This past weekend, Austin and I attended a wedding in the same little wooden chapel in which we said our own vows. It is a chapel that lies on the property of the church where I first trusted in Jesus and where Austin first learned what being part of the Body of believers was really like.
I remember standing outside of the front doors on our wedding day. The rain was drizzling and everyone around me was simultaneously making sure that my dress didn’t get wet and that Austin didn’t come around. My heart raced. My surroundings were blurry. My future laid in front of me.
For a moment–a moment that couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds but felt like minutes–I imagined the life that would soon be. I imagined the little apartment filled with the gifts lying on the table. I imagined our first puppy. I imagined laying on the beach with my man a few days later, rays of sun shining down on us. I imagined moving to a new city, loving the jobs we were placed in.
Funny how it was raining on my wedding day. While I stood quite literally in front of my marriage, imagining true marital prosperity, I was surrounded by very imperfect weather conditions. The whole thing was ironic in a way because now I am looking back on all the firsts I daydreamed of. Our first apartment was, in fact, very little and posed some serious problems when it came to harboring guests. Our first puppy (currently running around our apartment) had some serious potty training issues. Our honeymoon was just like our wedding day: rainy. We maybe saw three rays of sunlight the whole week. We have moved to our new city and I have had a hard time finding work.
But that stuff is all very surface level. There has also been some really, really hard stuff thrown our way. Death. Abandonment. Loss of friendship. Loneliness in our own household.
The prosperity I imagined didn’t come.
What came was much better.
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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…
Ephesians 1: 3-7
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Gotcha! You thought this would be a sad story, didn’t you? Though my first anniversary has not quite arrived, I can imagine that what this verse in Ephesians teaches us will be the forefront of what my husband and I have learned in and through our own marriage. So here is what we have been taught through God’s word and what has been confirmed in the good experiences He has given us. These are the secrets to recognizing the genuine riches we have on this earth and in our relationships. The riches we have through Jesus Christ.
The best blessings aren’t for here.
Oh, my friends, I’ve got some seriously good news. This world will be hard. There are usually more rainy days than sunny days–or at least it feels that way a lot. But take a look at the passage above. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has already blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
Notice the word spiritual.
It means opposed to physical. And what do we know about the physical? We know that it is temporary. That it will be short lived and will pass away. The blessing that we have through Jesus goes far beyond anything in this world.
It goes far beyond my first apartment or honeymoon or the behavior of my dog. It will extend beyond my abilities as a wife or maybe one day a mother. It will live beyond abandonment and hurt and death of people I really love on this earth.
We have to stop seeking to earn the world’s approval.
“that we should be holy and blameless before him…”
The problem with my first year of marriage was not the pain that it brought in more than one way. It was the way we approached the whole thing. You see, I saw all the marriages around me through the lens of perfection. I felt (and often still feel) the need to earn the approval of the world. My flesh wants to look like I have everything together.
Spoiler alert: I don’t.
Neither does anyone else.
The joy in our circumstances does not come when the woman across the street compliments our possessions or when someone asks us what our “secret to such happiness” is. The joy comes when we begin to recognize that there is only one who looks upon us and sees perfection.
Austin and I have had some seriously good laughs recently after we realize the stupidity of our arguments. We have had some really great cries when we realize that there is nothing we can do to make our marriage perfect. We have been brought great peace when we realized the funniest thing of all. It is this:
Though often say, “we can’t do anything to earn God’s approval,” we are still learning to apply that to our own marriage. We tend to do a lot of working. Working to gain the approval of everyone–God included. We want to please our parents, our pastors, our disciplers, our friends, and anyone else who ever had the capability of doubting us. All the while, we were neglecting to stand in the love that He has already given us. The spiritual blessing that we already possess.
We have been lavished with His love.
You see, the very best kind of prosperity–in our marriage, in our lives, or in any relationship we will hold–was already poured out on the cross and exploded from the grave. It is the exact thing that covers us that when God looks at us He sees His Son alone. He sees the perfection we so strive for, not because we did anything to earn it, but because we have been chosen by a God who has abounding love.
So to the Christians seeking prosperity on this earth.
To the girls who long to be in a white dress.
To the women who can’t seem to find the right job.
To the teenagers who just want to get to the next phase of life.
To me when I come back and read this later.
We won’t find any kind of satisfaction in the prosperity this world promises. Gold and silver are temporary. Relationships will fade. The perfect home will be dated in a few years.
Jesus is the spiritual blessing.
Jesus is it.
He is was the beginning and He is the end.
He has lavished His love upon us beyond what we could ever imagine. It is His love that points us toward loving on another through marriage. It is His love that guides us toward the desire to provide for our loved ones. His is the love that covers our needs. His is the love that sets us apart. It is His love that abides in His children. All the good things–the eternally good things–about our own souls are not from us. They are of Him. They are of His blood that was poured out.
I wish I could go back to August 6, 2016, and tell myself that those were not the things that mattered. I wish I could laugh in the face of the rain because of all the blessings that Jesus would bring us through a tough first year.
I wish I could sit in my own shoes as I sat crying in the living room while my husband lay breathless after abandonment in our bedroom.
I wish I could remind myself that this was only part of the process. Only part of the road to prosperity. For it was through this hardship that we were able to cling to the only One who prospered past death.
So when you are sitting in the pew during someone else’s sunny day, remind yourself of the rainy one you were part of. Remind yourself that through Jesus, we have already been granted the best of blessings. We have already been covered with the approval of the Father. We have been lavished with love.
I can’t even think of anything else to write because of how sweet that is.
And that is all there is to it.
He prospered death so we could prosper beyond this world.