What is a ring? Specifically, what is an engagement ring? They come in a bewildering variety of styles, with different metals, settings and stones. Some have engravings, some are new, or, like the one Penny & I picked out 26 years ago, some are old. It seems that this is a relatively modern tradition in Western culture. Ring-giving was rare until the late 19th century, and diamonds became popular only in the 1930’s.
My good friends Barney and Anh got engaged last Sunday, and I saw them together for the first time since that event at church today. Anh showed me the ring (not sure who sparkled more, her or the ring!). This photograph confirms the ring is on the finger – but the ring itself confirms much more than that. What is it?
This couple have decided to marry. They are determined to see a promise through. Their commitment is to honour an accepted offer. He asked, she assented, and now a ring evidences their devotion to enter a state that changes them from two to one. We are all looking forward to the big day when further rings will be exchanged. It is not yet clear when that will be, but I will keep you posted.
In much the same way, the deposit of the Holy Spirit in a Christian signifies something. The comparison with engagement only goes so far, of course, but there are some parallels. We are now ‘promised’ to God.
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14 NIV)
The Spirit seals us for the day of redemption (when God will claim us for His own, as a husband claims his wife and takes her from her family into his own on the wedding day), and the Spirit guarantees our inheritance (when God will give us all he has promised, as a husband gives all he is and has to his wife on their wedding day). We live in the ‘already but not yet’ of having received the promise and begun to enjoy it (as an engaged couple enjoy the period of betrothal), but we have not yet come to partake in all the delights of heaven as an engaged couple also must wait patiently before a new and deeper level of intimacy is possible.
As grateful recipients of this wonderful ‘engagement gift’ of the Spirit, let us enjoy showing it off as much as Anh enjoyed showing off her engagement ring at church this morning.