An awkward romance

Your love has ravished my heart, taken me over, and all I want is to be with you forever.

They’re the opening lyrics of a love song. To Jesus.

It’s just one of a bunch of songs we have sung at some point in church, one of the ones that make me feel a little uncomfortable. Often I can barely get myself to mouth the lyrics because they sound like a soppy love song, but with “baby” substituted out for “Jesus”.

But I have been thinking about this song – singing this song – lately.

About a month ago I heard a talk about how God made the first move with us and goes to crazy lengths to woo us.

The first step wasn’t me deciding to become a Christian. Jesus made the first move by coming to Earth and dying for me before I ever knew him. I love because he first loved me.

And those are pretty crazy lengths to go to – to give up your divinity to be born and live as an ordinary human (from a poor family and an oppressed minority, to boot); to die, being innocent, for those who hate you.

Yet framing my relationship with Jesus as an epic romance is a bit, well, off. Friend, yes. Father, yes. But this?

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Image credit: Jared Sluyter.

There is something awkward about the notion of having a romantic relationship with Jesus. In a predominantly monogamous culture, the exclusive nature of a romantic relationship means we don’t think of our faith in those terms. If Jesus loves everybody, how does it make sense for him to love me like I’m the only one for him?

Perhaps at the heart of the matter is the fact that we associate romance with physical intimacy and there is something very, very wrong about the idea of sex with Jesus. Especially if you’re a heterosexual dude.

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Image credit: Michael Prewett.

But hey, it’s not like the Bible is a G-rated movie. If you turned the whole thing into a film, you’d have to give it an R rating with warnings for sex, nudity, graphic violence, adult themes, supernatural themes, and maybe even language. I know a guy who wrote a book about the weird stuff (FYI it’s quite the good).

There are orgies and incest. Beheadings and the butchering of assorted limbs. Cannibalism. Ghosts and mediums and Satan himself.

And, the Bible speaks of God’s fierce jealousy for his people. No other gods. You are mine and I am yours.

In fact, scholars believe the Song of Solomon to be not just a picture of marriage but an allegory for God’s love for Israel and Christ’s love for the Church.

Yet at first glance it reads like a semi-erotic romance:

The sweet, fragrant curves of your body,
the soft, spiced contours of your flesh
Invite me, and I come. I stay
until dawn breathes its light and night slips away (4:6-7).

And:

I say, “I’m going to climb that palm tree!
I’m going to caress its fruit!”
Oh yes! Your breasts
will be clusters of sweet fruit to me,
Your breath clean and cool like fresh mint,
your tongue and lips like the best wine (7:7-8).

Admittedly the imagery is strange to the point of hilarity. But the point is it’s really quite explicit. Intimate. Passionate.

Not how I think of God’s feelings towards me, or mine towards him.

But aren’t we missing a whole lot about the character of God and the sheer depth of his love for us? When we restrict the nature of our relationship with him to a friendship, or even the undoubtedly powerful parent-child connection. When we curb it within the walls of what we can comprehend.

We miss the passion. We miss the butterflies in the stomach when we feel ourselves pursued, beheld, adored. We miss the single-minded focus of his gaze upon us. We miss the precious moments that border on the magical. We miss the crazy-beyond-senseness, the love beyond reason.

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Image credit: Everton Vila.

And even this – all this – is just the tip of the iceberg.

So draw me a little closer, pull me a little deeper. I wanna know your heart.

That’s the chorus to that song I opened this post with. Listening to this song over the last couple of weeks, I find myself connecting more with the lyrics than I ever have before.

I can’t say I am beginning to fall in love with Jesus all over again. It’s not like that. But I am getting more comfortable with this intimacy. I want to get closer, go deeper; I want to know that heart.

2 thoughts on “An awkward romance

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