The Bed of the Soul

There is a strange little book in the Bible. Situated within the wisdom section of the Old Testament is the Song of Solomon, in which the first verse reads, “The song of songs . . . ” Similar in language to “holy of holies,” it means the holiest of holies, therefore the Song of Solomon is the song of all songs, or the most beautiful of songs. That the Holy Spirit would communicate through a song, and take care to emphasize its superlative nature, is telling, I believe. A ballad about the intimate relationship between the richest king to ever rule Israel and a common girl, it is lyrical and explicit in its expressions of desire, and cloaked in a poetic aura of mystery and need: “The Beloved: ‘You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes’” (4:9). “The Shulamite: ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’” (6:3).

If you have ever read it and wondered why this corny little book was in the Bible, read it again with the knowledge that God has written you a song of adoration, filling it full of the same metaphors He uses for Himself elsewhere in the Scriptures: a shepherd, a banner, paradise, the rock, myrrh, a king, the mountain, living water, fire. An intimate relationship between God the Lover, and His beloved soul, is the song of songs about a “love as strong as death” (8:6).

What kind of love is this? It must, in some way, include a profound intimacy, for the context of this song is marital intimacy between the king and the common girl, illustrating the oneness and fulfillment God intends for His relationship with you. The first consummation of a marriage is sex, but more than skin on skin, it is the “becoming one” of two, and according to St. Paul, more a spiritual mystery than a physical fact (Eph. 5:22-32).

The language of the Scriptures is startlingly earthy, raw, and splendid. The Bible uses the word “know” for the description of physical intimacy: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD”; “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch” (Gen. 4:1, 17). It means a total and intimate knowing, a co-mingling of desire, longing, fulfillment, and spirit. God Almighty, the creator of galaxies, souls, elephants, and atoms, longs for you to acquaint yourself with Him and explore His depths in the most unembarrassed and intimate of ways!

It is these terms with which He describes intimacy with you in Song of Solomon, and this choice of language communicates something shocking about how civilized and unconventional and approachable He is. The Scriptures, the mystic Saints, and the Church, have always maintained that the marriage relationship is illustrative of God’s relationship to His people. The goal, Jesus said, is the two, you and God, becoming one: “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect . . . “ (Jn. 17:22-23). This spiritual intimacy is what perfects, completes, and/or consummates, us. It is a participation in the glory of God.

He wants you to want Him. He desires that you escape from the embrace of “self” and offer yourself to Him, even to the separation of the joints and marrow of your soul (Heb. 4:12). Your truest, most vulnerable and hidden self must be naked and open to His love, reaching unreservedly to Him from out of the deepest wells of your heart, applauding His strength, beauty, and intelligence. He asks that you seek an unspeakable familiarity with Him as that of a spouse, such that there is always something to say, nothing to hide, perfect comfort, acceptance, profound touch.

Yet He does not bless us with this intimate communion for its own sake. This expression of intimacy and pleasure is also necessary for the generation of new life. God told Abram, “I will bless you and you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). He blesses us so we can spiritually multiply: “Then God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen. 1:28). Part of God’s blessing on Adam and Eve was the pleasure of physical intimacy and procreation. In the Church’s Rite of Matrimony, it is said that this marriage relationship is the only blessing left undestroyed by Eden’s catastrophe and Noah’s Flood, so that spiritual intimacy and procreation continues as part of God’s blessing for you from the foundation of the world.

Do you dare to risk vulnerability in the effort to find God in this world of cynics and scoffers? Every soul who has heard the Lover sing to him the loveliest of songs, has felt their ridicule. “What is your beloved more than any other beloved,” they ask (Song. 5:9). Though we attempt to answer, the heart is barely able to write the words on our lips, for He is inexplicable, wild, and dangerous, a fathomless mystery. Yet Jesus warns us not to stand on the fringes of intimacy with Him: “And I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me’” (Matt. 7:23). We must fall into the bed of our soul, ready to be known by the Truth, each one alone with God, yet all furiously alive with the same eternal Song.

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