Recently I did a Google image search on ‘bride of Christ’. The results were interesting. With a few thought-provoking exceptions, the majority of images portrayed a Western bride dressed in long white gown and veil, with flawless fair skinned complexion and a radiant smile. Sometimes she is shown holding a sword, or depicted from the back looking searchingly towards the skies, at times surrounded by angels. But almost invariably the Bride shown in these images could have stepped straight out of a Hollywood movie.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything inherently wrong with this kind of imagery but it does seem to demonstrate a rather limited, stereotypical idea about what the Bride of Christ should look like, especially among Western Christians. Is this really how we imagine her to be in the eyes of Christ?
The Bride I’ve glimpsed differs somewhat from this comforting “Hollywood” version. For one thing she carries significant scars on her body. Before someone runs to call the heresy police, yes I know she is unblemished, without wrinkle or spot, and you won’t get an argument from me on that point (Ephesians 5:27). However, these words in scripture refer to her character, not her physical beauty (Revelation 21:27).
This Bride I see coming up from the wilderness has not emerged from the pages of Vogue or Marie Claire. And it troubles me somewhat that so many Christians hold to this vague celebrity-like idea of her, even unconsciously.
The Bride I see is being forged and refined through seasons of character building in what is so often called ‘the wilderness’. The wilderness is not a geographical location. “The wilderness” is a spiritual description of seasons in our lives when we are led by God into emotional experiences of separation, loneliness, hardship and suffering.
The Bride I see is now beginning to emerge from her long wilderness experience bearing within her the ‘marks” of her Bridegroom (Gal. 6:17). This Bride has endured severe times of testing during which her faithfulness has been stretched to breaking point. She has been learning the ways of the Overcomer. In this process, she has been wounded, often deeply. As a result the scars, or signs, of her warfare and tribulations are visible upon her as witness to the principalities and powers that she is being moulded into the very image of her Lord. Well may they behold and tremble!
Please understand these scars I speak about are not open wounds. The Bridegroom, through His shed Blood, has provided for all such contingencies. These scars born by His Bride are signs of past wounds she has suffered, but which have had insufficient power to permanently disable her. She has refused to allow any root of bitterness to spring forth from such experiences and His grace has enabled her healing.
The Bride I see now wears such scars as badges of honour. She does not hide them, but neither does she exalt them. They simply are part of who she is and who she is becoming. She holds it as a deeply precious thing within her heart that she has been chosen to bear her scars as evidence of her faithful journey towards the Bridegroom, even as He also eternally wears His scars as evidence of His sacrificial love for her.
In the military and social spheres of our natural world we honour those who have come through great battles or performed heroic acts, with ceremonies. We publicly decorate them with medals. We hold them in respect. Why should it be any different for the Bride of Christ whose heroic overcoming advancement is being heralded by such a great cloud of Heavenly witnesses (Hebrews 12:1)?
Have you suffered such spiritual scarring in your ongoing quest for the Bridegroom? Do not be ashamed of scars that remain, for He isn’t. If the experiences that caused them are forging you as an eternal overcomer rather than a perpetual victim, these scars are not blemishes upon your soul. They are your badges of honour, so wear them well, but do not dwell on them.
Can you see her a little more clearly now, this Bride emerging from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved? Is she not a lot like Him?
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.