Song of Songs. ‘Love, Decision, Engagement, Singleness, Wedding, Affirmation, Refreshment’
Song of Songs chapter 3 to chapter 5:1, July 26th 2020.
Lord, before your eyes, everything is uncovered and laid bare: speak your word – living and active – let it penetrate our souls and spirits: Examine our thoughts, and by your Holy Spirit renew the attitudes of our hearts, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Victor Frankl marched through Auschwitz. The group of men close together to help keep warm. Frankl heard a whisper ‘If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.’’ Thoughts of his own wife, flooded into Frankl’s mind – in his mind he could see her totally clear – her warm smile, her honest encouraging nod, the way her eyes squinted when she laughed. A powerful wave of love for her, overwhelmed him and carried him away from this bleak hopeless reality. He wrote: ‘I understood how a man, who has nothing left in this world, may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the meaning of the words: ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.’
The One my soul loves.
The power of contemplation of a loved one. To lift us when we are in a dark place.
The couple have been on an emotional journey. Can you recall the first months of your relationship – how was it?
The lady shared about her sense of feeling different, insecure because she works in the fields.
She particularly remembers one visit from her loved one. He came to where she lived. He looked for her through all the windows. Then he invited her to come with him. To see that winter was past. To touch the new flowers. To hear the singing of the birds. To taste the first fruit of the fig trees. To smell the vines sharing their fragrance.
Do you have a particular favourite memory with your loved one?
He later says, ‘catch for us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards’. The lovers were committed, that anything that could cause potential problems between them is to be resolved. It is the little foxes that can cause the biggest problems in a relationship. Problems are not to be minimized or ignored, they are to be named, so the couple can begin to deal with them.
‘My Soul Loves’ (3:1-4).
Four times, the lady says. The word for love is Ahave. Ahave is about love for each other, affection. But it is more than an inner state. It is means to act lovingly towards, to be loyal to. Love here means to live in a certain way, it means to throw your lot in with them – not to hedge your bets.
The Hebrew word is ‘nephesh’ – which is usually translated soul. This is more than just your inner spirit. It can be translated as ‘life’ – you love as long as you have breath. You love with all your life – you love with every moment throughout your life. Loving someone is not where you wedge in a few moments for him or her, between hobbies, sport, tv, work etc. Love with all your life, includes the idea of being willing to sacrifice for them. This is the challenge of her words.
Put it together. The one, I love – I love with my affections but also in actions and with total loyalty, I love in this way, with all my life, I love him with every moment of my life, I love as long as I have breath, I love him and I am willing to sacrifice for him. ‘The One my Soul loves’.
The Dream (3:1-4)
What are these events she talks about? The way it is described suggests it is a dream or her imagination. ‘all night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves’ She is in bed but cannot find someone. … she goes into the streets at night, the guards are faceless anonymous, even when she finds him, he says nothing – compared to how chatty he has been. She takes him to her home. The dream reflects her anxieties. She looked for him, she could not find him. It reminds us that threats to love don’t just come from outside – but they can come from within us too – our imagination, our anxieties, our fears.
It may in fact not be a dream. Dreams we often cannot control, though sometimes we choose our actions. It is possible, it is her thinking – like Eponine sings, On My Own in Les Miserables about her love for Marius, which she imagines. Could she be imagining? She is thinking about the relationship. He has proposed. She considers. She decides. Yes., he is the one to commit her life to, to grow old and grey with. She goes into the city in her mind, she finds him, she takes him to her family home to her parents and she is ready to consummate their love. She thinks, imagines, decides, to commit the rest of life to him – ‘all I am I give to you, all I have I share with you’ as the Marriage service says.
‘I held him and would not let him go.’
Dating, and then engagement are. We want to lay strong foundations for lasting marriage. It is about discernment but also it is about helping to build something that lasts.
This pre-marriage relationship is about learning to put at its centre: faithfulness to each other, self-lessness, an emphasis on pursuing God together. These things will bring much growth in personal and spiritual maturity. That, in turn, leads to wiser decisions – pre marriage, post marriage. It is not the length of time that a couples’ been together pre-marriage, it is the quality of the outcome we look for! We remember relationships are, sadly, not an exact science – if only! There are some things that a couple need to be aware of before they make marriage plans. It doesn’t matter how they are discovered as long as they know some essential truths about each other by the time they say ‘I do’. It is things like being ready to think and act responsibly, sacrificially, and selflessly, and knowing where you match and where you differ, and how you will multiply the strength of these. It is, before saying ‘’I do’’ , to have already a history of bringing the best out of each other. How long this takes – how long to date / be engaged – is up to each couple. It may be helpful for such a couple – engaged or dating for awhile – to do a course, to help think through and chat through things.. A course which I found helpful is the ‘Marriage Preparation Course’ – very practical oriented, with couples chatting by themselves, on topics like expressing feelings and listening, conflict, shared values, difference, forgiveness. This is something we are willing to run as a church if folks at All Saints will find that helpful.
We are focusing on couples. However, everyone is single at sometime. I wanted to share on this. Singleness doesn’t not eliminate us from living full and godly lives. Whether we are single for a season – by choice or simply we have not met someone we would like to date – or our singleness is a life long calling, we are encouraged that Jesus was single and he demonstrated the fullest, most godly life ever! We need to remember that it is 100% valid to be single. Many people who are single are peaceful and happy being so. However, it is important to say for some it can be hard to be single.
Someone I know Emily – niece of a good friend of mine – shared how being single, watching people get married could be very hard for her. She said: ‘’I spent many years watching all my friends get married – the Facebook posts, the insta stories, the snapchats, etc etc, while I was watching from the sidelines, miserable in my singleness and unable to do a single thing about it.’’
For some who are single, male or female, they have been for awhile and don’t want to be, so they long for their wedding day. Maybe there is fear if you will meet someone, after a number of relationships didn’t work out. Maybe you are newly single and the pain is too close and too real. Maybe you are separated or divorced and seeing other couples, inadvertedly causes pain as you remember what should or could have been. For some, they have felt called to marriage and family life from a young age and when thinking about what career to choose, you said ‘I want to be a wife and a mother’.
It is important to know, for some singles, there can be a sadness, a longing, a despair, and it is important that you know that you are not forgotten, not alone. We bring our burdens and pains to the Lord, Love God with all our heart soul and mind, but we love our neighbours, we support and stand with each other as a loving community.
The Wedding Day: 3:6-11
Jackie Pullinger works particularly with heroin addicts and with prostitutes in Hong Kong. She told the story about a 72-year-old woman called Alfreda. Alfreda had been a heroin addict for 60 years, and she’d been involved in the prostitution business for 60 years.
But she was too old to work, and she used to sit outside a brothel and just poke the sewers with a stick to keep them moving freely. She’d inject her back three times a day with heroin, because her legs and her arms, they’d been overused. She had no identity card, and as far as the government was concerned she didn’t even exist.
But in the early 2000s, she gave her life to Christ, and she received forgiveness, and she began to change. She went to live in one of Jackie’s houses. And to begin with she was quite difficult, but then God started to heal her, and she saw that there were people who were worse off than her, and she began to try and help them. And she changed.
Then she met a man called Little Wa, who was aged 75, and they got married. Jackie Pullinger described her wedding as `the wedding of the decade’: because this former prostitute, heroin addict, walked down the aisle, in white,
cleansed, forgiven, transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
The Wedding day. As she has described her love, as a king earlier, here is more royal imagery. He has been described as a gazelle, a young stag, her husband is now compared to Solomon, their wedding is like a royal occasion. What are the memories of our wedding day? Would we have said – it was a day fit for a queen or a king? There is a great group with him. In South Asian weddings, the groom arrives in a great procession, with extended family and friends. Her husband to be. Has all she needs – his wealth –
he can protect her – the warriors –
he provides – the man made the carriage.
How beautiful you are! (4:1-15).
Weddings are amazing days. It has been a day with everyone cheering you on. Then finally you are alone. What we hear now is the longest the man ever speaks. Five times he calls her ‘my bride.’
On the morning of my wedding, one of the things I had to work on with my best man Stu – was the wedding speech. He kept it simple – thank the Mum, thank those who helped, thank those who came, and praise the Bride! I had these words written on a scrap of paper in my hand. And I gave Jolanda a dozen red roses, which I think helped as well. Here the praising and sharing is intimate and exclusive – on the wedding night, just the two of them.
Tastes do vary from culture to culture. It perhaps is unlikely if our spouse, would appreciate to be compared to a set of mountain goats, or sheep emerging from the dip. My OT tutor Bob Fyall, enjoyed the idea of comparing your wives neck to a military tower! What is inspiring here, is in their love, they praise each other. She knew the Tower of David, it is something she found kind, valuable what he said. You see communicating love and expressing admiration in both words and actions can enhance every marriage. Not only about personality, culture, wisdom – for which we certainly can express admiration. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and that includes our bodies – what do we appreciate about our loved one’s body – the eyes, face, arms, body… can we express our admiration? The love shown here – calls us to affirm, to have romance as an ongoing feature of our relationships – not just on the wedding night or honeymoon. The husband –his bottom line: how beautiful you are!
‘You are a Garden fountain.’ Refreshment.
In the closing words, he says: ‘you are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water’. We have reflected upon many images. He says, his bride, is as refreshing to him as a fountain. Could our spouse say this about us – that we are refreshing to them like a fountain on a hot day? Sometimes the familiarity that comes with marriage can cause us to forget the feelings of love and refreshment we shared at our beginning. Do we refresh our spouse? Or has our marriage become one where we bring only a burden of complaints, sorrows and problems?
As partners in marriage, we can commit to change. We can refresh each other by an encouraging word, an unexpected gift, a change of pace in the day – to slow down or simply be together – a surprise phone call, or a note or message, or even to bring refreshment by withholding the discussion of some problem – even though it is important to you – until the proper time for your spouse?
Your spouse needs you to be a haven of refreshment because the rest of the world often isn’t.
A springtime romance, a decision to marry, a glorious wedding day, intimate sharing on the wedding night and honeymoon. We are half way through the poem, it would be a lovely ending. As the friends say: ‘Eat O friends, drink drink your fill o lover’s.
But the story, the second half of poem continues, sharing about problems, distance in the marriage and then healing, restoration…
Lord, love in a world like ours cannot remain immune from fears and worries, at such times, help us cast our anxieties onto you, may your love drive out our fears, may we grow in trust in you and be faithful.
Lord we thank you for your gift of love and relationships. We ask that you will be would be at the centre of all the relationships we are part of, and touch them with your love. Amen.