Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Tears

If you've ever been to a wedding, you probably know the feeling. You can't help but smile, and you can't help but cry. It's so happy that it hurts. There's a deep, aching, longing, bittersweet joy that leaves everyone there inspired and almost depressed (in a happy sort of way). Hearts so light and so heavy all at once.

This feeling of bittersweetness happens at other times through life, though the occasions are rare. A perfectly golden autumn day lit by warm sun through cool, dappled shade. A funeral for a Christian warrior released to glory. The end of a movie where the hero has died and died well. A piece of music that somehow transcends simple audio enjoyment and etches a mark on our soul. A day of fellowship at church where the love and unity is so real that no one wants to leave until long after the daylight has.

What is it, exactly? Why do we get this feeling, and what does it mean?

I can't speak authoritatively to that, but I have a theory, and my theory is not without at least some Scriptural support.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the heart of men. I suspect that maybe this feeling- the feeling of something so beautiful it is almost too beautiful, of something so bright it is blinding, something greater than our capacity for greatness, something so overwhelmingly, painfully good- maybe that feeling comes when events throughout our temporal life filter in and strike the chords of eternity which God has hidden in our hearts. Like sunbeams dancing through the suffocating dust of an attic and finding their way to grandpa's old prism, suddenly everything is light and beauty and it hurts not because it's too bad but because it's too good, hurts not because we want less of it but because we want more of it- and yet we couldn't handle it if it were given to us.

These moments throughout our lives- maybe they are pointing to something greater. Maybe they hurt because we can feel deep down that our eternity is calling; that we were made for something beyond, for a deeper satisfaction and a fuller joy than anything this world can offer- anything this sinful flesh could bear even if this world could offer it!

Maybe these moments are so overwhelming because they are little tastes of paradise, of the new heavens and the new earth, of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Which brings me to a few things I can say confidently from Scripture.

Last weekend, my bride and I attended the Southwest Family Vision Conference. It was an enormous blessing; so rich and inspiring and convicting.

One of the themes that was really brought into crystalline focus for me was that earthly marriage between a man and a woman is a physical picture of the heavenly, eternal marriage between Christ and His Church. (Eph. 5:22-33)

The wisdom of God is truly so vast, so unfathomable, so unsearchable. He has spoken and woven into being a world full of foreshadows, of echoes, of tastes, of symbols. Everywhere we look there is a new illustration of Who He is and how He is. Leaven, fire, doors, bread and wine, water, rocks, lambs, lions, fruit, birth, death- it's constant. He has spoken and is speaking His glory all throughout the world around us. (Ps. 19)

And perhaps the greatest of all of His perfect metaphors is marriage.

A few things in particular struck me about the marriage analogy as I've rolled it around in my mind.

The first is the idea of the exuberance of the bridegroom. Every husband knows the feeling. It's finally the day, finally the hour, finally the minute, and then the moment- there she is. Beautiful. Breathless and breathtaking. He couldn't hold the corners of his mouth down if he tried. It's really happening.

All throughout Scripture is painted this picture of the joy of the wedding feast. (Rev. 19:7) Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Notice that in both Rev. 19:8 and Eph. 5:26 the Church is given the white garments; Christ sanctifies His bride. The Church is made up of sinful people- people who were the enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). Yet Christ makes her a perfect bride through His blood.

And then there's the wedding.

And all of creation explodes into celebration.

And God makes us- unworthy sinful dust-to-dust us- the bride in the nuptial consummation of the ages.

To think that we, somehow, get to be a bride who brings joy to her Husband- to imagine that maybe, just maybe, Jesus Christ will smile at the sight of His bride- we are not worthy. That the creation could somehow bring pleasure and glory to the Creator- what a story God has penned!

And of course it's never about us. It's about the Bridegroom. We are not worthy. He is. But the amazing thing is that He makes us worthy. He makes us clean. He makes us pleasing to Him. That we could be pleasing in the sight of God- this truth should at once humble and excite us!

But there's another thing about this truth which brings us full circle. If all of creation, all of history is the love story that God the Father wrote by and for His Son, then every wedding from the beginning of time to its end is a foreshadow. Every "I do," every first kiss, every cheer and clap and wedding cake and first dance- they are all testifying to something greater. Every bride is a picture of the perfected Bride. Every groom is a picture of the perfect Groom. It's like hearing an echo from a celebration miles away. It's a taste. A hint. A picture. The joy. The smiles. The beauty. The covenants. The love.

It's the greatest novel ever written.

We are living in God's love story.

And every wedding is a foreshadow of the triumphant conclusion.