In my dream last night I was driving down a road near my home. I was cresting a hill when I saw a bride walking hurriedly down the street. Going a little further down the road, I saw the rest of the wedding party unloading from their cars in a parking lot. Confused, I noticed at least five of the girls had wedding dresses on. The woman in the car next to me must have read my mind and said, “Oh, it must be one of those things where the bride had the bridesmaids wear wedding dresses too”. In my dream I remember thinking how silly that was. How would you ever know who the bride was if everyone looked the same??
Upon waking I grabbed my cup of coffee (admittedly my favorite part of the day) and snuggled up on the couch to try to sip it and read my Bible without my toddler jumping on me and spilling it everywhere, which is a daily challenge in my home. My reading opened with 2 Corinthians 6, and verse 17 almost jumped off the page. “Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you'”.
I always back my morning time with God with music. Sometimes the radio, sometimes a random playlist on shuffle. I believe God has a soft spot for music. I mean, the entire book of psalms is nothing but song lyrics, so why should we assume God's love of speaking through lyrics has changed? As I read, the song “Brave” by Nichole Nordeman begins to sing “The gate is wide, the road is paved in moderation. The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in. Welcome to the middle ground. You're safe and sound and until now it's where I've been. 'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything. But it's been love, Your love, that cuts the strings. So long status quo. I think I just let go. You make me want to be brave...Why did I take this vow of compromise? Why did I try to keep it all inside?”
I kept reading. Next was 2 Kings 15. It runs through the reigns of various kings. Of Azariah it says “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, WERE NOT REMOVED; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there”. A vow of compromise. Azariah did what was right by God, but he rode the fence. He held back from completely selling out. Maybe he wanted to please his subjects that were hostile to God. Galatians puts it so well in saying in chapter 1 verse 10 “if I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”. Now, this is not our excuse to purposefully set wildfires of offense and completely disregard people in the name of being uncompromising, for God also says “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13). This rather, talks about our kingdoms and promised lands.
For each of us, God has a “promised land” here on this earth. Not necessarily a physical space, but a place to occupy in which we will find fulfillment, exercise our gifts to the greatest measure, and be given power and authority to accomplish things as God's hands and feet on this earth. Our task as God's “bride”, which He calls us numerous times in His word, is not unlike our task from the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden. In Eden it was "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:28). In other words, bear fruit, create more people to love and serve God until the earth is full of God's people, and “rule” over what you have been given charge of by God. “Rule” is defined as “exercising ultimate power or authority over an area and its people” and is synonymous with such words as “run, administer, manage, lead”.
In each person's life this will look different. Maybe you are the leader of your household or a leader at work or a leader of nations, but each person in SOME way is a leader. Now, our charge comes from the great commission “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Sounds familiar right? Have your lives bear fruit, make more people who love God (by loving them and revealing God's heart to them), and run/lead/manage well the “territory” and “people” God has placed you as an influence in.
How do you lead well? How do you manage and even enlarge the territory God lets you manage and grow for His kingdom? You make sure people know who the bride is. If we “dress” like everyone else, no one can tell who is the bride. We are instructed “therefore, as God's chosen people, HOLY and dearly loved” (holy means literally set apart) “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”. This is more than just good virtues. This is CRAZY virtues. Levels of love and peace and steadfastness that Jesus exemplifies in all we read about Him. This is extending mercy and forgiveness when everyone else says that person deserves revenge. That is braving the rejection of people time and time again when you put your love and your beliefs out there. That is forgoing at times what is cool or logical or reasonable to pursue a crazy calling God persistently places on your life (remember, our God asks people to do things like build arks and walk through seas). The deeper you press into this holiness- this SET APART-ness- the more the world will see you as different.
If you're like me, maybe you've mastered this in some areas and are lagging in others. In today's world there are so many hats you're wearing. You have your world at work, your world at home, your world with your friends (or even multiple in different circles), your world with your family, and sometimes more. It is SO EASY to compartmentalize and keep each world in its own neat little box. Lisa, a mentor mom at church, shared these wise words with me. “God says you are oil. And oil doesn't stay in any box”. Oil leaks out to every part of our lives. When we have the anointing of the Lord, we become His holy oil, spilling beyond our neat, tidy boxes, and consuming every area of our lives. That is how we can be the bride that is set apart. Break that vow of compromise. Embrace the whole YOU God created you to be- not trying to look like anyone else. Love without holding back. And pursue your callings for the Kingdom with reckless abandon.