Besides as a little girl attending church every Sunday, this was the book that had amused me and my cousins sitting in the front pews. As we were forced to listen to one dry German sermon after the other - we entertained ourselves by reading...."Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle."- it made buying our first bra sacred.
So it was with some amusement Cliff and I drove to a cabin tucked away in the forests of Northern Saskatchewan, where we listened to the 21 -sessions each an hour long - then talked about what we were learning as we walked through the woods together - holding hands. Song of Songs is a love story. Studying it made for the perfect romantic get-a-way - which was not only theologically refreshing but healing for our marriage as well. Ok - I'm going to admit - it was the best week ever.
And - by the end of the week we were enamored with Kansas City as well and fell in love with the "Bridal Paradigm" - a teaching that emphasizes the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Kingdom of God as a place of pure love. Our surprise was how this beautiful theme runs through the entire Bible - and yet is rarely emphasized in our churches.
I can't possibly summarize the theology with the credibility it deserves - but like I said, I am a romantic - and have developed some expertise on that level. (And here I am writing with a smile.)
What if the paradigm is correct and God is a romantic like all of us? Perhaps it is true that after God created the heavens and the planets to spin around the sun, this powerful God wanted to be loved and to experience love on a personal level so he created beautiful human beings in his image and set them up in a perfect garden to commune with them daily? This would also explain the tree because the only problem with the love theme is, that for there to be true loyalty and love, there needs to be boundaries within the relationship. So God needed to set that up too - a simple boundary. "Don't eat the fruit."
And then the love of God's life and the love of Adam's life, Eve betrays their trust by choosing to believe that creepy, low-life, lying serpent and eats the fruit. It wasn't only the act - It was an emotional affair - the worst. She betrayed her first love.
Insulted, dishonored and broken hearted, God reacts like a jilted lover. in fact, as a therapist I have dealt with many who have been betrayed in their relationships. Let me assure you that God's behavior throughout the entire Old Testament is typical of the passive - aggressive behavior of a betrayed spouse. withdrawing - sulking one moment - and then punishing the next. Thank goodness, we have a New Testament in which God is able to resolve his issues - realizing that punishing does not change human behavior or win back their love. So God offers human beings the opportunity to choose again by sending another bridegroom in preparation for a true wedding feast still to come. Rather than sulk - God openly declares his love and offers a redemption plan - that is consistent with his stance of enduring love.
What I like best about the Bridal Paradigm is that it is a theology that heals. It's main message is not of that fierce condemnation we grew up with. It fits with the need to forgive and be forgiven. It emphasizes the need for the golden glue that promises to heal the fragmentation resulting from any betrayal.
Oh yes -- and then to test the validity of Song of Songs again, I held a study on the book in our home - women only - to see if it would be accepted by the Eve in all of us. It was the best ever.
We can't study the biggest love story of all time without falling in love with each other.
Personally, as my struggle reveals, I don’t often “feel” like a beloved child of God. But I know that that is my most primal identity and I know that I must choose it above and beyond my hesitations. Strong emotions, self-rejection, and even self-hatred justifiably toss you about, but you are free to respond as you will. You are not what others, or even you, think about yourself. You are not what you do. You are not what you have. You are a full member of the human family, having been known before you were conceived and molded in your mother’s womb. In times when you feel bad about yourself, try to choose to remain true to the truth of who you really are. Look in the mirror each day and claim your true identity. Act ahead of your feelings and trust that one day your feelings will match your convictions. Choose now and continue to choose this incredible truth. As a spiritual practice claim and reclaim your primal identity as beloved daughter or son of a personal Creator.- Henri Nouwen