I felt the weight of the moment, a transitioning of season and place, as my dad and I did the slow walk toward the altar. Both our emotions brimming near the surface, we silently stepped toward the future. Stopping within steps of my almost-husband, the pastor looked at my dad and asked, “Who gives this bride to be married?”
His response, though scripted, held much meaning — he was giving me to Larry for safe-keeping, for treasuring, for a life together. Dad was offering his blessing over our marriage in this traditional act of giving. Not delivered over as a possession, nor handed over as an object, but given in love, for love.
Equally symbolic and literal, I then moved my arm from my Dad’s to my groom’s. I had been given. Beautifully, lovingly given. Though I didn’t have words to describe what I felt on that summer day thirty years ago, I do now — I treasured that moment of givenness because I felt the immensity of my dad’s love. I felt how much I belonged. I know my dad didn’t take the moment lightly, nor did I. We each made a choice in that given moment. And, now Larry and I do our best to live into the trust and love by which we were given to one another.
The Bride of Christ
Whether you find yourself married in this current season of life or not, you are the bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:25-29 explains this analogy best:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.
The church is Christ’s bride, presented — like brides at an altar — with radiance and holiness.
We are the bride! Jesus is our bridegroom. Friends, can we embrace the truth that we are the ones given to Jesus? We’re the ones given to Him for care and safe-keeping, for unconditional love and teaching, for the kind of cleansing that leaves us new and holy. Because He loves us.
At this point you may be asking what any of this has to do with our new series, True Belonging, and I’m so excited to answer your question!
Last week I shared with you the revelation that struck me when I read JD Walt’s words: the bridge between believing in Jesus and becoming like Jesus is belonging to Jesus. That aha moment has at once broadened my understanding of what it means to belong and made me hungrier for it. So, here we are — seeking to better understand what true belonging means.
As I prepared for today’s post, I tried to think of a time when I had experienced givenness. When the holy exchange at the altar came to mind, I wondered if that was a good thing. Did I like the idea of being given? But as I allowed myself to re enter that moment, all I felt was a depth of belonging with my dad and my husband. There was something about the act of being given in love that elicited a truer, deeper sense of belonging.
We begin to see the picture of what true belonging is — like a bride stepping toward her bridegroom, given in love, for love.
We’re unpacking John 17 in this series because it holds within it much belonging AND given language. But first, let’s recall the context of this chapter. Jesus is speaking His final words over the disciples the night of His arrest. He speaks words of great importance — the meat of the message He wants them to remember. Chapter 17 is the culmination of this “final discourse” where John captures the prayer Jesus spoke over these faithful followers, so let’s make note of how John sets up the prayer:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayedJohn 17:1, NIV
Jesus looked up, toward heaven — the same thing He did at Lazarus’ tomb before praying aloud for God to raise him to life. Jesus looked up and prayed aloud. We might wonder why, when all He’d have to do is think the thought and it would be done, that He’d go to such great lengths to look up and pray aloud. In John 11, Jesus gives us the answer Himself: “for the benefit of the people standing here, that they might believe you sent me” (verse 42).
We can take that Lazarus-lesson in John 11 with us into this prayer for the disciples in John 17. Jesus prayed aloud because wanted His disciples to benefit from the hearing of His words — in the moment and for all time. He looked up to His Father and prayed out loud with purpose, meaning, and for longevity. For all believers. For us.
So, as we step into this prayer together, let’s look up to the Father and say aloud, “We are here, Lord. Speak.”
As Jesus looks up toward His Father, to whom He belongs, He prays these words:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.John 17:1-5, NLT
I’d love for you to look back at this passage and make note of each use of the word give/gave/given.
(It helps to note that in the first three verses Jesus speaks of himself in the third person.) Let’s see what we learn about givenness:
- Verse one — he (Jesus) can give glory back to you (God)
- Verse two — you (God) have given him (Jesus) authority; he (Jesus) gives eternal life to each one you (God) have given him (Jesus).
- Verse four — the work you (God) gave me (Jesus) to do
All that beautiful givenness language is repetitive, helping us recognize the importance of Jesus’ message. It can cause us to pause, to think: for something or someone to be given, that something or someone must first belong.
- Jesus had been given glory by God, to whom it had first belonged, then He gave it back to God.
- Jesus had been given authority by God, to whom authority had belonged, in order to give eternal life to us.
- Jesus had been given a great work to do — a work God possessed and shared with Jesus.
And for our purposes, the end of verse two really jumps out — Jesus had been given people to shepherd. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN! For us to be given to Jesus implies we first belonged to God the Father. We belonged, and we will always belong.
This is a simple, basic reading of the text, but it brings us into greater understanding of what true belonging looks like: our belonging is often revealed in those moments of givenness. And never more perfectly so than us having been given to Jesus by the Father.
Jesus ends this section with these words, “Now, Father, bring me into the glory that we shared before the world began.” I can picture that brilliantly bright and beautiful glory that reflects God’s essence and presence wrapping Jesus in its rays and bringing Him back to His greatest place of belonging. With God.
The language of us having been given to Jesus will come up again three more times in this prayer. We’ll watch for these references as we go because we know that when words, ideas, and images are repeated in Scripture, they’re important.
But, I think we’re already grasping the greatness of our givenness. Sweet bride of Christ, you’ve been given to Jesus by the Father — in love. For love.
We stand at a threshold of great transformation! To recognize our givenness is to realize we belong. Think how much God must love us to have given us to His beloved, most trusted Son. To be cared for. To be treasured. To find life in Him.
I’m looking up to God and praying aloud, “Father, I thank You for your love that knows no boundary — it flows through every age, every person, for all time. I thank You that we have been given to Christ, our bridegroom, who looks upon us with such love that we feel all at once just how much we belong to Him. (say aloud with me) Jesus, I belong to You. Amen!”
- On your own, reread John 17:1-5 aloud. As you hear the words of givenness pour out, allow your heart to embrace the truth that you’ve been given to Jesus — in love, for love. Then journal about how your holy, divine givenness implies your place with God — that you belong! How does that make you feel?
- Throughout the coming week, immerse yourself in words that speak of this place of belonging to Jesus by listening regularly to songs that say such things. The Belonging playlist I created has several of those kinds of songs. Here are three that are especially worshipful:
- “I Belong to Jesus” by Selah
- “Belong to You” by Here Be Lions
- “I Belong to You” by Bethel