Faith, Jesus

Reading the raunchiest book in the Bible.

“You are a garden locked up,
my sister,
my bride,
you are a spring enclosed,
a sealed fountain…”

 

Olive trees, camellias, rhododendrons. Japanese maple, roses, apple trees. London Plane Tree, espalier pear, cherry trees. Gums, native grasses, magnolias. So many magnolias!

When we took on the house that we now call home, we also took on a sprawling, bigger-than-we’d-have-liked garden, rambling with established trees and choked undergrowth.

The Jungle” was the nickname that kinda stuck – kinda all too easily!

Easter will mark two years since we moved here and the garden’s still a jungle. We’ve made some headway, clearing a garden bed here, sowing lawn there, building a retaining wall, planting out the hot house. And when I say “we”, you know I refer to the hubby, right?

I’ve come to enjoy this messy garden that overwhelmed me initially.

I relish the shush-ush-sway of leaves high overhead as I peg clothes on the line, sun dappling through that majestic London Plane Tree that soars to the clouds.

Picking my way barefoot along overgrown pathways and through leafy archways to the prolific lemon tree in the far corner to pluck a few for the dish I’m cooking.

Arming myself with scissors and a basket to select flowers, fern fronds and other foliage to tie together in a bouquet for a friend.

I take delight in these.

I’ve even found delight in weeding on a Saturday morning; sunshine and kids in gumboots wheeling their laughter around us as we wrench rogue plants from the soil, drawing satisfaction from the dirt.

I’ve been reading Song of Songs these past few days.

I wanted to better understand the concept of my faith being a romance with Jesus. Reading this short book of the Bible always made me feel uncomfortable, confused even. Like watching a steamy love scene in a movie with your parents sitting on the couch beside you. I know that God loves marriage and that he designed intimacy to be enjoyed (not just for procreation), but I guess it felt voyeuristic to read the platitudes of Solomon and his lover, the Shulammite beauty.

So I avoided it.

But when I jumped on a flight to Sydney with a girlfriend to attend our first Colour Conference (hosted by Hillsong Church), Song of Songs was a stand-out reference point. It’s poetic interplay was invoked to stir us to more intimate places with Jesus, encouraging us to go deeper.

Deeper has been my forever prayer.

In that room of 8000 other women, I sung my yearning, threw my hands up and heart open to “deeper”. And felt nothing.

I was not deterred!

I guess I’m learning more and more about who I am, how I operate. As Sy Rogers (another Colour Conference speaker this year) said, the Bible doesn’t say follow your feelings, it says follow Jesus. So it’s been in these quiet moments later, chewing over words and verses, jotting down thoughts, praying, that I’ve found my revelation for today.

(I heard a man speak once, a prophet, about how he settles for no less than one revelation a day – I love that! I want that!)

I know that we serve a mysterious God but have you considered the mystery within us? We are made in God’s image which gives expression to a kind of secret garden within the depths of our spirit.

“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride, you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”
– Song of Songs, 4:12.

 

These words were penned by Solomon to his beloved, but I believe it’s no coincidence that they are in the Bible for our reading today. We are not voyeurs to a love affair – we are participants.

The poetic dialogue is Jesus wooing us, articulating the rambling beauty of our garden hearts. It is the expression of His desire that we remain exclusively His.

A few short verses later we read the invitation to step into this intimate model of deeper connection with Christ.

“Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad.
Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.”
– Song of Songs, 4:16.

 

Come, Jesus, stir up the goodness within me!

The “beloved” (she who is you and I) gives voice to that yearning within all of us for depth, passion, breadth in our relationship with Jesus. And notice the garden, that intimate spirit place that mirrors our Creator Father, is possessively “his”, repeatedly so:

“I have come into my garden,
my sister,
my bride…
I have gathered…
I have eaten…
I have drunk…”
– Song of Songs, 5:1.

 

I delight in you!

This statement undergirds all of Song of Songs, voluptuous with sweet-nothings and (let’s be honest) gag-worthy, newly-wed drivel… until we realise that it’s all directed at you, at me.
Jesus delights in me.

I’m sorry, but there needs to be a big, gaping pause here.

Jesus delights in me.

*pause* (do it, let that reality soak in…)

Even as I write it I feel a wave of something too overwhelming for words. Why is this such a big deal? Lisa Harper (another Colour speaker) said this:

“I don’t want to get so distracted by my depravity that I miss how beloved I am.”

 

I’ve been distracted by the weeds, the thorns, the altogether overgrown nature of my soul that I forget that I am beloved. The Beloved one. That He delights in me. He walks there and gathers, eats, drinks – delights in what He finds in His garden, the garden He lovingly planted. He writes love songs that speak not-a-word of the parts that need pruning, hacking out, weeding, turning over.

Because that’s what lovers do.

“Our calling is not just to be the faithful bride, but also the bride-in-love.
A bride has not been faithful just because she has not slept with anyone else.”
– Francis Schaeffer.

 

Lovers delight in each other. They sing praises of each other. They run back and forth with love notes, the overflow of garden hearts that ramble with perfume, petals and fruit.

Can you see it? Do you know it?

Do you know it right down deep in the soil of your soul?

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2 Comments

  1. Maria says

    You certainly have a way with words Claire – simply beautiful and beautiful in its simplicity.
    Love the description of your ‘jungle’ garden. The beauty we can find in what may seem an ugly place (or person) is truly a daily revelation, if we allow it to be.

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