I love weddings.
Not only are they one of the clearest glimpses into the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:32), they are also one of the few remaining bastions of unhurried connection in our rapid-paced, microwave society.
From “the question” to conception, a lot goes into planning these memorable celebrations. And as I reflect on all the weddings I’ve been privileged to participate in, the rehearsal dinners carry a special sentiment.
While the “big day” is full of joy and celebration amongst a party of friends and family, the rehearsal is much smaller in comparison. To use a biblical metaphor, it contains only the “inner circle.”
These dinners are replete with toasts to friendship and family that remind us why God gives us the good gift of community and human relationships. They also carve out a natural groove to allow special moments to take place. The rehearsal itself is a “mock up” of the main event, but the dinner tends to revolve around the endurance of the relationships that have helped support the couple up to matrimony.
Because weddings point to something beyond themselves—the union of Christ and his Church (Rev. 21)—could we say the same thing about the rehearsal dinner? I say heartily, “Amen!” Here’s why.
SETTING ASIDE WORK TO SEEK RELATIONSHIP
The amount of work that goes into planning a wedding can be quite daunting. Usually those that are in the “inner circle” and are attending the rehearsal dinner are helping to ease these burdens.
It takes preparation and work to carve out time for a celebration. Celebrations are only complete inasmuch as they contain close friends to celebrate with. But we have to put in work on the front end in order to reap relational dividends on the back end.
For Christian sojourners here on earth who are headed to that great wedding feast of the lamb (Rev. 19:6-10), how do we rehearse? By incorporating a regular sabbath rhythm into our lives.
Life, like wedding preparations, can be a lot of hard work. But God commands us to regularly put down our work and to rest in knowing that he holds the universe together (Col. 1:17). The paradox is that for most of us twenty-first-century Westerners, it takes a lot of “work” in the form of discipline to regularly observe a Sabbath.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve failed miserably at times at resting in God’s sovereignty. So often, I’ve payed lip-service to the truth that God is in control and “doesn’t need me,” while sinfully checking ministry related emails or carrying around work-related stress during the day I was supposed to spend in rest and worship.
What does it look like, though, to obey God’s command to Sabbath not under the Law but under grace? Yes, God commands us to rest one day a week, but this is not drudgery. It’s blessing!
We get to rest one day a week! I want to receive every good gift that God gives me. Don’t you? That means accepting with gratitude the truth that I am part of the creation, not the Creator.
Which leads me to another similarity between wedding rehearsals and the Sabbath.
RECEIVING THE GIFT OF REST
Some of the best gifts I’ve given and received were at weddings. I gave all my groomsmen personalized Bibles the night before my big day.
There is a sense of vulnerability that goes into receiving a gift. The “self-made man” struggles to receive a gift because he believes himself to contain everything. You know the type; the person who proudly pays the dinner tab while you go to the bathroom. But the humble are those who don’t think too much of themselves. They are grateful to receive because they know they have nothing apart from what God gives them (Ps. 73:25; Job 1:21; Jas. 1:17).
What does it really say about you if you don’t make it a practice to regularly schedule time to be with God and receive his good gift of rest? It might be your way of saying you don’t really need God, or that your work for him is more important than his work in you. It might reveal that you don’t really trust him as much as you think you do.
I know this frame of mind all too well. I’ve long said that “God wants to do more in us than he wants to do through us,” while neglecting my Sabbath. This road will inevitably end in burnout or sacrificing your family on the altar of workaholism.
You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So worship God with your body by accepting your given limitations and put aside a day to rest with him and enjoy the gifts he’s given you.
PRACTICING FOR OUR PRINCE OF PEACE
John Piper made the profound insight that missions only exist where worship doesn’t. That is such a simple and humbling statement.
Our work for the Lord pales in comparison to his work in us. When we arrive at that wedding celebration to be united in the flesh with our Savior and cleansed from our sin, every ounce of our identity that was found in “working for him” will evaporate. We will not be missionaries because the whole earth will be filled with his glory (Rev. 21:23) and everyone will know him fully (1 Cor. 13:12).
We’ll arrive at our final and complete identity: part of the blood-bought bride of Christ. We’ll be his redeemed people set free from sin to worship him forever.
Have you begun to dig into the depth of this profound truth? I remember being met with puzzled looks when I shared in a small group once how I often dreamed of all the amazing and diverse food that would exist in heaven. A debate ensued. I was out-numbered. And the consensus was that food was an earthly gift that wouldn’t carryover into heaven.
This is a sad insight into the lack of knowledge we sometimes possess about our final resting place. How miserable would heaven be without food?
Rejoice in the truth that no wedding is complete without fine dining. Our good God gives only the best gifts, and I am certain the wedding banquet will have delicacies we’ve only dreamed of on this side of paradise. What a privilege that God whets our appetites for this heavenly meal by giving us the gift of rehearsing for the wedding that is to come through a Sabbath rhythm.
SEEK YOUR REST
We are currently in the time of preparation, engaged to be eternally united with the one who gave his very self in order to bring us back to him. And “what God has brought together, let no man separate,” (Mt. 19:6) seek your rest in him (Mt. 11:28).