GROOMED FOR THE WEDDING

When our family conducted our daughter’s wedding, I realised that while Marriages are made in heaven, weddings are done on earth!

The amount of planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, as well as the number of people involved in making it happen, is mind boggling. After  our daughter’s wedding, my husband and I had a chance to go somewhere alone, and boy, did I really need it to recover, both physically and emotionally!

Much effort and work is always needed to pull off a wedding. Apart from finding and fixing a venue, meeting with and arranging caterers, printing and distributing cards, inviting and involving people, purchasing dress and ornaments, ordering return gifts and cake, taking care of hospitality and transport, choosing and ensuring decorations, a thousand and one duties need to be taken care of.

When weddings are scheduled, some have an year to get ready, while others may have just a month or even less to get it done. Whatever the time period available and the trappings arranged for a wedding, the grooming regime of the couple, especially the bride, is given utmost priority. Most women take time to plan and execute the care of their face and appearance, often undergoing beauty treatments, both au natural at home and those done in parlours.

The bride-to-be often goes for a full-body makeover, pampering herself over a month or more. A bridal package these days includes free trial of makeup and hairdo, besides threading, bleaching, waxing, polishing, styling, spas, therapy, etc. Smart brides do take care to go on a diet and exercise routine to have a well-toned and well-nourished body, in readiness for their big day.

Getting a bride ready, fitting her to look her best on a day when she will be the cynosure of all eyes is a huge task and process which the beauty industry has turned it into a lucrative business. Vendors and beauticians have grabbed hold of the trend. They have capitalised on the occasion and cashed in on the focus, making sure that the bride is indeed the showpiece of the whole thing!

In the Bible, we see that when King Xerxes, the ruler of Persia and Media, sovereign over one hundred and twenty provinces, wanted to replace his Queen because she offended him, he was advised by his counselors: Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (Esther 2:2‭-‬4).

Being a monarch of high order, these young women underwent a time of rigorous preparation and prolonged training since one of them would eventually be the next Queen. According to Scriptures, Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). They were not just prepared physically, but also drilled in deportment, etiquette, manners, protocols, customs, court bearing etc as well as taught the history of the country. They learnt the art of pleasing the king, and endowed with every training to bring joy and pleasure to the king. They had to be flawless in looks, intelligent in conversation, sober in conduct, and impeccable in character. They had to keep themselves fit and ready, not have wandering eyes or attention, focused on him and fixed on only one thing – be ready to please him and serve him when summoned. They were being groomed for one purpose and for one goal only – be acceptable to him. What a picture of all is involved in being and becoming the bride of a king!

There is a wedding in the Bible that comes in the culmination of the ages, an event that the whole of the universe is waiting for with eagerness. In Rev 19:6-8, we read thus: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people). The key here is that this bride, as any bride, has made herself ready. Without that preparation, she cannot be joined to her groom.

Who is this bride who has made her self ready for her bridegroom? It is the Body of Christ, the people of God, His Church. set apart for Him and as His Church, we are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ. We read that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for to her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault (Eph 5:26‭-‬27 NLT). As disciples and followers of Christ, we have been chosen to be His special people and are being trained to rule with Him, to be seated together with Him on His throne. We are to share in His authority and are the centre of all attention, the cynosure of all eyes and the crux of all His plans (Eph 3:10). Are we aware of the beautifying that we need to have in order to be pleasing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

There is an agenda for us and we are in the process of being made fit for the King. Are we aware of it and are we yielding to it, cooperating with the Holy Spirit Who is the One appointed and entrusted with the task of grooming the bride?

Any bride will tell you how much pain and discomfort she has to endure in order to be fully fit and in form. There is agony when her skin is being scrubbed and polished to shine and glow; there is torment when her brows are being shaped to highlight her eyes; there is exertion when her body is being toned for the best effect; there is patience when the right makeup is being chosen; there is endurance when appropriate garments are being searched for; there is waiting when various alternations are being made; there is care when matching accessories have to be chosen; there is sacrifice and testing when diet is being administered. Besides all this, there is anxiety and anticipation, fear and frustration, besides sorrow of leaving behind certain way of life and excitement for the new things ahead. All in all it is an arduous time and process, but she goes through it all so as to be the best and see her bridegroom’s eyes light up at the sight of her beauty, binding him to her all their life together. She submits to this ordeal to be pleasing to the one she will walk with until the end of her days.

As the chosen one, the Church is in the course of being prepared to be the Bride of Christ and as such, being daily groomed and vigorously prepared to be like Him in every way. Only when she is in His image, perfect and lacking nothing, can He come to claim her. If a human bride prepares herself so intensely for her earthly husband, how much more the church should prepare for her heavenly bridegroom! If a woman is willing to undergo a regime to best present herself to her man, how much more should the Body of Christ endure to be acceptable to Christ!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11 NIV) declares the Word of God. Only when we yield and not resist the dealings and discipline of the Spirit of God, without resisting or withstanding Him, but willingly submit ourselves to His dictates can we be transformed into the image of Christ and be pleasing to Him.

The Bible declares that, Esther, the Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle Mordecai, chosen as one of the candidates for the king, had such a posture in her preparation. When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her...The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality Esther 2:15-‬18.

The bride of the Lord Jesus the Lamb is the Church, whom He has purchased with his own blood. He is waiting for her to complete her cleansing so that He can and claim her. The attitude and disposition of the church has to be to submit to the fashioning of the Lord, as the clay yields itself to the potter, willingly allowing herself to be moulded into His image and paying the price in patient trust until that is accomplished.

May we, as Christians and members of the Body of Christ, humble ourselves to accept the discipline and discipling of the Lord until He comes to claim us as His own.

May we with grace accept every dealing of the Lord with the understanding that His plans for us are to prosper us and not harm us.

May we proclaim And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:28‭-‬30 NIV)

Let us allow ourselves to be groomed for the King and the wedding ahead!

*Pic courtesy google images

HORSE TALK

My son-in-law (actually a son than a law) and I often take time to discuss about the ministry and work of God, since both of us happen to operate within the realm of the church. Our repartee would bring insights and growth that enhanced us both. Being at different ends of the age spectrum, as iron sharpens iron, we crystallize and shape one another’s understanding that causes expansion in our thoughts.

In one such recent colloquy, we were analysing the post-covid orientation and state of the church, about members in general and leaders in particular. I was lamenting on the fact that Christian life and witness seemed to be focused on creating a good impression and causing a outward expression. Rather than exerting a life-changing influence that flowed from an inward heart-level transformation, leaders were intent on visibility and projecting of themselves.or their work.

He stopped me short with this pithy statement: It is a matter of knowing what you want to be trained for or what you are training others for. Whether you are grooming or being groomed to be a show horse or a race horse or a war horse. The goal and end determines the training and the achievement of the desired outcome!

Thunderstruck, I followed the ensuing train of thought and came up with an perception of the difference between a wild horse, a race horse, a war horse and a show horse!

Wild horses roam free, unfettered, gamboling around the range, eating what they will, drinking what they want, going where they want and typically live about 15 to 30 years. Wild horses travel many miles a day (usually between 10 and 20), in search of food (grasses, seeds and leafy shrubs) and water, often through rough terrain that wears down their hooves. They use fight or flight defend themselves against predators and other dangers such fires or storms, etc.

For a horse to be wild, all you need to do is to allow it to go scot free, without any disciple or restriction. Just set it loose, offering no direction or forcing it into training, and its own nature will take over to be what it wants to be – an outlaw!

Horses enjoy racing for running and jumping come naturally to them and Race horses are usually considered “hot-blooded” horses, known for their agility, speed, and spirit. Race horses are well-bred and carefully trained animals who are given the highest levels of animal care and welfare. Race horse trainers tend to develop strong bonds with their charges, understanding well their traits and moods since they work many hours a day with them. Horses happily take part in a race in most cases but no racehorse can be made to race if it doesn’t want to, and can plant its feet refusing to move. Racehorses are treasured and prized possessions of their owners, getting utmost care and attention.

If you lasso and corral a horse, wishing to turn it into a race horse, then its diet and schedule will have to be carefully drawn out with care given to its type, age and other physical abilities. Training has to focus on developing muscular strength, stamina, and speed in that order, and must be spread over several weeks,  moving from slow and steady to fast and furious! Great care is taken to tailor the program to suit the age, condition, weakness, etc of the horse and though there are general/common components, each horse is trained deliberately and particularly, making each animal uniquely fashioned and special care is taken to factor in its individuality for getting the best result!

War horse breeds were highly valued animals that carried mounted warriors into battle, bred in medieval or ancient times for the sole purpose of aiding men in war. War horses were a mixture of heavy breeds ideal for carrying armored knights, and lighter breeds for hit and run or fast moving in warfare. They were either heavy animals able to carry a fully armored knight as well as their own armor, or shorter, lighter, and swifter ones, ridden unarmored during sieges and raids.

Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, or ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also had to learn to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried. Moreover, a war horse used as a riding animal was also trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse thus had to become accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, learning to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial to and in warfare. 

A war horse needs more discipline and attention, a more rigorous and diehard regime to equip it to not only carry the warrior but also itself become a fighting machine. Horses used for chariot warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but they also had to learn to do teamwork with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions, since a chariot would drawn by more than one horse. War horses are also denoted as fight or flight animals since both tactics would come in handy in the battlefield.

Show horses in circuses, on the other hand, perform a variety of equine acts ranging from sensational feats of acrobatics to clever stunts and the execution of the elegant “airs” from classical equitation. There are no specific performing breeds, since ability alone determines the particular horse used and are groomed to be fine performers for they are show-stealerrs and crowd-pullers. In the history of circuses, the excitement of the show and the hard work of the show depended on these horses!

Show horses are trained to behave cooperatively and willingly, taught tricks and skills to attract crowds and seek to develop its own talents. Show horses are performance horses and so, confidence training and trick learning are part of their drill. Boldness is a key ingredient that is inculcated so that they execute their acts with grace and poise as well as appear endearing and appealing.

The accoutrements of a show horse are for attracting attention and therefore quite elaborate and flamboyant in order to capture the eye.

The war horse, on the other hand, is fitted with armor, making it ready for battle and is aimed at protection rather than giving pleasure.

The race horse is minimally equipped with only the basic necessary for riding such as saddle and bridle. As speed is crucial, the lighter the horse, the greater the chance of victory in an even field. Even the jockey chosen is usually of small stature so that no extra weight would burden or slowdown the horse.I

It goes without saying that none of these apply to a wild horse since it rebels against confinement and submitting to tutelage.

All this horse talk just goes to show one thing – that in considering a horse, its purpose and the focus of what it is to be determines whether it is to be trained or not, and the type and direction of its training. The end surely does justify the means!

Apostle Paul acknowledges a Christian, especially a leader, as having to endure hardness as a soldier, undergo rigorous training like an athlete and working hard like a farmer.

In the Scriptures we also come across statements such as: Run in such a way as to win the race; my aim is to finish the race; I wanted to be sure I was not running or had been running my race in vain; And let us run with perseverance the race market out for us; Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize; etc.

We also note admonitions such as: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air; Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms; For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds; etc.

The thread through the Word of God and the teaching therein motivates and urges the disciples of Christ and God-fearers to be race horses and war horses. Nowhere is there an instruction to be a wild horse or a show horse.

On the contrary, there is a injunction against being unbroken as an unruly horse and not to be showoffs or self-promoting or having an outward form without inward orientation. Indeed, one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation is judged as having a reputation that was not true in reality.

Following through my initial train of thought, I see that it is important to decide whether I am striving to be a race and a war horse, or a show horse, or worse still, a wild horse!

As the people of God and as the Ministers of His work, the Church needs to ensure that it is not breeding or grooming show horses, but committed to raising race horses and war horses.

Wild horse, show horse or race horse, war horse – which will you be?

*Pics courtesy google images, unsplash.com, shutterstock.com and information on horses from Google links