If the Church is making headlines, it is usually her failings and falterings as the bride of Christ that hit the front page. Brokenness abounds in every expression of the local Church; however, if you stay long enough to notice, glimpses of glory also abound.
When the local Church is being the Church, when she is at her best, she often goes unnoticed. And well it should be, as the kingdom of God values the unseen, that which is done is secret for the honor and glory of God rather than the applause of man. When the Church is adorning her husband well, she doesn’t need a glory parade with bells and whistles and signs saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” After all, it is her intention to glorify and enjoy her unseen husband, Christ.
That being said, when a husband loves his wife, he finds opportunities to brag on his beloved, especially when she is often battered within and without. This past week, I had the opportunity to witness the love of the Church first hand through encounters with a stranger that left me bursting to brag on the bride of Christ.
I’d been looking forward to meeting Mrs. Matthews since I received an email from someone at her church requesting that we look out for her upon her arrival to California from Virginia by train. The email had been short, leaving much of her story and the reason for her visit unknown.
Though we picked her up a stranger, before we had even dropped her off at her hotel, she had become a friend. Over the next few days together, we began to put the pieces of her story together. Ernestine, a beautiful and hysterical middle-aged African American woman, had been working at a church in Virginia both with the children in the nursery and on the facility in custodial work. Her father had a stroke and began to worry about the welfare of his children after his death. He wanted her to get married; she couldn’t promise that, so she promised him the next best thing: she would go back to school.
She began her courses toward an associates degree in child development and a bachelor’s degree in business in 2011, all the while working her jobs and caring for her mother with cancer. She began to collect her spare change and extra money here and there, in an effort to save enough to attend her graduation all the way out in crazy California. After years of scrapping and working hard towards her degree, she had saved $1,000 and her mother was doing well.
But life rarely does what we want it to, and her mother’s cancer came back with a vengeance. Ernestine spent the savings caring for her mother and lost hope that she would make it to her big day on the West coast.
This is when the bride of Christ brought me to tears.
The church decided to send Ernestine across the country, pay for her trip, and make sure that she was celebrated and looked after during her stay. She sat across from me with tears in her eyes talking about how she felt like Cinderella on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Her lips abounded with spontaneous praise to God over every little detail, from the new mattresses in the hotel to the simple meals we shared with her; “Lord, it’s too much,” she’d say. A contagious gratitude leaked out of her everywhere she went in San Diego, including into my heart and into our family.
Though we sent her back to Virginia yesterday with diploma in hand, she left me with a great joy in my heart and a much-needed reminder that the Church is indeed a beautiful bride.
Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.