I read The Song of Solomon a few months ago and I found it hard to accept and embrace the beautiful images. It was painful to read about a perfect all-consuming love. As I came to the end of the book, I found it almost unbearable. That’s the power of words – they can lift us to the top of the mountain and dash us onto the rocks in the same moment.
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
Oh, for a love like that!
Today two young friends are getting married. I don’t know them well, but all day I’ve found myself thinking of them and praying for them, asking that they will find a depth of passion and longing for each other as described in these verses. Is this how God wishes for a wife to love her husband, a husband to love his wife? Well, that’s academic to me, husbandless. That’s something I can’t dwell on too much without snarling out in self-pity and pointless, maundering loss. So, we’ll not go down that path. Let’s move on to more constructive thoughts.
It seems to me that The Song Of Solomon shows us how God wants us to love Him. Is it how He loves us?
I think it is. So even a gnarled old widderwoman like me can know something of that raging, all-consuming love. But as with any relationship there’s a price to pay. It means submitting to love, opening up to allow this fierce love into my life, understanding that if I am to appreciate and understand this love, I have to lose some of myself. A bit like marriage.
I wonder what little bits of themselves my young friends will have to surrender? In a few days time it will be the 26th anniversary of my husband’s death – we’ve spent much much longer apart than we did together! He had some funny old ideas, my Scottish George.
I, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect.
Sorry, we weren’t going to dwell on marriage. Back to God: How does God love me? Not ‘How does He love me?’ but ‘How the hell can He love someone like me?’
You know, the thing is, I think, (and these phrases are all delaying tactics while I play around with how best to present this without sounding like a megalomaniac) I think God loves me because He knows and loves me like I love myself, only more so. I know that I’m selfish and self-centred but I quite like myself anyway. Oh, false modesty makes me deny it but in my core, my essence, I love me quite a lot. I love myself so much that I’ve committed most sins to protect and serve me (not murder). I like myself probably more than I like anyone else. I know that I’m often wrong but I can live with my wrongness much more easily than I can live with your wrongness. I make myself laugh sometimes. Most of the time, actually. I find it easy to forgive myself… well, compared to forgiving others. And I tell myself that God finds it easy to forgive me too, because He loves me. I think He smiles at me, because He loves me. I think He guides and chastises me because He knows and loves me. I know some bits of this are probably wrong but I’m not sure which bits, and I know that He understands that as well. He made this bear of little brain and He loves her.
He’s in me. And I am in Him. That’s how much He loves me. You can say He loves me so much that He died for me, but it’s even more than that. He loves me so much that we are one.
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. Song Of Solomon 7:10
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love. Zephaniah 3:17
I love the thought of being quieted by His love.
neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
What’s more, my life is now hidden in Christ! That’s in Colossians 3, and I must have read that a dozen times without thinking much about it, until our Pastor described this as ‘my life is safe in Christ, united with Him, hidden in Him, surrounded by Him, protected by Him.’ Sounds like a passionate love to me. Hidden in Him. Look for me as you may, you won’t find me until you find Him. There’s another thought there but I can’t quite keep hold of it long enough to nail it down. Sorry.
Does that mean we are always in sync, God and me? Perfectly lovey-dovey, walking into the sunset had in hand? No way, chicklets. I step away from Him. I get things wrong. I do good things very badly and I do very bad things really well. I am contrary and when I am contrary I turn away and let go of His hand. But He never lets go of me. Forgive the failing metaphor – you know what I mean.
So, tonight, as I think of my newly married (just about now) friends, I pray that they will grow to know each other inside and out and back to front, every which way, and will love each other anyway. I pray that as they surrender to each other, they will come even nearer to surrendering to God. I pray that they will know the excitement and joy of love for each other and, in that, catch a glimpse of God’s love for them. And that when one of them is cross enough to turn away, the other will just smile and wait for the turning-back. Making up is great. Almost worth falling out for, but not quite.
Have I stopped being self-pitying and maundering? Yeah. I think so. I know that God loves me, I know that I am His bride as the church is His bride, that He is my beloved, and I am His. I have promised to love, honour and obey Him (and when I don’t, I know He waits patiently for me), and forsaking all others I cleave to Him.
Till death us do part…. oh, hang on, no.
Never to part. Till death and beyond. Eternity.
And that’s my final wish for my young friends tonight, that their love for God will be unwavering and passionate and shared right through their lives, and beyond. Way, way beyond. Way way way beyond. I’d quite like to break into the Star Trek intro but it doesn’t quite fit.
Oh, sod it, here it comes anyway…. queue music: Marriage: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Matrimony. Its life-long mission: to explore the strange new world of another person. To seek out new futures and new horizons. To boldly go where angels fear to tread!
PS. Turns out I’m not a sad old widderwoman at all. I’m passionately loved by God. Beat that!