On Friday nights in college, my best friends and I would sit together watching Rom Coms and dreaming about the men that would eventually star as the heartthrobs of our own stories. We were all in the same season of wondering and waiting. We were in it together.
When you graduate college, no one tells you that everyone’s pages in their own life stories begin to turn at completely different times. For the first time, August no longer marks our first day of school. We don't all have the same holiday schedule. The summers we spent enjoying adventures with friends are now spent full of days at the office and morning meetings, working to afford our expensive rent in expensive cities.
We begin to attend the weddings of the girls we used to be single with. Suddenly, your best friends are marrying their “best friends” and you feel left behind in the season they graduated from.
If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, you know how it goes. You watch as every part of the bride’s life changes. She hops on the plane with her husband for their honeymoon while you fly back to New York City and go home alone in a cab after a long weekend of standing by her side. Your lives look so different now, when they used to be the same. This can come with so many emotions, depending on how you are feeling about your own relationship status, or the past romances in your life that ended with disappointment and pain instead of a walk down the aisle.
As you sit in singleness, praying that the cute guy in front of you at church doesn't have a fiancé about to slide into the pew next to him, you think about how different your lives have become. You're happy for her, but also wondering when it will finally be your turn. When will God provide what you’ve been dreaming of? When will you be swept off your feet and escorted down the aisle to your own happily ever after?
If you are feeling a mix of jealousy and grief or bitterness, rest assured that God sees you in your resentment and hurt.
As I read “The Hard Good” by Lisa Whittle (and when I say “read,” I mean I inhaled it. I finished it in less than a week - it was that good), I came to understand the secret to cheering on the bride without resentment or jealousy. There are chapters titled “The Secret to Cheering On Someone When They Get What You Want” and “How to Show Up When You Want to Shut Down” and “How to Have Joy In the Waiting.” They contained the balm for the pain points in my heart.
As a bridesmaid, the wedding day is all about the bride - not about you - and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s her wedding, not yours. And as a Christian, it’s all about God’s kingdom, not yours.
As a Christian, I am not building my own kingdom, but Christ’s Kingdom. It’s not just her story or my story, or their story. It’s a greater love story: the story of Christ’s radical love for us. It’s no longer a competition. The bride is not “winning” or “beating me” by getting married first, or “leaving me behind.” We are all winning, because her marriage and love and partnership with her husband will bring God glory. Together they will elevate the light of Christ in a new and strategic way. This is powerful, because being a single bridesmaid is not your identity, and being a bride is not her identity either.
What if, as we serve our best friend at her wedding, we are also called to be bridesmaids to Christ? The crowd sees us as God does - in our matching dresses, standing out, chosen and honored, marked as significant. Our purpose is to elevate the bride - to notice and appreciate and praise her. Imagine if we gave Jesus the praise He is worthy of as the exclusive hype girls for the King of Kings.
Or, what if we were not simply chosen as bridesmaids? What if we are the bride of Christ, chosen and secure and loved forever?
Take a deep breath as you slip out of that silk pajama set with “bridesmaid” embroidered on it, and zip up your bridesmaids dress that you know you will never wear again. The secret to being a single bridesmaid and cheering on the bride, is to walk in the identity you already have, as the chosen bride of Christ. Walking confidently not because you do not need a man to save you from singleness but because you are already whole in Christ, and covered in his love. Let me remind you today that you are exactly where God wants you to be, for a purpose. And you never know what God might have right around the corner for you.
To all of my fellow single bridesmaids - the ones who have had their wedding pinterest boards since they turned 15, the ones who made the lists of qualifications for their future husbands, the ones who have asked their small groups to pray for a boyfriend, the ones who really, deeply wonder if God can write a happy ever after for them, too - God is writing your story. He tells us so in Colossians 1:17, saying “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Boldly take your eyes off of yourself, and even off of the bride. Believe that, regardless of if your story includes your own wedding, God’s greater story is where your identity rests. Trusting God in your own story redeems your feelings of jealousy and replaces it with joy and the ability to truly, honestly, genuinely cheer on the bride, no matter your circumstance.
So as you wrap up another round of bridesmaid duties, peeling off your fake eyelashes, sticky bra and take out the bobby pins at the end of the night, may you know how deeply loved and chosen you already are. I pray that throughout the bachelorettes, bridal showers and serving one another in every season of life. So drop it on the dance floor when the DJ plays single ladies, and catch that bouquet when she tosses it. May these weddings be marked by indescribable joy rather than jealousy and comparison. That cheering on the bride is a lifestyle marked by contentment and growth and celebration.