Avoiding the Cliches
Blessed Lord, whatever I am doing today, may I honor You in all things throughout all the day.
Read Song of Songs 6:4-7:9
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
What’s the best way of saying that you love someone? Would that be the same as saying it to God?
“Terrible as an army with banners” (6:4, KJV)–the Song has been in circulation in Western culture for thousands of years, but I’ve never seen it in love poetry, apart from this passage. You could try “awesome” for “terrible,” as a couple of modern translations do, but that sets up another set of associations with “teenspeak,” so that’s no help. We could say that her beauty is so extraordinary that it evokes fear; he is overwhelmed with the look of her eyes. She’s not scary, exactly; certainly she doesn’t seem to be the kind of woman who needs men to fear her as a kind of power play or self-defense. What the bridegroom is revealing is his own weakness; he’s brought up short by the depth of his own feelings of love. Such an insight makes this a great love poem. This is not an argument in favor of love. It is a frank recognition that love can knock you out. The English phrase falling in love reflects that, when we stop to think about it.
Because even “I love you” is already a quotation, it is sometimes difficult to escape from the ready-made phrase. Is the beloved really “flawless,” or is that the rosy spectacles of infatuation talking, waiting for a rude awakening?
These poems seem to invite a somewhat different kind of allegorical writing, if you want to use them to think about your relationship with God. Surely it’s Jesus who makes us astonished by the depth of his love for us. But “flawless”–isn’t that what Jesus actually makes us, not because we deserve it, but because his grace transforms us, truly and deeply? See Jude v. 24, for example: “[He] is able … to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”
God is a jealous lover. So were these two. Rejoice in the glorious and jealous love of Christ for you.
Father, I always stand in need of learning more about loving others. Instruct me today, so that I can love others better in Your name.
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