Reading the Song of Songs lately, I began to ponder why, in this short book, one verse is repeated three times.
Oh, let me warn you, sisters,
Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up,
until the time is ripe—and you’re ready.
This same warning appears in 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4. (The version quoted is The Message.) While it’s expressed as a warning, really it’s a question. The question is: Are you ready for love? Are you ready to fall in love?
Right now, whether you realize it or not, you’re standing on top of a tall building. This skyscraper, a modern version of the Tower of Babel, is your ego. Are you ready to step off into the void and float down into the arms of love?
Have you ever fallen in love? Do you remember what it’s like? Do you remember how it completely took over your life? How your lover became the center of everything you did, everything you thought, everything you felt? How it was almost like a sickness, draining all your strength, yet at the same time filling you with a new and fantastic energy that made you wild with joy and ready to do the craziest things? How it simultaneously turned you into a different person and kindled to life the person you were always meant to be? How it filled you with doubt, certainty, peace, conflict, ecstasy, despair—every emotion imaginable? How it completely upset the applecart of your life?
There are many places in the world, and times in history, where if you happen to fall in love with the wrong person, there’s only one thing you can do: run away with that person and never go back. Your life—your former life—is over. Your new life of love requires the sacrifice of absolutely everything: family, friends, country, religion, your own cherished little ways and habits. Of course, some of these things may be restored to you, but you don’t know. You don’t really know who you are anymore, nor how or what of your former life is even worth recovering. The road you’re setting out on is a road of total abandonment and you don’t know where it leads. When you run away you have to leave in the middle of the night, when all is dark. All you know is that you’re in love and that love itself is a light, the light. Love is the greatest thing ever, the only thing, and you’re ready to follow it wherever it goes, even to death. Nothing can stop love. It’s a locomotive with wings. It’s the most powerful force in the world, and it’s relentless. Whatever love wants, you must give, and you will give.
If you don’t know this feeling, then you’ve never been in love. If you do, then like the woman in the Song of Songs you can say,
All I want is to sit in his shade,
to taste and savor his delicious love.
(2:3, The Message)
Is this what you want for your life? Do you want to be swept off your feet, radicalized, utterly transformed? Do you want your whole life to be about love? Is this all you want? Do you want to be love’s slave?
Many people (perhaps understandably) do not, which is why there are atheists, idol worshipers, adherents of false religions, and luke-warm ‘christians’ with a small ‘c.’ They have counted the cost of total love, the cost of embracing the true and only God, and they want nothing to do with Him. If they can’t disbelieve in God entirely, then they substitute something else for the truth, something that looks good, even feels good, but it’s not the real thing. It’s phony, a lie, and it can never set them free, can never make their heart soar, can never build a fire in their deepest soul of souls and make them truly human.
How about you? Whether you know it or not, the coals of love are already glowing, however faintly, somewhere deep down in your heart. Will you stir them up, or will you douse them? Will you settle for some pale milktoast version of religion, or do you want the full-on, full-strength, wham-bam TNT tectonic Creator of the Universe?
This is the question repeated no less than three times in the short book called the Song of Songs. It’s the same question Jesus asked in His very first words in the gospel of John: “What do you want?” (1:38)
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