Spiritual desire fuels need for spiritual with God
If you want to make a teenage boy blush and stammer, have him read aloud from the Old Testament book The Song of Songs to a class room full of both boys and girls. I have never had a boy volunteer to read passages from the Song, and some boys on whom I have called on to read it have declined. Girls, on the other hand, neither hesitate to read the passages nor decline to do so when asked.
The sensuality of the Song is the culprit, here. The Song is a dialog between the Bride and the Bridegroom, with the Daughters of Jerusalem – a kind of Greek Chorus - thrown into the mix. This dialog revolves around Bride and the Groom coming together in marital love.
Medieval monks loved this book of the Old Testament. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, wrote 86 sermons on the book, and he reached only the middle of the second chapter. He died before he could write sermons on all eight chapters of the book.
Modern Christians should imitate ol' Bernard; not necessarily in writing sermons on it, but in spending time with it.
For the Song of Songs is, among other things, an allegory of the relationship between God and humanity. How close is God to human beings? As close as husband and wife are when they are intimate. Yes, God loves us, but how? God loves us as a wife loves her husband; as a husband loves his wife. In other words, just as husband and wife give all they have to one another, so does God. And God gives us His love with pleasure.
Says the Bride: “I belong to my lover and for me he yearns. Come, my lover, let us go forth to the fields...Let us go early to the vineyards...there will I give you my love.”
The Bridegroom says: “How beautiful you are, how pleasing, my love, my delight! Now let your breasts be like clusters of the vine and the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like an excellent wine...Your lips drip honey, my bride.”
Notice the theme of desire in the above two passages? That's the point. Just as a husband desires his wife, and a wife her husband, so God desires us with a similar passion. In other words, God's love for us and God's desire for us is not just some intellectual exercise.
Dear readers, our religion is not just a head game. Our religion is not just pious thoughts, mumbled prayers and rote motions. Rather, our religion is satisfying a desire implanted in us by God. A desire that is comparable to the desire of wife for husband and vice versa.
Furthermore, this desire is good. Just as it is good for husband and wife to be one in marital intimacy, so it is good for human beings and God to be one spiritual intimacy. “Whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17).
Desire is the catalyst for this spiritual intimacy. Just as physical desire drives the physical of husband and wife, so spiritual desire drives the spiritual with God. The Song is the allegory for this .
But desire carries dubious baggage. In the spiritual realm desire is often seen as something to be squelched. On the contrary, in the spiritual realm desire is to be...desired. Just as the Bride yearns and thirsts for the Bridegroom, so human beings yearn and thirst for God.
Why? What's in it for us to yearn and thirst for God? Allow ol' Bernard to answer:
“When God loves, he desires nothing but to be loved, since he loves us for no other reason than to be loved, for he knows that those who love him are blessed in their very love” (Sermon 83 on The Song of Songs).
Don't you see? Loving God makes us blessed. Now, you who are married, you know this. Don't you feel blest to be loved by you husband? Your wife? Well, that blessedness you feel being loved by your husband or wife is simply a mirror of the love God has for you. And if that love from your spouse, who is a sinner, blesses you, and if that love you have for your spouse blesses you, how much more blest are you who love God, the Holy One.
God is no prude. God created the intimacy between husband and wife to be, among other things, a sign of the love God has for you and me. Marital intimacy feels good, doesn't it? That's how good God feels toward you. Knowledge of that is...well...it's enough to make a grown man blush.
And an 18-year old one, too.