This is a guest-blog by Dawn Bradley, who presented this material to the women in our church recently. I found it so interesting and encouraging, that I wanted to share it. Enjoy!
About nine months ago I emailed a friend concerning a mission trip he was leading. My friend replied that there wasn’t enough room for me because the trip was full and I wasn’t a medical person, so I scratched it off my list and moved on. A month later I got another email from my friend asking if I was coming on the trip! It confused me because I thought he had told me no, but my friend said that in the same email I thought said I couldn’t go, he had asked me, not only to come on the trip, but also to help lead it! My friend even quoted from his original email stating how I would be of help. What had I done? I had completely twisted his message. How did, “We want you,” become, “There is no room for you”? Why had I rejected the kindness and love of Christ that was being extended?
I realized something was unhealthy in me. It was pretty unsettling. Several months earlier I had purchased a necklace that said, “His desire is for me,” from Song of Solomon because I wanted something tangible telling me I was loved and special. So, after the email incident, I decided to read Song of Solomon every day for 30 days to create a new habit of hearing Christ’s love for me.
When I first read the whole, short book, I thought the relationship between these lovers was a fantasy, a spiritual version of a 1950’s Hollywood love story. They are young, healthy, beautiful, madly in love, and without children. I imagined they were the married version of the Proverbs 31 woman. Looked at this way, their relationship would never relate to me, a 52-year-old single woman. The more I read the book, however, the more it felt real and present: plants, animals, places, and people with bodies and emotions. The man and woman are pursuing each other with desire and passion. There is intimacy and nakedness, but also hang-ups and sin.
Next, I read Song of Solomon according to the division titles the translators assigned, which are variations of He Speaks, She Speaks, Friends Speak. First, I circled and read only her words and found she is typically female for she does most of the talking. In fact, she occasionally speaks for him! Her words reveal insecurities about how she looks (1:5-6), problems with her brothers (1:6), concern over how others perceive her, (1:7b), and on one occasion she is reluctant to go to her beloved because it’s not convenient (5:3). In 2:14 it seems she is even hiding from him. She is insecure and imperfect.
He, on the other hand, speaks only of her beauty and his desire for her. Verse 4:7 says, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” And 7:9 says, “How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights.” The only account he gives of himself is to sing her praises. Think about that; to only hear words of affirmation, adoration, appreciation, love, acceptance, encouragement. How amazing would it be to hear only that audio running in your head! Everything else we might glean about him, we learn from her. Through her references he appears to be a shepherd, but maybe he is more than that. Maybe he is royalty. He is rather mysterious and allusive. Sometimes he can’t be found (3:1-2) then suddenly he is present (3:4). He is far off (2:8) then close (2:9). He may be mysterious and allusive, but he loves her with abandon. If the woman represents my own imperfections and insecurities, then the man represents God’s affirming love for me.
Wisdom literature can have a reputation for teaching only right and wrong. But Song of Solomon offers wisdom in love and relationship. In this poetry God gives us a wisdom book which answers my deepest questions: Who am I? A woman who is beautiful and loved. Why am I here? To love and be loved. Who loves me? My beloved loves me. Does this body matter, or is the spiritual all that really matters? This body is a gift along with all its emotions and passions.
Finally, I am claiming verse 7:13, “The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved.” Mandrakes are plants considered to be an aphrodisiac, a substance that increases sexual desire. I am asking myself and looking for those things that make me desire my beloved more and more. One of my mandrakes is worship on Sunday morning which has made me more intentional about playing worshipful music at home. Fellowship is another mandrake. Being with Christians who love and talk about Jesus makes me desire Him more. Prayer, reading stories about missionaries and being in my garden are my mandrakes. For you, maybe its poetry, being at the beach, playing an instrument. Nevertheless, at OUR door is every delicacy, both NEW and OLD. For me, the 52-year-old single woman, I want to look for, obtain, and store up mandrakes that I might desire my lover, Jesus, all the more. Though my body grows old, I can anticipate new delicacies with my beloved. In the end, as long as this physical body is alive and into eternity, I have a lover whose name is Jesus. He loved me first, His desire is for me, and I am His. This is wisdom from God. Amen.
What are your mandrakes?