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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I am a big fan of The Song of Solomon, that little book somewhere in the middle of the Bible that many people tend to ignore, either because it’s too strangely metaphoric or too sensual for their tastes.

There are many ways that people interpret Song. Some view it simply as a love story, or more accurately probably a musical of sorts, that tells of the redeeming love between a good king and a lowly villager. Some consider it an allegorical story of God’s love for Israel, and for others the story of Jesus’ love relationship with the church. Others use it to gain insight into the emotions of God, more particularly the heart of our Bridegroom Jesus toward us, individually and personally, as his bride. The story also provides some important perspectives on marital love.

They all work for me. I think anyone who claims that they have the sole “right” revelation on Song of Solomon are missing out on God’s amazing ability to impart multiple revelations within one set of scriptures. But enough theology.

Today I want to focus on one tiny verse in this tiny book. Actually, it is just one phrase from that verse, yet it has incredible significance for marriage.

A Story of Unrelenting Love

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it is a passionate tale of love between a good and powerful king and a lowly Shulamite woman who works in the family vineyards. When they first meet, she sees herself as unworthy of the king’s attention and affection. She proclaims:
I am dark but lovely… Song of Solomon 1:5a

Her darkness is a literal reference to her skin, which has become darkened from working out in the vineyards, but it’s is also a statement of the condition of her soul.

To me, the whole rest of the book unpacks and unfolds this “dark but lovely” paradox. The king, in extolling her physical beauty and proclaiming his passionate and steadfast love for her, wins her to himself by redeeming her “darkness” and convincing her that she is indeed “lovely.” Even in her doubt and weakness, her lack of trust in him, and her hesitation to follow him, he remains unfaltering in his love and in his praises of her virtues.

He looks past the dark and into the lovely. And it transforms her life.

The truth is that we are all dark but lovely.

Where do you see your darkness? Is it in your physical appearance or body image? Is it selfishness or fits of anger? Are there parts of your soul (thought life, negative emotions, or self-centered agenda) or body (physical appearance, unkind words or unloving actions) that keep you trapped, feeling unworthy of love, affection and desire?

We all have our stuff. We all have some darkness. You do, and so does your spouse. And for most of us, it doesn’t take much to convince us of our darkness. Even though the story doesn’t end there, the problem is that the lovely part can be much harder for us to see, both in ourselves and in our spouses.

The reason I love the Song of Solomon is the way it so clearly portrays the transformational power of unconditional and unrelenting love. It is also the kind of power that can transform your marriage.

The Shulamite woman is transformed out of her sense of worthlessness and into the sure knowledge of the love and desire of her bridegroom king. She finds herself delivered from shame and embraces glory in the courts of her king.

There are clear spiritual implications of this paradox, but as important as that is, I really want to focus on your marriage here.

Lessons for Your Marriage

Husbands, do you see yourself in the role of the unrelenting lover king found in this story? Can you see past your wife’s darkness and into her loveliness? In the words of Ephesians 5, do you see her “without spot or blemish.” Can you love her beyond her weaknesses and imperfections, affirming her, nurturing her, adoring her, loving her “as if?” Further, are you able to shift her own eyes off of her darkness and onto her loveliness and beauty? Such is the power of your unconditional love for your wife.

Wives, this paradox cuts both ways. Maybe it helps you to think in terms of “dark but handsome” instead of “dark but lovely.” Either way, your unrelenting love, shown largely in the form of unconditional respect and words of affirmation, can have the same kind of transformative effect on your husband. Can you see in him the kind of man he was created to be, in spite of his shortcomings and mistakes? Can you believe the best of him and believe in his love for you, even when his words and actions sometimes speak otherwise? Can you love him “as if?” Further, can you help him see the best in himself?

Lastly, realize that in the story of the king and the Shulamite woman, the power lies in the unrelenting words of affection, affirmation and desire that flow freely to one another out of the hearts overflowing with love. In this little book there are more than a hundred such unabashed statements of affection.

It is not enough to love unconditionally; it must show up in your words and actions. A lot.

Take a lesson from this obscure and often overlooked book of the Bible. The next time your spouse blows it, remember the phrase “dark but lovely.”


Mary said...

I have to ask where in Song of Solomon did the Beloved (or Solomon if you read this as two separate individuals) give "steadfast" love to the woman? Where is there any declarations on the part of a male figure for ongoing love? I only see statements of the moment.

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