Even once you get there, a 40th wedding anniversary seems hard to believe. To me, it feels more like 20, since I barely have the knack of being a more sanctified husband. But whether I can imagine it or not, Sheri and I just celebrated 40 years of marriage. It became an opportunity to consider its deeper meaning.

An important turning point in my understanding of God and Scripture was when I learned that the many images of God in creation (rock, sky, mountain, fountain, vine, father, son, spouse) were not merely God accommodating his teaching to our limited understanding—as in, “Look at that rock. I am like that, in some ways.” But they were God’s glory—spiritual realities—being expressed in a physical medium. In other words, rocks exist because they express something about their creator. Creation is very personal, as are most human works of art. God is the original; creation is in the pattern of the original. Within this expansive self-revelation of God, no created thing captures everything about the Lord, but some things reveal more of him than others. Human beings, created in the image of God, reflect his glory as much as anything in creation can reflect him, which brings me back to marriage.

Marriage reflects one of the grandest spiritual realities—the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). This banquet is the spiritual-reality-to-come; human marriage is its clearest earthly signpost. We are invited to see the similarities between the heavenly feast and the best of earthly marriage.

The heart of marriage is promises fulfilled, “I am yours and you are mine.”

I know and am known. Words, back and forth, are essential and are a pleasure.

The relationship gets better—it grows. Though steady, marriage is not static. There is always more. Love grows. Enjoyment grows.

Marriage is so intimate, so close. Two become one. Each person is more uniquely him or herself, yet also part of a new entity that we call a relationship.

With your beloved, you are home.

The true marriage-to-come also differs from human marriage, since nothing in creation captures the totality of even a piece of heaven-on-earth. The most obvious difference is that in the marriage-to-come we get married as the church, past, present and future. It’s a mass wedding at which the chorus of “I do” is so loud that you can’t even hear your own voice. And though it may sound impersonal, it is not. We are, indeed, a people. We will be the body of Christ in its fullest expression, each unique yet interdependent. But we will also be known by name and say both “our God” and “my God.” We are his sheep, and the infinite God has eyes for every lamb. We are the bride, and we are known individually by the bridegroom. The marriage feast of the Lamb will be more than we can presently desire, not less.

One of the goals of marriage is that we anticipate seeing Jesus face-to-face more than we anticipate seeing our spouse or loved ones in heaven. To have the order reversed is idolatrous, in which we love the gift more than the giver. Even though I have suggested to my wife that, once with the Lord, we meet at Dana Strand Beach, we both understand that this would be after we are “thrilled” by Jesus.[1]

[1] This comes from J.I. Packer, as a way to appreciate how he was a gift to myself and the church. The larger quote is, “Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a man’s heart.” Thanks to Matt Smethurst and his “40 Quotes” on the TGC (The Gospel Coalition) website.