriage with the idea I would be married to the person for life. At least twice in my life, I've had a married man come on to me with one even going so far as to say, he had never had an affair, but he would with me. I wasn't flattered. I was absolutely appalled and took a long hard look at how I'd sent any type of signal that would indicate I was romantically interested in these men. To my knowledge, I hadn't. I'd just been myself and while I considered both friends, I'd never even thought about a relationship with them because they were married. The only thing I knew to do when it became obvious their feelings were inappropriate was to distance myself from them because I knew I wasn't going there - ever.
Before you think how good I am, let me stop you. I may have believed in the sanctity of an earthly marriage, but my life hasn't reflected the sanctity of my marriage to Christ. And, for this I feel such regret. All these years, I could have been giving myself to Jesus in a way that showed how very much a relationship with Him meant to me. I've pursued other lovers - career, entertainment, empty earthly relationships, which in the end have not satisfied me. Etheridge says, "The essence of idolatry is looking to something or someone else to fill us up and satisfy us in a way that only our Creator God can."
Shamefully, it's only been within the last year I've truly made an all out effort to know God more intimately. And even now I still only give a part of myself to Him. I read His word, but I don't spend an adequate amount of time trying to hear what He is saying to me. I pray, but it's still totally one-sided and sporadic at best.
Ethridge quotes Basilea Schlink from her book My All for Him, which for me sums up what Jesus wants from us. And, it really isn't anything more than what an earthly husband would want, which I would willing fulfill if I were married.
Schlink says, "From Jesus words 'Whoever loves Me...' and 'Do you love Me?' we sense how much He yearns for us to love Him. But it is a special kind of love He seeks. It is the love that is reflected in the relationship between an earthly bride and her bridegroom. An exclusive love. A love that tolerates no rivals. A love that gives the beloved, the bridegroom, the first place. As the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus lays claim to such first love. Because He loves us so dearly, He longs to have the whole of us. Jesus gave Himself unreservedly for us. Now, He yearns for us to give ourselves completely to Him, with all that we are and have, so that He can truly be our first love."
One of the changes I've made this year is to listen to more Christian music. Music has always spoken to me, and I've found there are more songs than I can even begin to name that have spoken to me about how much Jesus loves me. One of my favorites, which is now my ringtone on my phone, is By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North. Literally, every where I go, I hear this song, even in church this morning as the choir entered, so I'm thinking there is a message for me in it. When I hear it, I don't think about Tenth Avenue North. I imagine Jesus singing to me, and He is really telling me that even though I've strayed...even though I've acted like His love wasn't enough...even though I've tried to find love in all the wrong places...He has been faithfully waiting for me, ready to hold me whenever I would turn to Him and let Him love me as only He can. No one else has ever said, "I love you...I'll never let you go." But Jesus said it when I first came to Him, and He is still saying it after all these years of my unfaithfulness. And, all I know is I've never known anyone else who could and would love me in such a way.
© Lisa Kelley 2011