The Divine Obsession

September/October 1995

 

 

"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 a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love,
It would be utterly scorned."    
Song of Songs 8:6-7 NIV

 

    It is said that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and it is often guessed that he wrote those lines—not that it would take a great genius to come up with them, but, given our 20th century fears and insecurities about love, all of our ridiculous attempts to achieve and/or sustain it, it is a wise person who knows the beauty, the power, and the value of a thing that cannot be bought and cannot be extinguished. These few, simple lines outweigh the volumes of magazines, manuals and marital aids that tell us that love is weak, fickle and manipulable, that tell us that love is something we generate, something that looks very much like us. We are weak, fickle and manipulable—love is not. Love is something God generates—it looks very much like Him.

    But what does God look like?

    Back in the 70's when it became "cool" for Christians to read and write books about sex, I read (of course) several such books. One of those books dismissed the medieval notion that Song of Songs was allegorical. It suggested that since Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairveau, etc., were not "cool" enough to have been living in the 1970's and since they were celibates (and certainly celibacy is uncool and unsexy), they were naturally too hung up to see that Song of Songs was obviously merely an erotic poem. Now that sex was okay for Christians, we could finally admit that inflamed love, impassioned love, "erotic love" was the subject of Solomon's wonderful work. Godly love, "agape love" was okay too—but it was stable, rational, intellectual and obligatory.

    But now I wonder...

    Could it be that God "feels"? Could God be capable of passion? Could God be excited or must He be austere? Are we comfortable with the image of God as Father and nervous about God as Lover (some of us even prefer God as Parent—less a personality, more an ideal). Are we happy to have God be the Creator, but scared to think of him as being Creative? Do we like God being an engineer, but balk at his being an artist? Does his being a logician comfort us, but His being a poet threaten us? Do we enjoy the glow of God's light but shade ourselves from the heat of his flames? Does the idea that Jesus tolerated the sinful woman's anointing of His feet and John resting his head on Jesus' breast make us squirm, so the thought that Jesus enjoyed this makes us sick? How is it that we can accept that Moses saw a bush that burned and was not consumed, yet we doubt that God can love in a rage and never cool?

    Could it be time to reread the Song of Songs, to rethink our images of God, to experience again the love of God? I think it must be. I hope it's not too late.