“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” Hosea 2:19
“He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began” -Leo Tolstoy
I can’t shake this idea of “engagement” going beyond the wedding day. It may just be semantics, but there is a story that is bigger than our marriages going on, and we cannot afford to miss it. Traditionally, a man asks a woman for her hand in marriage and they go from a casual dating relationship to a more intentional engagement period where they begin preparations for the wedding and commit to demonstrate their faithfulness to each other through their words and actions. “Engaged” shouldn’t just be an event that ends when the marriage ceremony is over. I love these lyrics from Andrew Peterson- “Well, ‘I do’ are the two most famous last words- the beginning of the end. But to lose your life for another, I’ve heard, is a good place to begin.”
Maybe you are currently engaged, or you can remember the time that you were engaged to your fiancée (or fiancé). This can be an exciting time full of anticipation, dreaming, preparations, fun, and parties; we get swept up in the novelty and joy of it all! But, this should also be a time of intentionality, realistic conversation, counseling, planning, healing, and expectation-setting. There is a balance that is important because when idealistic dreams collide with reality, choices need to be made to “stay engaged.” We learn to keep dating our spouse, try new things, continue to improve communication, have sex, travel, invest in marriage enrichment activities, learn to have healthy conflict, and show interest in each other’s daily lives. We choose to actively pursue relationship with our spouse so that we do not grow distant, bored, cold, complacent, and uninterested.
As Christians, we are commanded to love God and to love people (Matt 22:39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). We are to “be engaged” in this life. Our city, particularly, seems to be one that is afflicted with intense apathy; this word means: passive, lacking enthusiasm and concern, unresponsiveness, lethargic. Apathy comes from the Greek word “apatheia” meaning “without feeling.” If we decided to be apathetic in our marriages, we lose connection with one another, and the marriage ends up failing… the contract is broken… the promise becomes null and void. “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.”- Bodie Thoene
The goal of this life is to love God and love people in an “engaging” way; we take responsibility of the choice to love. This means that we balance intentionality, healing, and planning with fun, anticipation, and joy- just like the period of time leading up to a wedding. There are so many people on this planet that don’t understand that they have been offered an “engagement ring” and chosen by the creator of the Universe to join him in the most satisfying and pleasing relationship available. We must actively seek to demonstrate God’s love to others so that they will choose to love Him back and “say yes.”
“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” -Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
The Bigger Story:
Scripture uses some words in various versions that we may consider to be “out of date” and can easily glance over- but I want to spend a few minutes talking about this word “betroth” and why it is important to understand.
Unlike modern day engagement, betrothal always ends in marriage. Betrothal (called “erusin” in Jewish culture) is a period of time in which there is a promise or agreement to marry.
Betrothal- from Middle English betreuthe which is a combination of two words: “be” and “truth.” Jesus demonstrates his commitment and promise to us:
Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Origin of “betrothal”- from the archaic word “espousal”. This is the Old French word espousaille which originates from the Latin sponsalia meaning “betrothal.”
Espousal has two meanings: “a marriage or engagement”; and “the act of adopting.” It is through wedded union that we are adopted into an eternal family:
Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Today, in Jewish culture, betrothal (“erusin”) occurs when the groom gives the bride a ring or other object of value with the intent of creating a marriage. During this stage- the bride lived apart from the groom until the actual marriage ceremony. The ceremony itself would take place in a room or tent that the groom had set up for her; he “prepared a place for her”.
Groom- The Lord
“For your Maker is your husband– the Lord Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” Isaiah 54:5
Bride- You and I/the Church
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25
Engagement Ring- Sacrifice on the cross
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom (payment) for all people” 1 Timothy 2:5-6a
Two become One: Unity with Christ
“But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him” 1 Cor 6:17
“Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” Matt 19:6
Marriage Ceremony- Eternity in Heaven
“I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” John 14:3
Father, I thank you for your sacrifice that not only cost you the most valuable thing Heaven had to offer, but also demonstrated you commitment and promise to me. God, you are so good at keeping your promises and loving me well. Today, I choose to re-engage with you and to show you love by loving the people you have placed around me. I want to be refreshing and engaging in the life that I have left here on this Earth. Help me to do that! Thank you for preparing a place for me and everyone around me; it is going to be more amazing than I can even imagine. I want everyone to join us there, Jesus! I commit, today, to seeing myself as the radiant Bride that you call me and acting in a way that shows you honor and respect in my words and actions. I want to represent our family well and to partner with you in the adoption process of bringing more and more people into eternity. I love you and worship you with my life! In Jesus’ name- Amen!