Song of Songs

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
passion as fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.

This is the first scripture passage that physically struck me, much like being punched in the solar plexus (which I do not recommend, but makes a good kinetic comparison). I remember actually becoming aware of this passage by reading Madeline L’Engle’s book Many Waters as a kid. I thought – woah, that’s in the Bible? So I read the Song of Solomon and my whole view of scripture changed. See, there is the Bible that the Church teaches you about, and then there is a very different Bible that you actually sit down and read. There’s much more disturbing stuff in there than you’d ever expect listening to 100 years of sermons.

I remember reading the Song, then reading it again and again, thinking “This is it. This is the point.” Not the eroticism – though that shouldn’t be overlooked by any means – but love. To me, that is the entirety of our Christian hope, and the entirety of our call. That God’s love is more powerful than death, that God’s love is powerful enough to move the world, that God’s love has redeemed and is redeeming and will redeem, despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite all the reasons in the world to despair. Not only that, but that our love participates in this love, that our love is the way we embody God for each other, that this power that we can only glimpse now is the axis of the universe, the fulcrum which turns everything around. That our love is powerful, that it can actually change things, that it is in fact stronger than hatred, stronger than the hideous evil that we so readily embody time and time again.

When we say this, we are talking about hope. We are talking about faith. Faith despite every reason to doubt. Hope despite war and slums and rape and genocide. Victory despite our massive failure, at every turn it seems, to live up to our calling.

From a certain standpoint, I can see how this is absurd, how its like the ravings of a lunatic. From another standpoint, I think that this is necessary, that things must be this way. That what turns me turns us, and what turns us turns everything. Until we come around to what we’re meant to be. And for me, that’s the tension – no reason to believe, and every reason to believe. I’d reconcile them if I could, believe me.

10 thoughts on “Song of Songs

  1. Doug,Please continue writing. Please publish. Please go on a preaching tour, or something like it. You have a gift, and that gift is to share the heart of the Gospel. Never stop sharing that gift, for God is in it.

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  2. Now you went and got all poetic on me.But I do believe that when one begins to understand the meaning of the Gospel, there is no other way to recast it except in poetry and in song.So yes, let if flow and let it glow.

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  3. When my husband proposed to me, he took me to a cemetery, led me in front of a giant Grim Reaper, and read those words to me.I said yes.Later, I’ll tell you about the cactus he gave me on Valentine’s Day…

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  4. Okay – I ran across this sort of by accident while doing my sermon for the week(long story involving much procrastination)and I was struck at how well you articulated the reason why this is my favorite passage in the bible.Thank you =)

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