Preparation= showing up.
Do you know how long weddings have been around? The first record of a wedding was roughly 4,350 years ago in Mesopotamia. That’s a long time! Having just come off my own wedding season, I think to myself, “How did they do it without The Knot?” Truth is, weddings require a lot of preparation that happen long before the special day.
Thousands of years after that first ceremony, Jesus sat with his 12 best friends on the Mount of Olives telling his own version of wedding day preparation in Matthew 25:1-13:
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.’
At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”
During our engagement season, I was so interested in the ancient Jewish marriage customs. And just like any story, I wanted to know the context behind this parable.
And all I can say is….wow. Their preparation was insane! Jesus was not exaggerating in this parable (when does he ever?!)
EVERYDAY the bridesmaids had to fill up their oil for their lamp for whenever the bridegroom would return.
EVERYDAY the bride had to get ready as if it was her wedding day. She had to bathe, she had to smell good, she had to look her best JUST IN CASE the bridegroom would show up… making that day their wedding day. She even had to wear her veil everyday as a representation of her waiting.
AND EVERYDAY the bridegroom was off, preparing the home for them to live in. He worked hard before his marriage to prepare the space that they would call home and start their life together.
And when the bridegroom finally returned, it was sooo exciting because of all the months of preparation. When he showed up, there was no doubt that everyone was prepared and ready, including the bridegroom himself.
I love this story because I was surrounded by a similar heart of preparation during my engagement to Christian.
Just like the parable, my bridesmaids prepared for the wedding. They threw Christian and I such a special shower. They showed up for my bachelorette party in New York. They prepared speeches as our rehearsal dinner, and they even prepared letters to me to send us into marriage. They showed up for me by their preparation.
I also prepared myself. I took my personal fitness seriously and got a trainer and took care of my skin (something I didn’t do for years!). I wanted to feel healthy and confident knowing that marriage was coming. My motivation wasn’t so much just looking good (even though ladies, it is OKAY to want to look good for your man), more than that, I wanted to feel good, full of energy, ready for my groom and for the adventure of marriage.
I also prepared with my time. During engagement, I would work in advance to get things taken care of so that when Christian was in town to see me, I didn’t have to work as much. I wanted to be able to give him and our future marriage the time and attention it deserved. This gave us time for things like pre-marital counseling, fun dates, long talks, and being present during our engagement season to prepare for the wedding!
I prepared in these ways so that when the day came (like I knew it would), I would be the best version of myself.
Christian was also preparing. He was diligent with his schoolwork, he was planning his (our) future, he was making calls to mentors further ahead of him seeking out advice and wisdom that he has now brought into our marriage. He wanted his heart to also be ready.
It was so beautiful seeing the ways he prepared for his bride and I prepared for my bridegroom.
Another example is the preparation by Louie and Shelley! The amount of time, effort, prayer, and intentionality that went into preparing us for our wedding was such a sign of love and support. We had so many conversations with them as mentors during our engagement. We all wanted to make sure that our ceremony details were what we wanted it to be. Full of the Holy Spirit and clear of our covenant to one another. They wanted to show up, I mean really show up (fully present), on our wedding day ready, along with Christian, our wedding party, our family and everyone in attendance!
So many times in life we want to “wing it” with events we KNOW are coming. It’s easy to think that we can coast into an important moment in life, but the truth is there is something so beautiful about preparing for how you’re going to show up. Especially when it’s for someone you love.
When you love somebody, you want to give them your best.
When you love somebody, your heart longs to give away your time, your energy, and your intentionality, not just receive the best from others.
Needless to say, our engagement season taught me SO much about preparing for Jesus.
When Jesus comes back, the parable says that the bridemaids weren’t ready, even though they knew that the groom would inevitably return. Because of this, they weren’t able to enter into the moment of his return.
This story constantly pointed me back to this idea: “Knowing that Jesus will inevitably return, how can I prepare to love Jesus for when He comes”?
Just like everyone prepared for the wedding day, we also all must prepare for the coming of our Bridegroom.
I don’t know about you, but I want to show up when Jesus comes. And showing up is so much better when you’re prepared.
In the parable, the reality is that yes, it is a lot of about preparation, but that’s not the end goal. The end message is all about preparing well so that we can celebrate.
Celebration can only happen if you’re ready to step into it.
I can promise you that if we, our family, wedding party, officiant, and wedding planner, hadn’t put in the months and months of preparation, the celebration wouldn’t have been even close to what it was on November 25th.
And let me tell you friends, our wedding was the best celebration I’ve ever experienced in my life.
But I know, and I hope you know too, that even our best earthy celebration (even though it had heaven all over it), isn’t even going to be able to touch the celebration that will happen when Jesus comes back to claim His bride. And friend, you are the bride.
So let me ask you, as the bride of Christ, does your preparation now reflect your readiness to celebration when the times comes?