An allegorical story based on the analogy presented in Ephesians 5:25
Today I was in line at a local coffee shop and overheard Friends talking about my Wife in a secluded corner. Instead of interrupting, I just listened…
“Her pretty Friends don’t make her any less ugly and Her makeup just makes it worse.”
My mind was spinning.
“Ugly and awkward. I really can’t stand her.”
The conversation only got worse as it continued – and I heard every word. I stayed around the corner and cried bitterly. I prayed for my Friends – my heart falling out. As I left, I noticed a Bible on their table.
My Wife and I hosted a House Party this evening. At one point she jumped up to take care of a spill while I was in the middle of a meaningful conversation with a loved Friend.
The Friend suddenly blurted out –
“Your Wife is always tending to others’ needs but never to mine! I have to tell you – I love You but hate your Wife.”
He said it as though I wouldn’t die for Her. Before I could get a word in others began to mumble –
“Look at Her struggle!” said one. “She’s trying too hard and this party is still lame!” said someone else. And “Better to leave before She starts asking for money,” said another.
If my Friends had really seen me, they’d have seen the tears in my eyes. I knelt down beside my Wife and a couple of our closest Friends helped too as the others drank our wine or left with a scowl – I wiped the floor with the towel I had tied around my waist and told her I thought she was a ravishing hostess.
My Wife threw me another Birthday party today. And even though I don’t feel any older She still invites everyone I love to celebrate just to remind me. She’s so creative and I felt so loved tonight.
One of my old Friends came and told me it had been a difficult year and that he was glad to see me. That was the highlight of my day – I think he and I will be talking more often.
But then I heard a young Friend mutter to his mother, “I only came tonight because you still care for His delusional Wife and Her outdated ritualistic parties.” All night He stared off as though the prison gates might never open.
I love that kid. I’ve been asking Him for some time if he’d like to share a meal. I just want to eat with Him – and one day I’d like to reintroduce him to my Wife.
Hard day. My wife promised me this year she’d be “more present” with me. It’s only been a few days but it’s already getting difficult. She started doing this thing where She’ll spend all day talking about me to other people only to come home and ignore me completely.
It hurts but I know these changes take time and I’m not going anywhere.
Have I told you about my wife? THIS BRIDE OF MINE. She is beautiful and unstoppable. I’ve always seen Her like this and I promise She has become more ravishing as the years go by. I wish She could see Herself the way I see Her. She’s the only partner in ministry I could ever want. For better or worse, right!?
I love our conversations. I will never get bored of Her. When She looks at me, right in the eyes, her face seems to glow and it genuinely takes my breath away - still after all this time! I love the courage She feels when I speak my love over Her. I love the way She trusts me even when it’s hard. The way She still moves towards me even when she doesn’t understand me. The way She stretches the minutes just to make a little more time for me.
We still brag about each other like newlyweds. All-day-everyday people reach out to me because they heard about me from my Wife. And all-day-every day I’m introducing and re-introducing my Friends to Her. She is all my delight!
Today I stumbled across an old Friend’s blog titled “His Wife’s a Hypocrite and 10 Other Reasons to Hate Her.” It was eloquent and well-written, but merciless and bitter. Between powerful ideas and poignant phrases my Friend misquoted Me and turned my Wife into a monster. A few commented in Her defense, but many more approved and reposted. And still a few of the most outspoken said it wasn’t brutal enough.
But still I think this person has a way with words, and maybe if they’d reconsider how much I love my Wife they could use their syntactical gift and charm to build Her up and energize Her resolutions to me.
Funny, my Friends are almost always themselves the solution to the very things they don’t like about my Bride.
Did I mention that my Wife and I lead an international philanthropy organization? In fact, it is quite large. We care for all kinds of people (and I do mean “all”) and we LOVE what we do! I’m the Founder and CEO, but we run daily operations together. She’s my most effective partner for spreading our vision and for mobilizing our Friends to help the hurting.
Actually, all of our Friends work for our organization… I guess that’s how it is when you’re serious about your work. All of our friends are Employees and all of our employees are Friends. For years there has been a difficult plague amongst all of our Colleagues. Some have stopped showing up to important weekly staff meetings. I call and ask where they’ve been and if they’re okay and they say they’re fine but busy with family or vacation. But lately some of our Friends have stopped showing up to work altogether. Some tell me they didn’t realize that being a part of the Organization meant actually doing anything. You don’t work to become a part of our Organization, but once you join in the work you seldom want to do anything else.
I spent last month visiting several of our organization’s Ministry Sites. There are countless, but as the Founder I never leave them on their own. Each one, no matter how small, is important to me because people’s lives are on the line!
Some of the smallest Ministry Sites actually have the most ministry happening. Sadly, we’ll be closing the doors on some of our smallest sites soon – it’s not always their fault that the community doesn’t want what we offer. Actually, some of our largest Ministry Sites struggle in the weeds of programs and events and building projects. At these sites they don’t even recognize me! I walk in and while some ignore me altogether others get really uncomfortable. Their leaders often have a hard time remembering My Mission. *sighhh*. So it is for now. Some Day soon everyone will be on the exact same page!
When you lead an organization this large one of the most bizarre challenges you have to come to grips with is Counterfeiting. People have been creating counterfeits almost since our Organization was founded. Sometimes the counterfeit is more than just convincing, it’s downright enticing. They offer some of the same benefits of our organization, commandeer our jargon, break out snippets of our Handbook in some pretty tricky ways, and make promises they can’t keep. But if you really study the Handbook, you can identify counterfeits pretty easily.
When I wrote the Book I made it pretty clear that our Organization would be united in Love. And I gave them 9 Marks of my very own Spirit that would help them to tell a counterfeit from the real thing. My recommendation? Read The Book for yourself and stay away from any place that doesn’t take it seriously.
My Wife has been feeling pretty beat up at Work lately and so I decided to cheer Her up by asking our Friends to consider taking a trip to the mountains with us – to pray for the work that our Organization does, and to pray that Her work wouldn’t be stopped even though she’s tired. Honestly, sometimes this work feels like business and I try to encourage Her – “Some days are like that.”
It’s not uncommon that she is so hurt and tired from the work that she wants to quit. So I’ll take her out and speak tenderly to her, “You had a bad day, but don’t forget the good you’re doing in the world. Darling, I’m so proud of you - hang in there, girl.”
A few of our Friends are headed to the mountains now to pray with us, but honestly the group is a lot smaller than I’d like. I got a lot of last-minute texts – “too much to do, no time to pray with you.” Boy, some days it is hard encouraging my Wife when Her Friends act like that. But She is actually okay today… She reminded me of this one time that She fell asleep while we were praying in a Garden - and then She forgave our Friends. They’re really missing out!
We walked up to the room where our Friends were. Outside we overheared what they were saying. She didn’t hear everything, but I caught it all. “She’s irrelevant.” “She wasn’t there for me.” “She’s all business.” “She makes me feel bad about myself.” “If I could afford to lose my job I’d tell her how I feel!” Remark after unforgiving remark.
They roared with laughter. The thrill of the roast was mounting.
She gazed into my eyes… tears forming and beginning to fall down Her beautiful face. I shook my head and whispered in Her ear – “They don’t know You like I know You.” She looked at me and said, “I couldn’t take it if you weren’t here with me.” I wiped her tears away, told Her “I am always here with you,” Then I asked Her tenderly, “Do you think you’re ready to tell them?”
One true and faithful Friend interrupted the diatribe at some point. “His Wife isn’t perfect – you should all know that by now. Just look in the mirror!”
When we walked in the room, they all shut up... She said what she needed to say with a hand gripping her heart –
“If I had only known I had hurt you… If I had only known! I am so sorry for hurting you. If I had only known! I am so, so sorry!”
I was so proud of Her. She is not always so eloquent.
And I said to them, “Come Friends, let us reason together.”
But many began to leave. “It’s too late for apologies and reasoning! You burned us!”
My Bride pleaded with them - “Please stay! We can work this out. Please, oh please just stay!”
Only one young lady stayed. And to our amazement she apologized. So humbly, honestly, and beautifully. “I knew better, Friend.” She began to sob and I wiped Her tears away. I knew we were harsh and over-sensitive… I’m so easily influenced by bitter people. Forgive me, Friend.”
There was much rejoicing that evening over our one Friend, and the joy of a restored relationship.
It’s amazing how much my Bride has changed in the last year. She doesn’t look the same as when we exchanged vows many many years ago. She has grown more beautiful. Wind-struck, word-whipped, homesick, and even self-bruised. The mistakes She has made have been many and painful - But I still choose Her. Her shortcomings have been swallowed up by my outrageous love for Her. Easy! Time has not ruined us! Dark years have not stopped us! Entire decades that were not good to us will soon not be remembered. Each of Her wrinkles and grey hairs have stories that make us grateful.
A Day is coming – a Day when we’ll wrap up this whole thing. I’ll take Her to a new Home. We’ll renew our vows and throw a party. No more tears. No more pain. Until then…
Where are the humble Lions of The Church who will talk about the Bride of Christ with fire in their eyes? Who will dote on her from every pulpit and corner. Breathe Her potential back into Her? Put wind in Her sails? Fight for Her? And who will consider their role in Her shortcomings and talk to Her about Her mistakes and sins like She is the Bride Christ died for? Where are you? Humble Friends. Roaring Lions.
Author’s Note: An analogy can only go so far. Nothing can describe God’s love for and relationship with the Global Community of Saints except for itself (that is, His love for and relationship with the Global Community of Saints). No analogy is perfect, and I have stretched the allegory of marriage used in scripture in order to tell a story and make a point I believe is in seamless alignment with God’s heart shown through the Bible: that He longs for and commands His Saints to build up, encourage, edify, and love one another (John 15:12; John 17:21; Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; ), and that He loves the Church immensely and died for her (Ephesians 5:25).