Connections 01.10.2016: The Most Beautiful Bride

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Song of Solomon 6:4-12

I imagine you’ve heard of a hopeless romantic.

I’m not one of those. I’m a hopeful romantic. I believe that hope leads to love and that love leads to hope. I believe that love changes the way we see those we love.

Some of the best evidence that I’m right about that is found in the words we romantics use to describe the one we love. We use exaggerated, over-the-top, flowery language when we speak to our beloved.

Without going into detail, I’ll admit to sometimes using such language when speaking to my Good Wife. She often protests when I do, which of course only encourages me. When she says, “Stop it!” she might as well say “More, more!”

She’d have to be a raving egomaniac to take what I’m saying at face value. And she’s not.

Am I exaggerating when I talk that way to her? You bet I am. Am I telling the truth? You bet I’m not.

I’m telling more than the truth. I’m telling what’s truer than true. I’m telling the truth that love reveals.

If I step back and try to see my wife the way everyone else sees her, I see a lovely woman. But when I look at her through my eyes, through the eyes that see her in light of all that we’ve shared over the last almost forty years and of all that I’ve found her to be during our decades together, she’s Raquel Welch, Suzy Bogguss, Jennifer Aniston, and Linda Ronstadt melded together and multiplied by a zillion.

It’s not rational. But it’s real. It’s reality viewed through the prism of love.

That’s how we should read the words in the Song of Solomon. On the one hand, this is not a book that should be taken literally. If the woman to whom the man speaks really has hair like a flock of goats, teeth like a flock of ewes, and cheeks like halves of a pomegranate, she’d be rather weird to behold—but you couldn’t behold her, because she’s also bright as the sun. On the other hand, this is a book that must be taken literally. It’s about the literal romance between a man and a woman. The man and woman speak to and of each other in exaggerated and symbolic language. But their symbolic language expresses their best effort to express verbally their literal love for one another.

The presence of the Song of Solomon in our Bibles tells us to praise God for love in all of its aspects, including the physical. The book’s language reflects and affirms the way that real people talk to each other when they’re really in love.

Let’s go and do likewise.

By the way, my Good Wife tells me I’m all right, too .

Discussion

1. How can our words build up our beloved? How can they tear down our beloved?
2. How can we make sure that the beautiful and seductive words we speak in our marriage relationship have integrity?
3. In what ways can and should our Christian faith affect the ways that we speak and act in our marriage relationship? What does our faith teach us about such matters as selflessness vs. selfishness, giving vs. receiving, partnership vs. domination, and celebration vs. manipulation?
4. Can we talk to each other in exaggerated and romantic ways all the time? What kinds of words do we need to use in our marriage relationships in addition to romantic words?
5. Why do you think the Song of Solomon is included in the Bible? What does it add to the biblical witness that we wouldn’t have without it?

Reference Shelf

The poetry belongs to daily life, to the world of courtship, betrothal, and marriage. It is lyric poetry, stressing the mood of erotic relationships, earthily and also with vivid and gripping uses of imagery and the natural world. Egyptian love poetry of the Late Kingdom offers close analogies to the poetry found here, although there are also rather close parallels with the much later Arab poetry belonging to the celebration of the beauty of bride and groom at betrothal time.

Interpretations of the Song of Songs today stress this affirmative attitude toward the sexual life, toward physical beauty and its attractions. Biblical religion goes far toward demystification of the sexual dimensions of existence, placing sex in the world of God’s good creation, a gift to be enjoyed and affirmed.

Walter Harrelson, “Song of Songs,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University, 1990), 848.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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