Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are doves behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of short ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which
bear twins, & not one among them has lost its young.
Your lips are like a scarlet thread, & your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hand a thousand shields, all
of them shields of warriors.
Song of Solomon 4:1-4
What lady does not want the love of her life speak words such as these into her ear? What bride would not give anything to have her groom whisper sweet nothings like this to her as they take their first dance at the wedding reception? Well, maybe not these words. These words might just illicit a slap on the cheek or a questioning look. The first line is fine, & even the doves are still appropriate, but all the sheep talk is lost on today's modern urban reader. But still, the message is clear: here is a man truly in love with his bride, & doing his best to let her know of her importance to him.
Most everyone can appreciate this sentiment, even identify with them, but they do seem out of place in the Bible. I even stopped my quotation from this book because the next verse goes on to praise more intimate portions of his lady's anatomy, & that, surely, is not something we should be talking about in church. We are all for love, especially the love of husband & wife, but what happens when that love turns unseemly? That's the problem with the book of Song of Solomon - it's just too physical. It's too intimate. The only people who seem to love the book are youngsters who want to read something racy under the facade of reading Holy Scripture.
But that is the problem with love in all of its power. Love is always too messy. It is always too intimate. It always intrudes into the safe & polite face we want to place on life. We have to restrict love to times of solitude, when we lock ourselves away from the world, so it doesn't see us at our most vulnerable. Or we restrict it to specific times & places, wedding chapels & receptions, maternity wards & nurseries, candle-lit dinners & quiet nights behind your own locked doors. When love is shown in broad daylight, when it intrudes up on the drudgery of daily life, we get uncomfortable & feel a little bit shamed at having to see it. We turn from seeing love expressed, & even in its most innocent & appropriate (say at an airport when a family member returns from an extended parting) it often gets comments of "Get a room!"
And so if our expressions of love for each other can cause us so much discomfort & even pain, it is not strange that the true Love of God is just beyond uncomfortable for us. If we cannot handle to see people show love, how can we stand to see the source of pure Love, in all its strength & power, show us His love for us. That is why people can be comfortable with a plain cross, but so scandalized at a crucifix, with the suffering figure of Christ hanging on it. This is the power of love in its purest & most concentrated form, a literal self-sacrificing love. The Love of Jesus for the entire world, a Love given with the knowledge that many (the vast majority) will never know, appreciate, or even attempt to return it. That Love is always unseemly, inappropriate, & uncomfortable.
Love is always messy because it is always giving up of itself. True Love is always one that suffers for the one to whom it is given. True Love always disrupts the daily drudge, the common troubles & trials, the familiar gloom of life with the true Light of care & devotion. We get so used to the self-centeredness, the isolation, the pain & aches of life that any relief from that grind is more of an annoyance than a joy. So we try to contain love to safe places & quiet contained times, lest it seep out & contaminate the rest of life. And to this God says, "You can try".
God is Love. His Son was born, lived, died, & rose to display that love. The Spirit rejoices to pour that Love in ever growing torrents across the world. Our Lord takes great pleasure in His Love stopping, interrupting, inconveniencing, & drowning the status quo because the status is not quo in our favor. We need to read that Book of Solomon's Song again & again, not to give ourselves a romantic jolt, but to see the depth, the warmth, & the strength of God's Love that will make us uncomfortable with its ardor, knowing that we can never return such a Love, but only marvel at the One who loves us just that much.
In His Peace, alone,
Pastor Red Etzel