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I apologize if it seems all I write about any more is my wedding. It’s consumed my thoughts and thus my writing. That said, I’m going to talk about it some more.

A week from today, I’ll be getting married. A year ago at this time, I was dealing with the emotions of realizing that it was going to be at least a year before I got married. At first, it made me upset. I was finally engaged, and now I had to wait some more?!

It made me angry, and a little bit sorry for myself. I’d long ago learned that complete honesty in prayer with the Lord was better than half-hearted but religious platitudes. At the time, I couldn’t pray that He would make me happy to wait. I just couldn’t.

So instead, I prayed that the longing I felt to be married to Clay would teach my heart what it really means to long for Jesus’ return.

If that seems like a non-sequitar, let me explain;

Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship with his people is depicted as being like that of a husband and a wife.

In the very beginning, in Genesis, it is said that God created humans, both men and women, “in the image of God,” meaning that they, at their very essence, reflect key things about who God is and what He is like. Man is made first, and then women is created for man, to be his mate.
“The man said ‘This [woman] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:32,24:

Later, God continually refers to himself as a “husband” to his chosen people, Israel.

“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.'” (Hosea 2:16)
“For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name” -(Isaiah 54:5)
“”Return, faithless people,” declares  the LORD, “for I am your husband.” (Jer 3:14 )

In the New Testament, the references continue, now with Jesus being referred to as the “bridegroom” to his faithful people. Paul even goes so far as to say that the major reason that God created marriage like He did was to provide us with a living picture of himself;
” ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31,32

Finally, the references conclude in the final book of the Bible, Revelations. In this book, the future return of Jesus is described as  “wedding” – where the Groom, Jesus, will finally, once and for all, be fully united to the people who have chosen to love Him – His Bride, the Church.  (Revelation 19, 21)

This picture has long been one of my favorites. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine the day when Jesus returns;
A triumphant Groom, the long, weary battle won, comes to claim His radiant bride and take her away to live with Him forever.

But for now, we live in the waiting period. As His church, we are engaged to Him – but the final marriage hasn’t come yet. And it is oh-so-hard.

I know that feeling.

I’ve been engaged for over 14 months now. I understand what it means to wait. Fortunately, God has been kind to me, and I actually really enjoyed the majority of my engagement.  In fact, I often wished it would slow down – I was comfortable being engaged. Liked it, actually. I didn’t see the need to hurry my wedding! Sometimes, in the middle of all the “engagement” and wedding planning activities, I would forget I was even getting married! But still, I often prayed that it would teach me what it meant to really long for Jesus’ return. And for most of my engagement, I felt like that prayer went unanswered. In the past two weeks, though, something changed.

Two weeks ago, I moved home to begin working on support and finish up wedding details, while Clay stayed behind in Athens to work. Of course, I miss him terribly. And somewhere, in the middle of that, my heart started to shift.

This past week, I’ve acutely felt the longing just to be with Clay. I want my wedding to hurry up and get here – not because I want to wear a pretty dress, or put my hair up, or even to celebrate with loved ones – but because my wedding will mean he’ll be here, with me. I’ll be able to not just hear him – but see him. Touch him. Be with him. And I won’t have to say goodbye.

That’s what it means to long for Jesus’ return.

So often, we get trapped up in the insignificant and the momentary, we lose sight of the eternal. We get comfortable on this earth – enjoy it even.  We occupy ourselves with things, good things even – family, church, ministry, jobs – and forget what we’re really waiting for.

How often have you heard someone say, (or perhaps even said it yourself) “I’m not ready for Jesus to come back, I haven’t (insert unfulfilled desire here) yet,” ?

What silliness! What bride should say, “I’m not ready for my wedding, I haven’t cleaned the grout in my bathroom yet,”?!?

None of the things we think we’re waiting for could be better than spending eternity in Heaven with the God who loves us more than any groom has ever loved any bride. 

I don’t long for Jesus’ return the way I should. I don’t ache for Heaven with the intensity and the fervor that I should. And this side of Heaven, I probably never will.

But in this gift of my year-long engagement, I have learned a little bit how I ought to. A little more of my heart everyday is learning to cry, “Maranatha! – Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”

Yes – Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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I’m getting married in 2 months. Actually, 69 days to be exact. On May 24, 2014, I will make the most solemn vows of my entire life, and officially become Mrs. Clay Selway. I will commit to not only share, but entirely give my money, my possessions, my future, my body, my soul to one man. Forever. No way out.

And he’s not “The One.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love Clay with everything I have. He makes me laugh. He makes the bad days good and the good days better. He challenges me to be a better person, and comforts me when I’ve failed that challenge. He’s the kindest, gentlest, sweetest person I know. He’s my best friend, my hero, and the only man I’d ever want to be my husband.

But he’s still not my soul mate, and definitely not “The One.”

Not that I didn’t spend the first 18 years of my life longing to meet my “One.” Growing up, like any good midwestern girl, I was fed a steady diet of the idealized American romance. One boy, one girl – two star-crossed lovers who fight across space and time to fulfill their destiny of being together. From Disney movies to romance novels, I ate it all up. I had my own copy of “Romeo and Juliet,” that I read until the pages started to fall out. I literally watched “The Princess Bride” so many times I could have recited it in my sleep. I loved it. And I wanted it.

But no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t seem to find it. Even the best boyfriend I had failed my weighty list of expectations. No man in the world seemed like they would ever fulfill the ideal I’d built up. I sat around and lamented to my girlfriends ruefully, “I think God made me a man, but somewhere along the way he got hit by bus.” The humor was a thin veneer for some very thick disappointment.

After wading through the smoking rubble from a broken relationship with someone I thought was “The One”,  I met my now fiance, Clay, through some mutual friends. After a year of friendship, we began a careful dating relationship. 2 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And in just 2 months, we will become one. But he isn’t “The One.”

You see, Clay will never be “The One.” In fact, I don’t even think there is a “One,” not on this earth at least. The very concept of a “One” implies that there is one, singular person out there that will fulfill every single desire of my heart, meet every single need, and heal every single hurt.

What an incredible burden! Actually, what a crushing burden. No man, not even Clay (and I admit I think he’s the best man out there) could do that. Think of who many needs, wants, desires, and hurts you have – could just one person ever take care of all that?

As a Christian, I believe that human beings have eternal souls. Souls that are filled with an immense, infinite amount of desires and wants. We need to be loved perfectly, to be known perfectly, to be cherished perfectly. But, as the they say “no one’s perfect.” And thus, no one, not even your spouse, no matter how well matched, will ever be able to fulfill you fully.

But our culture has told us this lie, and we’ve ate it up. And so we date, and break up, marry and divorce, all the while searching, searching, searching for someone, anyone to fill this aching hole inside of us. But they can’t. And they don’t. And they never will.

I think C.S. Lewis got it right when he famously said, ““If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

You see, I think we were made for another world. A world with no longing, no sighing, no searching, no pain. No disappointment, no unmet expectations, no broken relationships, no emptiness. A world with a perfect relationship with a perfect God; an Infinite being to fill an infinite need. And though we haven’t lived in that perfect world since Genesis 2, I believe that through Jesus, we can still have that relationship with God. And through Him, even while I struggle through this broken world, I have an infinite source to fill my never-ending need.

This is something Clay and I came to realize before we dated each other, and something we realize a little more every day. Because we both have a relationship with Jesus, we have all of our infinite needs, wants, and desires fulfilled. We don’t have to turn to each other for them.

This means that while I still receive things like love, affection, friendship, and affirmation from Clay, I don’t have to. I don’t demand them, but rather can receive them as a gift. On the bad days (or weeks, or months, or years), I don’t have to receive anything from Clay. Fulfilled in my relationship with God, I can choose to serve Clay when he’s not serving me, give when he’s only taking, and love when he’s nothing but unloveable. And on the good days (which, by God’s grace, will outnumber the bad) I will receive his gentle service, gifts, and love with a sense of undeserving joy and gratitude.

He’s not “The One.” The unchangable, unshakeable, never-failing God is “The One.” And Clay is a wonderful, beautiful, completely undeserved gift given to me by The One.

On May 24, 2014, I will become one with someone I love more than my own body. I will happily join with the one God has given me, and together, as one, we will serve The One.

I’m getting married, and he’s not “The One.” And I’m grateful for that.

I’m going to deal with an in-house issue today. This is an open (letter, blog?) to all of my fellow Christians. So if that’s you, then stick around.

If you’re not a Christian, feel free to read it (in fact, please do) but I do want to include a side not. Just because I’m saying these things does not at all reflect any animosity. I’m writing this to people I consider my “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ, and that’s exactly how I feel about them. I love them dearly and intensely. Nothing can change that. Even when they hurt my feelings, (which, as my “family” they often do,) I still love them. So please read this post as a discussion between siblings who are trying hard to live life as a family, with all of it’s faults and failures.

Alright, that said, here’s what I really wanted to get to. Tomorrow, I will have been engaged for two weeks. Not very long! The word has still been getting around.

And it seems that every time, after the initial “congratulations!” the same question follows; “So when is the wedding?” A natural question. Totally fine. It’s been people’s reactions to my answer, however, that have been hurtful.

See, even though Clay and I got engaged in April, we’re not planning on getting married until late May/early June of 2014. There are several, personal, economic, and familial reasons behind that, but the largest reason for that date is because next year I will be serving as an intern with Cru at OU (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ.)

This is something I’ve felt God leading me to for over a year now, and in the past few months the call has been more than confirmed for me. The internship runs August-April, and in that time, I don’t get any vacation time (other than holidays and such.) So, obviously, wedging a wedding in there would be pretty much impossible.

We talked about it, and although we definitely desire to be married sooner rather than later, this is what we feel is right for us, what God wants for us.

So it really hurts my feelings when people express surprise, and veiled (or not-so-veiled) judgement at our 15+ month engagement. I understand that typically in Christian circles, 6-8 month engagements are far more typical, but that’s just not a reality for us.

A long engagement is not a sin. Please don’t suggest that I ought not to intern with Cru just so that I can get married sooner (and yes, several people have said that to me.)

I wouldn’t blame someone if they did that, but I feel that to do so would be disobedient to what God has called me to do. So it really hurts when people suggest that I’m stupid, sinful, or some combination of both to choose to wait so that I can serve the Lord for less than a year.

I firmly believe that my life is not my own. I belong to the Lord, and to the Lord alone. I do what He has asked, even if that means waiting over a year to get married. I’m sure it will be hard. But I am indwelt with the Spirit. His grace is sufficient for me, for His “…power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9) I will endure, I will learn to love God and Clay more, and I will have joy in it all.

So please, remember to watch what you say. Let only good things come out of your mouth, “such as is fit for building up, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)

And please, don’t tell me how much I’m going to hate being engaged by the end. I’m just starting to enjoy it now.

That’s it. Love you all, brothers and sisters, I just want you to know. Ok, now let’s get back to regular life.

I just this really great article at Relevant, and it really made me stop to think.

Now, I don’t have Instagram, but I have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a blog. I use all of them every day. And I will admit that I often leave my computer defeated, feeling as if I don’t measure up. Like, my life isn’t as cute, or as romantic, or as wonderful as everyone else. And I start to wonder where I went wrong, or, even worse, I begin to question God.

The article hits it spot on; “I so easily fall prey to the seduction of other people’s partial truths and heavily filtered photos, making everything look amazing. And their amazing looking lives make me feel not amazing at all.”

Partial truths and heavily filtered experiences. That’s the nature of the Internet. Just today, I posted these photos of my engagement. They are everything that moment was; Sweet, surprising, beautiful, and so full of love.

But that’s what it was. A moment. A 10 minute span of time. What those photos have failed to show is the long 2.5 year relationship, and agonizing 6 month struggle that lead up to that moment. This is the reality.

Clay and I have been dating for over two years. We’ve known each other for three. Our relationship has been wonderful, but it’s also been really hard work. Back breaking at times. You don’t bring two people together with 20+ years of history, much of it difficult, without conflict.

The past 6 months alone for us were, quite frankly, awful. We’ve been long distance. We weren’t communicating well. There were lies we both believed about how the other felt and thought. We harbored hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, resentment. For three months, we had disagreements just about every time we talked. There were two months where I lay awake at night every night, worrying. There was a moment that I thought we might not make it.

But we did. It was hell, but we did. We struggled. We cried. We prayed. We sought counsel. We read the Word. We prayed, and prayed some more. We (ok, I) cried even more than I prayed. We WORKED. And it was hard, but it was so worth it, because it brought us to the moment when those photos were taken.

And that’s what it was. A moment, preceded by a billion others filled with blood, sweat, and lots of tears. So remember that, when you look at my photographs (or statuses, or Tweets, or blogs, or whatever) or anyone else’s.

One moment, proceeded by a billion other happy, sad, and mundane moments. That’s life.

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From September 2011 – March 2012, I knew at least one couple that got engaged every month.

Since then, my life has become a flurry of engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorettes, and, of course, weddings.

Now, just so everyone knows, I attend all of these events with joy.  There is not much better than celebrating the start of a lifelong covenant with beautiful friends. I love it!

However, I don’t think I’m alone when I say it’s also very, very hard. It’s hard to watch everyone get engaged, and then married, and not you.

For several months, I struggled with this.  Though I knew it was wrong, I couldn’t seem to quell my feelings of jealousy and impatience. For every time I’d rebuke myself and repent, the feelings seemed to come back even stronger.

I confided about my problem with a few, but it didn’t seem to help. They were either struggling just like me, or didn’t know what to say.  I was told, “Be patient. Be grateful.”

I knew they meant well, but I always left those conversations frustrated. That was my problem.  I wasn’t grateful, and I couldn’t be patient – and I didn’t know how. 

Soon, bitterness, and resentment joined the party, and I was fully miserable.

My heart grew hard. My prayers grew cold. And there I sat.

Graciously, though, God didn’t leave me there.  One day, while bored, I picked up “Idols of the Heart” by Elyse Fitzpatrick, a book I had started, but not finished. Through Elyse’s helpful questions, I realized something. Jealously and impatience were not my problem; idolatry was.

I had turned from worshipping God and was bowing down at the altar of marriage.  And no matter how I tried to get rid of my jealousy and impatience, because my idol remained, so did they.

Even if I were to get my desire (engagement/marriage), my idolatry would just find a new home – in houses, or money, or babies.  I would never be able to conquer this sin by attempting to simply be patient or grateful. To quote the book, “Don’t be deceived into thinking you need to develop more willpower.  [We] need to develop godly thoughts and desires.”

I would never be able to conquer this sin with mere willpower. No, I needed divine intervention to redirect my idolatrous heart to worship the one, true God.

Praise God that the intervention has already been provided. Jesus Christ, who worshipped the Father perfectly, has given his life for mine, and I can know that the debt I owe for my idolatry is paid.

What’s more, I can know that my heart will be reformed.  Day by day, as I lay down my idol, the Father will reshape my heart, teaching me to love and serve him alone as my God. This is a promise. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” – Phil 1:6

If you, like me, struggle with jealousy, impatience, bitterness, or any of the thousands of sins that afflict us, take heart in these words from “Idols of the Heart.”

You too, can rest today knowing that as you, by His grace, respond to your heavenly Husband’s command to surrender your idols, He’ll bury them… under the most awesome and glorious tree ever…the one on Golgotha’s mount.

Release. Repent. Relax.

If you’d like to know more about “Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone,” you can read about it here.

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Past Musings