By: Julia Somerset
Romantic love is the subject of one of the richest traditions in written history. People have been falling in love as long as they have been on this earth, and they started writing about it as soon as they had the ability. Romance causes more delight and more strife than virtually anything else in the human experience, and its intensity can dominate our lives, for better or worse, the way nothing else can.
There is a fantastic book in the Bible called Song of Songs. The entire book is a beautiful love poem exchanged between two lovers. We know nothing about them. We don’t know if they are married, if they ever get married, how they know each other, or what happens to them. We do know they long passionately for one another, and there is a special joy and a special pain in their words.
Why is this book in the Bible? Theologians have been writing commentaries on the Song of Songs for thousands of years. Some celebrate the way it showcases an extremely strong bond of love between two people. Some believe the poem is a metaphor for the love between people and God (you may have heard Christ and the Church compared to a groom and a bride). Many theologians have been uncomfortable with the romantic and sexual subject matter, and they don’t know how to reconcile that part of the human experience with their religious beliefs.
I think we get the most out of this book of the Bible when we realize that is it talking about both. Yes, falling in love is a very important part of human life. In this type of relationship, we learn most intensely how to love someone because we have chosen to do so. We enter into the relationship freely, and we choose to sustain this love every day. It can teach us ways to become more loving to all people if we pay attention.
But it also shows us the way God loves us, and how we can learn to love God with as much passion as we once had for our high school sweetheart. These two loves are not so different, and focusing on one enriches the other. It can seem strange at first, but can create a beautiful image in our minds that we can be as close to God as two spouses are in a marriage.