Hannah Nation and her husband, Trey, live in Cambridge, MA. Hannah serves on staff at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA) and is the Communications and Content Director for China Partnership, a Christian nonprofit equipping the unregistered Chinese church with theological training. She will complete her Master of Arts in Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this May. She writes frequently at her blog, carvedtoadorn.com and the China Partnership blog.
In America, a wedding is the time for a bride to "express herself," carefully arranging even the smallest details to reflect her beliefs and tastes. We look at a wedding and expect an answer to the question, "Who are you?" Even the bride who declares, "I don't care about all of these silly details!" is telling the world something about her. So much of the stress surrounding weddings concerns identity, which makes weddings (and the women behind them) incredibly fragile things. One event is expected to bear not only the weight of a covenant vow, but also the pressure of one shot at ultimate self-expression.
Before I got engaged, the money, time, and energy given to weddings seemed ridiculous. When my time came I was going to be sensible. But once the ring was on my finger, something slowly and powerfully started to take over my mind. I obsessed over every detail—an ensnaring obsession that led to insecurity and worry. The decisions I made weren't about an event; they were about me. Slowly I lost ground to a version of myself that I never wanted to exist.
I realized something was really wrong in my heart when I continued to obsess over my wedding after it had taken place. Had everything been as I wanted it to be? Maybe if I had just changed a few things here, a few things there, then it would really have been ideal. Who among us hasn't dealt with some of these feelings when receiving wedding pictures back from the photographer? I scoured them. And if something, anything in the pictures didn't turn out how I hoped, I felt like a key piece of the wedding—of my identity—had been lost.
I spent a lot of my first year of marriage thinking, repenting, and growing, and came away with some conclusions.
Weddings don’t create us.
My search for autonomy and self-creation through my perfect wedding goes all the way back to Eve in the garden. As she ate the fruit, believing that she could determine the ultimate good for her life, she ensnared herself and her descendants in a sinful nature that seeks definition according to the things of the world, rather than according to our relationship with our Creator (Rom 5:12-14, 6:20-23). Eve did not need to determine a self-created identity by rebelling against God. Likewise, we don’t need our weddings to tell ourselves or others who we are. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). Jesus determines who we are and sets good work before us to do. Wedding planning is yet another area where we can repent of our need to control and present our identities according to the things of the world.
We can live in humility and grace while seeking to do good.
When I want an environmentally sound wedding because I believe in stewarding creation by shunning styrofoam, but styrofoam plates show up, that is an opportunity to trust God. Or when my parents will only pay for half of a guest list I hoped could include everyone I feel called to love in my community, that is an opportunity to trust God.
For me, the most challenging areas of life have always been those things that seem good and God honoring, but become idolatrous when I’m willing to pursue them over faithfulness to God himself. In my zeal for doing good and seeking to honor God, I often find myself producing new idols that hide themselves as good works. I have needed grace to remember that repentance is a daily activity. With a heart prone to turn even the good work God has given me to do into idolatrous self-focus, I am forced to remember again and again that Jesus’ blood covers and cleanses me (Eph 2:4-9; 1 Cor 7:23)
By God’s grace, we can create beauty and do good in our weddings. We must remember, though, that God has planned and purposed the details of our lives long before we have, and we can trust his goodness when things don’t go our way (Rom 8:26-30).
We need to remember what our weddings picture.
Because of the confidence we can have in Christ and the identity he has given us, we can plan our weddings with his ends in sight: the wedding feast in eternity when we (his church) will be united to him (Rev 19:6-9). Think upon this wedding in the months leading up to and following yours. Whether your wedding turns out exactly as you dreamed, or it’s an unmitigated disaster, or it’s just more “normal” than you want to accept, it’s only the faintest foreshadowing of the real wedding believers in Christ will attend. Relish the good things about your wedding as a foretaste of heaven and accept the disappointing things as remnants of a fallen world, but in both, fix your eyes on heaven. With the eternal whisper of heaven in your ear, the work of a wedding will become sweeter and the disappointments less tragic.