I read the excerpt above many years ago and it changed my life; for it was at that very moment when I put two and two together.
Just as Adam could not have a bride without first "falling asleep" (the whole rib thing) and just as the second Adam could not have a bride without first falling asleep (Jesus's sacrificial death) so, too, I could not have a bride without first dying. Oh, I get it, I remember thinking to myself, spiritual leadership is about laying down my life for Aimee, giving up my rights, just as Christ laid down his life for the church.
Although I wouldn't say that all I "know" about discipleship, church planting, missional church, and so on is rubbish, it pales in comparison to the one thing that has truly made me an effective ambassador for the kingdom of God: my own death. Death to needing to be right. Death to materialism. Death to recognition. Death to anything that gets between me and Jesus. The Apostle Paul heralds, "I have been crucified with Christ..." (Gal 2:20).
And now, I share with you this mystery: this death I'm talking about is, perhaps, most fully played out in the marital relationship. Again, Paul writes, "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Eph 5:31, 32).
All this is to say that the depths of discipleship, church planting, all that has to do with the proliferation of the Kingdom, is first and foremost about Christ-followers who are willing to actually be like Christ in their relationships. We must make ourselves nothing, taking on the very nature of servants (Phil 2:7).
Any man can have a wife, but only a man who dies can have a bride. And guess what? Men with brides make for good elders, something vitally necessary for a healthy, vibrant church...just ask Jesus how he planted his first (and only) church.