Almost three years ago, I read Song of Solomon. It’s a book of the Bible that people joke about, or uncomfortably avoid, or surreptitiously skim through when nobody’s watching (lookin’ at you, curious tween-agers). I’ve most often heard it referred to as the Biblical portrayal of what marriage is supposed to look like between a man and a woman. But that’s not why I read it on a January night in 2016.
I had planned to go to a worship event on campus that evening; however, as the time drew near, I felt like I was supposed to stay in and read Song of Solomon. I had a pretty negative opinion of SoS at the time. I thought it was solely about human marriage, and as a single girl who already dreamed of romance, I didn’t care to read it and stir up even more desires to be married. “Really, God?” I asked incredulously. “Surely You want me to go worship with other believers, and not skip out and read a sappy book instead?”
I somewhat prided myself in viewing my relationship with God as Lord and servant, Father and child. I had avoided throwing “gooey” emotions into the mix. So I was surprised when, of all the grand and glorious things God could have proclaimed to me in response to my question, I heard instead, “Stay in with Me for date night.”
Wondering what they’d put in the cafeteria meatloaf, I sat down at my dorm desk. I flipped open my Bible to Song of Solomon and quieted myself to pray. “God, You know what You’re doing. Open my eyes to what You’ve got to show me in this book. I love You.” I added that last part hesitantly because I was still unfamiliar with how to tell this vast, mighty Being that I loved Him. How does a human appropriately love a Divinity?
As I worked my way through the Song of Solomon, my perspective radically changed – and with it, so did my heart. Let me walk you through what the Holy Spirit showed me:
Imagine living in a beautiful garden. It’s not yours to own, but it’s been given to you for you to tend (SoS 1:6, 8). This garden lies a few miles down the road from a mountain. The garden owner has a son named Jesus, the prince; He rules the whole world, but He still comes “leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills” (SoS 2:8) to spend time with you. He provides you refreshment from your toil and walks you through the garden, delighting in the wonders of His creation with you (SoS 2:11-15). At the end of the day, He leaves you to work with lightened heart and worshiping lips (SoS 8:12) and He goes back to the mountain from whence He came: “Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices” (SoS 8:14).
Upon finishing the book, I felt like I had just taken an invigorating hike through the most breathtaking countryside, in the company of the adoring Majesty. My spirit was washed clean. There was nothing I wanted more than to honor Jesus with my life, to hasten the day when He would next visit me during quiet time.
That night, I learned a truth that’s absolutely crucial to the Christian life: God is our Lord and we are His servants. He is the Father and we are His children. But at the heart of His relationship with us is love and mercy. I believe He gave us the Song of Solomon to show us this. When we sit down with a Bible and a prayer, we’re not just fulfilling a daily duty. We are inviting Him to visit us so we can spend some private time delighting in each other.
It seems almost blasphemous to say that the almighty Lord, who is so busy ruling the universe and executing justice with perfect wisdom, would relish a little alone time with a mere mortal. But as C. S. Lewis says, God created us so He could love us. He gave us stewardship of His creation, to care for it as His gift to us; if we love Him, we work diligently to please Him. And there’s nothing more loving and merciful than His Son doing whatever it takes to share this delight with us – even going so far as to save our lives.
Someday soon, it will get even better. We won’t just tend the garden and get visits from Jesus during our daily devotional. We’ll go live in His own garden beyond the mountain. We’ll be eternally with the One who has set us as a seal upon His heart and engraved His hands with the marks of His love for us (SoS 8:6).