Less than two years ago, a friend and I decided to visit the owners of a local business as a simple act of kindness. It turned out that the business was owned and operated by a family from India. Unlike some American-born business owners, this family was very receptive to our unexpected visit. They did not seem to mind taking the time to simply chat with us, even though we were not purchasing anything at all from their company. We were intrigued by their receptivity, and we continued to stop by a couple of times a month. Sometimes their young adult son would welcome with us, and other times the owner’s wife and mother-in-law came to the door to greet us. Ultimately, we met the owner, one of his other young adult children, and one of the grandchildren. Over the course of that first year, we discussed food, travel, family, ethnic customs, language, challenges, and shopping. It was clear that they were not bothered by our visits, which we never announced in advance. We simply stopped by on our way to another regular errand we planned, and this place of business was on our way to that location.
One evening, the son in the family announced to us that he was getting married in less than a year, and he invited us to the wedding. Naturally, we were surprised and delighted at the prospect, as we counted it a privilege to be included; after all, we were outsiders with respect to their cultural and religious circle. The parents then began talking with us about the wedding plans and clearly assumed we would be coming. We could hardly believe that they would invite us to this momentous family event!
As the day drew near, the mother made the arduous journey to India to shop for materials for the extra-festive sarees for herself, her own mother, and for a few of the close relatives who required special wedding clothes for the various ceremonies. She explained how important the clothing would be for the family, and she showed us photos on her phone of some of the exquisite dresses worn by brides, grooms, and their families in India of late. We were in awe of the bright colors, the beautiful fabrics, and the extravagance of the beading on many of the sarees.
When she returned home from India, we stopped by to visit the family again. This time she presented us with small, exquisitely woven clutch bags as gifts from her trip. She spoke of the food she would be preparing and the organization of the various ceremonies in different locations over the course of the wedding week. These conversations were intriguing to us, as the wedding celebration seemed much more extensive than a typical American wedding.
A few weeks prior to the first event, which was to be hosted by the groom’s family, she presented us with exquisitely designed wedding invitations. Not only were we ourselves invited, but she and her family were inviting our husbands as well (even though our husbands had never met the family!). Of course, we readily accepted this generous invitation and were excited to witness this wedding!
About ten days before the big day, when we asked whether we should wear short or long formal dresses for the ceremony, this precious woman brought out complete wedding garments for us to wear! We were overwhelmed at the sight of the sarees and matching tops! Then she and her mother gladly demonstrated how to put on the elaborately jewelled material by wrapping it around themselves multiple times and how to secure it at the end of the process.
When the wedding day arrived, we each (predictably!) had some difficulty in wrapping ourselves in the beautiful fabric. I had to enlist my husband’s help, and my friend’s daughter helped her. The clothing was heavy with jewels and challenging to wrap properly and tuck in securely. It was unfamiliar to us, yet we made every effort to ensure we looked appropriately dressed for this very special day in the life of our new friend’s family.
For me, the parallels to my relationship with God were poignant and moving. In response to the least overture on my part, our Father receives me warmly and kindly. He draws near to me whenever I cry out to Him. He calls me His friend when I have done nothing to deserve that status. He clothes me with a garment of praise and garments of salvation. His Son shed His atoning Blood for me and now dresses me in a robe of righteousness, “as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61: 3, 10 NIV) Jesus calls me His bride and invites me to the wedding feast. And, although I may have difficulty learning to wear those garments of praise and robes of righteousness, and I may find it a challenge to walk in my new clothes, I am thrilled and grateful for His overwhelmingly generous provision for me!
The fact that this hospitable mother-of-the-groom decided to call us her friends, though we were foreigners to her culture, and bought us the wedding garments (mine was red, no less!), when we did not deserve to be included in her family, reminded me of all that Jesus has done for me. God used a woman from India to demonstrate to me what He has provided for Me through His Son!
Father, help me to allow You to clothe me in Your righteousness! Help me to keep the garments of praise and salvation securely fastened, and empower me to walk steadily when I feel I cannot take another step without falling. Teach me to wear well the clothes You have given me at such a high price to Yourself!