Always the Bridesmaid (or Groomsman)

by David Skinner

I love wedding time in Minnesota. The sun is out. The birds are chirping. The runners are running. The breezes have deigned to walk among the mortals once again, and for that I am very grateful. I have a special vantage point as I have the privilege of creating music at a handful of weddings every year. I arrive at the location as early as I can, set up as quickly as I can, and watch. How are they preparing the hors d’oeuvres? How elaborate is the cake? Where are they taking pictures?

But I am particularly intrigued observing bridesmaids or groomsmen who I know are single. There is more to a wedding than perfectly prepared pretty people. I see the groomsman who just ended a relationship with his longtime girlfriend. I see the guitar player who just broke off an engagement. I see the bridesmaids who have been single for years and don’t understand why.

Each wedding is the same story with different characters.

There’s a reason why the haunting phrase, “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” is hard to interact with. Whether it is true of a bridesmaid or groomsman or your garden-variety single person, it reveals our flesh’s natural impulse to turn our arms and face upward and ask of heaven, “Why? Why is it that the ‘good gift’ of marriage is being given to everyone else?”

This is a real question, and it hurts.

Whether or not you are single, in a relationship or married, you need to know how to answer it. If you are married, I know it’s tough to remember what being single is like. I have married friends, and bless their hearts, they do forget. But in the life of interacting with singles, you will hear this concern time and time again. How will you respond? What will you say? How will you comfort the godly 31-year-old single woman who cries each time she drives away from a wedding that is not her own?

I found one possible response in Luke 17.

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you’ (Luke 17:8).

Singleness is a faith tester. It wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. But in the moment, it can feel like it is all that there is. Just as with most sin, the temptation is to disbelieve that God loves His children and gives good gifts to them; it is a temptation to believe that Romans 8:32 is false; it a temptation to believe that even though He did not withhold His Son, He still will not graciously give us all things with Him. So from this, one might conclude that the problem is our faith. We need more.

Though that’s not wrong, it’s not exactly how Jesus responds. His disciples ask Him for more faith. We do the same thing. We see that we are sinners and we lack the faith to please Him. So we ask for more. But how does Jesus respond? Does He say, “Great job, guys! I’ll make you all faith prodigies because you have asked for such a noble thing!”

That’s not what my Bible says. Jesus doesn’t zap them and make them all little faith masters, and He didn’t do that because they did not primarily need more faith. They needed to be strengthened in their view of the object of their faith.

In Jesus’ analogy, the disciples weren’t going to move the mulberry tree. It was going to be moved by a power that lay outside of themselves. Whether or not they had bushels or mustard seeds of faith, it didn’t matter, because it’s not their faith that was going to do anything at all. It is the object of faith, Jesus Christ, who moves the mulberry tree and casts it into the sea.

I don’t believe that anyone — including singles — needs some quantitative increase of faith to get through life more peacefully and contentedly. What I do believe it that we all need to better understand the God in whom we put our faith. Faith in a weak god who might keep his promises and sometimes gives good gifts and possibly will provide for his children is a vision that will mold and shape doubtful and weak single people.

On the other hand, faith in the God who separated himself from His Son to redeem us for all eternity, who unfailingly provides for His children, and who will absolutely give us all good things with Christ is faith that will leave a generation of single people who don’t have to mitigate the desire to be married so it doesn’t hurt as much. He is the good Father who never gives stones when His sons and daughters ask for bread.

David Skinner is a musician / entrepreneur and won’t tell you if your coffee doesn’t taste good. He also writes at www.jdavidskinner.net.

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