Monday, December 19, 2005

The Passionate Suitor

One of our deepest human desires is to give and receive love. I think this is a reflection of being created in God's image. For eternity, love has flowed between members of the Trinity. When He created, He gave us this gift. This desire is met in part as it's expressed in our relationships with others. However, I think the real reason for its existence is to drive us to intimacy with Him. The ultimate fulfillment of this longing is only met by the touch of the infinite Lover of our souls and our fervent response to Him.

In Song of Songs 1:12, we find the maiden sitting at dinner with the shepherd, having accepted his earlier invitation to follow. It's in the context of this desire for a loving relationship that the young maiden says to herself:

While the king is at his table, my perfume fills the air with its fragrance.
She's sitting at the table and notices him noticing her. She's thinking of what he means to her, hoping for some response. And respond he does. In verse 15 he says to her:
Look at you! You are beautiful, my true love!
Look at you! You are so beautiful!
Here she is, still the 'dark but lovely' immature maiden of a few verses earlier. She has weakness and sin in her, but she also has desire for him. When he looks at her, he sees, not only the young shepherdess that has brought her flocks following after his, but also the mature bride which will emerge. He's looking at her through the corridor of time, seeing the effect of his love lavished on her, and the changes it brings. With this vision, from the beginning he relates to her as if she's complete and calls her beautiful.

Remember the Banquet of Wine I talked about ealier? (See the articles here.) This is where, as part of the betrothal process, the groom pours out a glass of wine for his intended. This represents his pouring out of himself for her.

I see this same thing happening in the relationship between Jesus and the disciples. At the last supper, Jesus took the cup and passed it among them saying 'Drink. This is Me, poured out for you.' Further, in the context of the same meal, He told them he was going away to prepare a place in His Father's house and would return for them so they could live with Him. This is more imagery taken directly from Jewish wedding customs.

Yet while He was saying and doing these things, He knew what was going to happen later that very night. He knew the betrayal of Peter. He knew that the rest would forsake Him during the crucifixion. The disciples were very dark, but He saw them as lovely. He too looked through time, past that night's failings, saw their future intimacy and called them to a position of authority.

And by proxy, we were there with them in that room. In love He calls us to a journey wherein we'll be changed by a passionate relationship with Him. He meets us as immature people, dark with sin. He loves us first. Having poured his life out for us, He forgives our sins and calls us before we're cleaned up. It's only then that He starts the cleansing, knowing that eventually, in spite of failings along the way, we will eventually be the mature, radiant bride, lovely in His sight.