When I was registering for my first semester of college, there was a moment when my brain shut down. For a moment, my most reasonable, most logical brain cells revolted. And during this brief mutiny, my hands somehow signed the rest of me up for an introductory French class.
That unfortunate event happened almost two years ago. I am currently in my fourth and final semester as a French student. And oddly, I still am not even remotely decent when it comes to conversing in this romance language. So when my professor told our class about a French conversation table on Tuesdays, I decided that I should probably make room for that in my schedule if I ever hoped to be able to speak this language without a text book in front of my nose.
There are only three of us who show up on Tuesdays: a Croatian basketball player named Jere and another guy from my class named Cody. A few weeks ago, Cody had just returned from Boston where he had been attending his mother’s wedding. We began to talk about wedding traditions in the U.S. and how they differ from wedding traditions in Croatia.
Being the sap that I am, I asked Jere to walk me through a Croatian wedding, step by step. He began to tell the story:
The groom and his party are at one house and the bride and her attendants are at another. The separate parties eat and drink and get ready for about two hours before the ceremony. When the groom is ready, he and his group go to the bride’s house to join the female party. They go in and a small band plays a Croatian folksong in an attempt to get the bride to come out of her dressing room. She coyly peaks her head out the door and shakes her head “no.” She shuts the door and the crowd begins performing a string of folksongs, trying to coax the girl out of her hiding place.
“Oh wait! I forgot to tell you the best part!” Jere interrupts himself and begins to backtrack in his story. “When the groom first comes in, he marches up to the bride’s godmother, holds out money (usually fake money nowadays) and says,” he gives a grand gesture, stretching out his long arms and finishes, “I am here to buy the bride!”
Later that day, with Jere’s story still ringing in my ears, I attended worship night at the Well. The band was hidden behind curtains and the only thing we could see was a large cross in the center of the stage. At the end of the service we all gathered at the foot of the cross and the band began to play Phil Wickham’s song, “You’re Beautiful.” The last verse of that song says this:
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
As I knelt below that cross with 100+ other college students, I was reminded that we are the bride of Christ. A shiver sent goose bumps all along my arms. I had a vision of Christ, like the Croatian groom, bursting through the gates of Hell with His arms held out, His wounds exposed and dried blood still clinging to His skin, proclaiming in a loud voice, “I AM HERE TO BUY THE BRIDE! Look at my hands and my feet! I paid for the guilt of their sins! I was pierced for their transgressions; I was crushed for their iniquities. By my wounds, they are HEALED!”
He is our groom, who came to pay the dowry of our sins. He took our sin and our shame and paid for them all with His blood. He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become His righteousness. We are His. Because our cross was stained with His blood, we are called the beloved Bride of Christ.