I strained my eyes through the cracked wooden doors that hid me in my dress from the long aisle of that nearly two hundred year-old church, trying to absorb the music above the pounding in my chest. The pews were packed with those who came to see this little girl say “yes” with her life and hear those vows that would one-day make a woman out of her.
The song from our friend’s mouth, initiating the ceremony, reverberated against the stained glass and left an echo even louder in my heart. He had chosen what would be a declaration over our union, even still now. He bellowed the words of the psalmist with an emotion that startled me then, but I cherish now:
“Tell me. Reveal to me. How can I be a young man keeping my way pure?
Hold me, don’t let me stray. Hear my cry, the Word is hidden in my heart.
For tonight, I delight. I will not neglect Your Word.”
I felt like I was playing dress-up in white lace and my big sister’s pearls. I trembled underneath those layers of silk and chiffon, stifling that for which I didn’t have a grid. The vows we spoke were loose-fit on our childhood frames. We didn’t know that those promises — much too big for us, then — were ones into which we would have to grow.
For richer or for poorer … in sickness and in health.
He was clean-shaven and still had the body of a high school athlete. I was skinny and sun-kissed from the summer with my nails painted and my hair pinned in pearls underneath the veil my mother made me. Pure. Spotless, on this day.
We danced underneath the Virginia-sky with the Blue Ridge mountains as a back-drop to the vineyards that lined our reception site. Us and all of our best friends.
Was this the beginning of beauty or its peak?
Days later, we had our first marital rift. In the months and years ahead I began to wonder if the beauty of that night was myth. We barely knew each other. Little did I know the mess to whom I had said yes. Little did he know (did we both know!) the tyrant inside of me.
I warded off disillusionment, just barely keeping at bay this bitterness that sought to plague my heart. No one told me it would be this hard to face the truth of who he was, and the truth of who I was.
Marriage de-robed us.
Somewhere in there, I stumbled upon her bible study, a woman who knew what it was like to come to terms with who she was when no one was looking. One little anecdote of hers stuck. At the height of her own struggle with shame and all the lies that attach themselves to a person who is just learning to walk with Him alongside the very-real awareness of her fallenness, she attached herself to the oxygen of scripture.
I could relate to her struggle of barely making it down a grocery store aisle without battling a barrage of thoughts that set themselves up against the truth of God. I shared bed-covers with one who absorbed the worst of me. I couldn’t, now, get away from the sin I’d previously stuffed into the hidden corners of my life for years. And when he loved the unruly parts of me, I froze. When you don’t know the mercy of the cross, you shuck the love that brings its reminders.
So I took her advice, this one I’d never met. I began to put before me a different word about me. And a different Word about Him.
I filled notecards with Words that spoke of a God I barely knew and I shoved them into my pockets and my purse. I spoke His Word in unlikely places: in the grocery, alone in the car, over my morning sink. When you’re at a loss for what to pray — when your heart is so heavy with thoughts about what you’re not or what He’s not — the only place to go is His Word.
God taught me how to pray with Words that weren’t my own. For me and for Nate. He began to tuck Himself into the most hidden part of my life: my thoughts. And slowly, my perspective was being revived.
One particular weekend we hit a wall. Though one hundred times before then, I was clearly the cause, I knew we’d stumbled on some sort of fault line in him with this particular fight. He went fishing — needed time to think — and I did what I was just beginning to learn to do. I took scripture that spoke directly to this particular hard spot in his heart and I prayed. I was at a loss; I used Another’s Words.
I paced our circular floor plan with my prayers, straight from His Word.
When he came home from fishing, that weekend marked one of the biggest heart-breakthroughs in our marriage. Though it’s not always that pat, I knew the Lord was building a testimony in my heart, one that I’ve forever earmarked.
When His Word reads like history to be studied or an intellectual code to be cracked, I can carry that enthusiasm for a while, but it’s not until it becomes a God-Man in my mind that it takes real root. His Word became the calloused hands which wove my unformed flesh into person and which soothe my wounds, today. His Word breathed over my desperate moments and spoke another truth over all in me that is uncomely.
His Word has a heartbeat.
The beauty of that first night where we stood in front of all those eyes, wearing and looking our best, was that it represented not where we had come from, but where we were going. It was the night of His promise.
We put on Him that night. I’m not sure we knew it.
Our vows set up a paradigm that what we declared with our mouth, though not yet our current reality, would one day become what we lived. That’s what His Word does, it brings the not-yet to life.
Our days were meant to be centered around the Unseen, until the Unseen becomes more real than the hand in front of us.
And sometimes He dries up all the other words (and all other strategies), until our only solace is the Unseen of His Word.
Making it practical: If His Word feels dry to your touch, if you could blow dust off of your Bible today, take that reminder of your biggest life-ache and ask Him to show you a verse — or a passage — that speaks to that very thing. Start small. Bite-sized. And chew on the Truth over that irritant in your life. Read it, write it, say it, sing it, pray it. Inhale that which feels foreign until it becomes familiar. And pray. Talk to the Man whose hands hold that calloused Word, written this moment for you.
If you’re one who’s made a practice of being in His Word but it feels like a study in history to you, take a passage from the gospels (John is a great place to start) — one incident of Jesus’ life — and marinate. Carve out a good chunk of time when your phone is face-down and the kids aren’t interrupting and ask Him to enter that space. Sit, quiet, and expect. Invite the One who embodies the Word to reveal Himself to You. And smell. Put yourself in that scene. Smell the scent of His skin and ask Him to show you the expression on His face. Give yourself permission to linger. It’s that lingering — meditating — on this Word that moves it from history to your story.
It really is alive, after all.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Psalm 119:9 | Psalm 119:25 | Psalm 119:105 | Psalm 119:107 | Psalm 119:11 | Proverbs 2:1-5 | Romans 8:1-1 | John 1:1, 14 | Romans 4:17 | 2 Corinthians 4:18
First and fifth photos compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography. Third and fourth photos compliments of Mandie Joy.