HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT if your parents arranged your marriage for you? That still happens in many foreign countries. Would you guys marry a bride whose face is covered with a veil and you won't know who she is until the ceremony is over and you lift the veil to kiss her? Many Chinese men experienced just that.
In 1960, The Encyclopedia Americana says more than one half of the total female population of India married before 15 years of age, and sometimes while they were still infants. In the western provinces of India, a bride remained at home with her parents until she went through puberty. But in Bengal, girls commenced their married life at age nine.
In some countries, a hopeful suitor would give a girl’s father a certain amount of money or goods like cattle or sheep for his daughter, and sometimes the bride bought a “dowry” of property to her bridegroom. The amount depended on the status and economic circumstances of the families involved.
Historically at the engagement, the suitor often gave an ornament of some value, which signifies his pledge. That was the predecessor of the modern engagement ring.
IMAGINE WORKING SEVEN YEARS FOR A WIFE
In Old Testament times, most marriages were arranged.
Jacob met Rachel leading sheep and was so smitten with her he kissed her. Perhaps it was on the cheek. Who knows?
Jacob stayed with Rachel’s father, Laban, a month, working for him like a ranch hand. Finally, Laban asked what Jacob expected to be paid, and Jacob told Laban he was in love with Rachel and he agreed to work seven years for her.
Finally there was a wedding feast, and after the ceremony, Jacob discovered he had been given Rachel’s older sister, Leah, instead. He protested, and Laban said he couldn’t give the younger daughter before the older girl married.
Jacob worked another seven years to get Rachel.
IMAGINE GOD GIVING A MATE
Abraham arranged the marriage for his son, Isaac, and a servant actually picked her out in the story related in Genesis 24. But the servant asked God to show him the right girl out of the dozens of women who came to a well to draw water.
“Oh Lord, God of my master,” the servant prayed. “Give me success and show kindness to my master, Abraham. Help me to accomplish the purpose of my journey. See, here I am, standing beside this spring, and the young women of the village are coming to draw water. I will ask one of them for a drink. If she says, `Yes, certainly, and I will water your camels, too!’ Let her be the one you appointed as Isaac’s wife. By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
As he prayed, a beautiful young woman, Rebekah, arrived with a water jug on her shoulder. She went to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again. Running over to her, the servant asked, “Please give me a drink.”
“Certainly, Sir,” she said, and she quickly lowered the jug for him to drink. When he had finished, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough!”
She emptied the jug into the watering trough and ran down to the well again. She kept carrying water until the camels’ intense thirst was quenched.
The servant watched Rachel in silence. When the camels finished drinking, he gave her a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets for her wrists.
They soon got acquainted; the servant stayed with her family and told them about how his prayer was answered. But Isaac wasn’t even there.
The father gave Rebekah to the servant, but only after Rebekah agreed to go.
Isaac saw the servant coming home with someone and he went to meet them.
When Rebekah saw Isaac coming, she dismounted, covered her face with a veil, and ran to him.
Rebekah became Isaac’s wife and he loved her, the Bible says. She was a special comfort to him because his mother had just died.
There is a reason arranged marriages work: falling in love is an act of the will.
Cupid doesn’t shoot you with an arrow like an Indian trying to keep wagon trains from killing all the buffalo and stealing their land. Love happens to you because of several circumstances.
1. You are around the person of the opposite sex a lot (that’s called propinquity— what happens when you are near in time and space).
2. You desire someone in your life.
3. Your God-given instincts are telling you to create a family.
4. The person you see will build your ego. You think, Won’t everyone be surprised I have a boyfriend? Won’t everyone be impressed with how pretty she is or how handsome he is? Won’t everyone be impressed because of how popular he or she is? He’s so tall, he makes me feel so feminine; or she has such a great figure it makes me feel great to walk beside her. She or he treats me so nice it makes me feel so special.
5. Because you have decided to fall in love.
6. Because no one better is available.
7. Because you are lonely.
8. Because someone else thinks it’s a good idea.
9. Because you have similar interests, take time to know each other and allow the magic of love to happen.
10. Most important: Because God orders your footsteps and has a plan for your life.
Just as falling in love is a decision, we choose to remain in love. We choose to follow the Bible when it says "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Forgive. Forget the arguments. Agree to disagree about some things, but love in spite of it.
Commit yourself to God and to each other as you vow to do before God in the marriage ceremony. Love and cherish in sickness, in health, in better times and worse times, forsaking all others, until death.
When those words are spoken in the marriage vows and lived--they are the most romantic lyrics ever to pass the human tongue.
©Feb. 6, 2012 Ada Brownell