With Wills Bent
Photo & Words by Shelby Courtney
When I was a little girl someone gave me this beautiful white flower girl dress. It was covered in layers of lace and had a beautiful white flower crown with ribbons flowing down it to match. I genuinely loved the dress. I felt like a maiden transcending to a different time whenever I put it on. But I remember the time that dress made me feel so embarrassed. I was probably the age of five and a teenage girl was over babysitting me. She wanted to play dress up and so I put on my favorite white dress. She told me I looked so pretty and then started singing “Here Comes the Bride.”
I was mortified.
I didn’t want to be a bride. I had already taken a vow of eternal singleness because boys always made me feel stupid and so pretending to be a bride was never something I participated in. I was always adamant I would never marry; at least, I was until I was informed by my mother that I couldn’t have children unless I was married, which was crushing news to my little girl self. I just wanted to play dress up and feel pretty. I took off my flower crown and began to put my dress up clothes away. The only “vow” I made that day, as a pretend bride, was to never wear that dress in front of anyone again.
Obviously, this story is rather humorous for me to reflect on as a woman engaged to be married to a man I love more than anything. My feelings towards the opposite sex evidently changed over time and the Lord has presently allowed my heart to fall in love with my closest friend and most trusted confidant.
But I’ll be honest, I’ve felt miserable at times being engaged.
I’ve tried to push into why I’ve felt this way and what exactly I am telling myself or believing that is creating these feelings of misery. I’ve wrestled with God and asked him why being engaged is so hard… and he answered me.
I was chatting with a friend one day, probably bemoaning my engaged state and just wishing I was married and she said something to me I haven’t forgotten. She said, “Shelby, we as the church are engaged to Jesus. A Christian wedding is a small reflection of our future wedding with Christ. And marriage is a small taste of our union to Christ as his Bride. We are engaged to Jesus! This phase of waiting, too, has a spiritual meaning for us as believers.” This phase of waiting – it is a way to learn how to cherish waiting for our marriage feast with Jesus and our future resurrection – and that is indescribable.
It all seemed to parallel with a song I love so much. One of my favorite lines reads:
“They were pointing ever east
To see the ever-turning aeon cease
Their wills were ever bent on waiting with all their might.”
The song is referencing resurrection and how all of creation is waiting… waiting with all its might to see this life cease and the resurrected life start. It reminded me of a passage in Romans:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25)
There is something entirely captivating about these references to waiting. It isn’t a burden, it’s a privilege. There is groaning, but groaning as in childbirth – the joy of new life coming! There is an impenetrable thing transcending here and I feel so feeble in my attempts to put it into words, but essentially, the joy and deep mystical beauty that anticipation holds is something we are to embrace and cherish with all our might.
I’ve never considered what it means to have joy in waiting. But when I think about it, as a child the weeks leading up to Christmas are almost more exhilarating than the actual day itself. And even though I think resurrection will be something so far out of our capacity for describing, I do believe this season of anticipation is brimming with potential for copious amounts of joy.
This reality has been brought to the forefront of my life as an engaged woman, but it is a tangible truth for every believer. We have this irreplaceable hope in the renewal of our bodies and the whole world. We get to await resurrection with all of creation! Think of that… the trees and rivers, the mountains and the stars, the fields and the animals – every created thing has this hope in their being and they are groaning and awaiting their new life in Jesus. It is so inexpressibly breathtaking I can’t hardly communicate it without crying tears of joy. Our heavenly Father loves us so much, he even gave us joy and pleasure in seasons of waiting.
Friends, next time you see the wind move the leaves of a tree, or you catch the fragrance of a bloom or pine, or you feel the warmth of the sun kiss your skin, reflect on how you are comrades in waiting for our God and King to usher in resurrection.
And then bend your will to wait with all your might.
Shelby currently serves in Peoria as a campus missionary with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). She is radically passionate about telling unbelievers who Jesus is and discipling young women who will be strong and faithful contributors to the spreading of the gospel globally and in the local church. Shelby is engaged to her most trusted confidant - the steadfast and handsome Kyle Deeter. They will be married this coming December and settle in Athens, Ohio where they will continue to serve with Cru and proclaim Jesus as Savior and King.