In 1995 I had the privilege of marrying my best friend, Jonathan Hartness. Over the years I'd read material in preparation for my wedding day, including Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot and Fit to be Tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels. Jonathan and I also had weeks of premarital counseling with one of the pastors at our church. And of course I had a perfect little wedding planner book to keep me organized as we prepared for our ceremony and reception.
On that day, I felt as prepared as I could have been to become Mrs. Jonathan Hartness. Yet, there were a few areas in which I think I could have had a better education. Recently I enjoyed a title that would have been very helpful to me when I was preparing for my new life as a married woman.
In her new devotional, I Am My Beloved's: Christian Devotionals for the Bride to Be, Amy Hayes gives some great pointers for Christian women who are preparing for their upcoming nuptials. She addresses spiritual matters such as reflecting the fruits of the Spirit to others during stressful wedding preparations. Hayes also thoroughly discusses the importance of being a godly fiancée and wife. Here are a few of the chapter titles, which can give you an idea of some of her topics:
**Time of Preparation
**Capturing a Vision
**Giving Good Gifts to Your Groom
Amy Hayes is a wise woman, and I agree with everything she's written in this preparatory material. Her words are well suited for the conservative Christian woman who holds traditional ideals for marriage. In our postmodern society, Hayes is a bit of a rebel in her beliefs. There are many who might even be offended by some of her conservative suggestions. On more than one occasion, she suggests that brides should put their wants and desires ahead of others, even to the point of sacrificing some of their "dream wedding" hopes. In these days of Bridezillas and self-absorbed Kardashians, this is unfortunately no longer the standard mindset.
At the same time, Amy encourages women to relish the planning of their wedding, even to take some time out to pamper themselves. Salon treatments, quality cosmetics and hair stylists are encouraged. This is not only giving yourself a treat, but it will help you radiate your inner beauty to your groom as he joins you in the ceremony.
While I do wholeheartedly concur with all of Amy's advice, I have one minor hesitation as this is presented to brides to be. I don't know about other women, but there have been times when I've struggled with what I call "Proverbs 31" or "Martha Stewart Guilt". Both in Proverbs 31 and in Martha Stewart's magazine Living, there's much to be admired, but exhibiting all the virtues and accomplishments seems to be a near impossibility. I think if I had read I Am My Beloved's as an engaged 23 year-old, I would have felt overwhelmed with all that has been suggested here. This would have been especially acute after we were officially engaged-- back then, it was like a gunshot went off, and the race was on, with the finite amount of time that was available to get everything in place. As much wisdom as is within I Am My Beloved's, I honestly don't know if I would have taken the time to read it in those harried months before we got married. And if I had, I frequently would have felt like I was falling short in many respects.
That being said, I feel the advice conveyed here is quite valuable. If you're in a serious relationship and are considering marriage, I would encourage you to read this while you still have the time. You may even discover some things within I Am My Beloved's that may cause you to reevaluate your relationship with your significant other. Are you marrying a godly man, someone you admire, someone you can see yourself sharing a lifetime with? Are you more concerned with having the perfect fairytale wedding or are you concerned with pleasing your groom? And most importantly, are you concerned about glorifying God both in your life and in the life you share with your husband?
If you are already engaged, be a better woman than I would have been. Try to take the time to read I Am My Beloved's. The modest chapters could be read daily over the course of two weeks. And if you begin to feel a bit of that "Proverbs 31 guilt", just take on as many of Hayes' recommendations as you can. Furthermore, keep in mind that none of us becomes an admirable wife or Proverbs 31 woman in our own strength alone. Ask the Lord to show you what aspects of Hayes' book need to be your focus, and ask Him for the strength to accomplish what He's called you to do. This will remain true as you prepare for your wedding, and decades later as you strive to love your husband and glorify God at the same time. Deuteronomy 30:11 tells us, "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach," and Philippians 4:13 states, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
The days of courtship and engagement are so fleeting. Do what you can to enjoy this time, but prepare as much as you can for the years ahead. I Am My Beloved's, while an ambitious work, is a great way to prepare for your new life. If every bride read it before their wedding day, the number of happy marriages would certainly be greater. And a happy marriage is certainly something worthy of preparation. I Am My Beloved's: Christian Devotionals for the Bride to Be is a wonderful way to do that.