I think most people want to be known. I think we want to have the inexplicable, confusing, strange pieces of ourselves seen, held and turned over in someone else’s palm, accepted by another Person capable of looking us in the eye and telling us we’re treasured. And the pieces of ourselves that aren’t so strange? The parts of our hearts and bodies that still, sinful and cracked as they are, show the glory of the creative God? I think most of us want someone to know them and admire them.
Intimacy, deep connection and relationship with a beloved, is a God-ordained, God-created thing. It can be self-centered or narcissistic, and it can be pursued in the wrong ways or with the wrong person, but within the Almighty’s ways and purposes deep, intimate affection is lovely and life-giving. God has created marriage so that a husband may leave his mother and father and physically and spiritually love and provide for his wife. He has created friendship and Christian brotherhood within the Kingdom of God so that His people might know one another and love one another (see John 13:1-35 for a beautiful picture of that).
Marital love between a husband and wife, selfless love between friends, gracious and knowing and fun affection between sisters or brothers or cousins all owe their existence to the love of God within Himself. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Spirit is loved and loves.
“I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me… Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?”
exists because this exists:
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that he Himself is doing. And greater works than these will He show Him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Father who sent Him.'”
The bride in Song of Solomon in the first passage wants to know and be known by her future husband. This sort of thing is in most of us (I believe), and it is good when done in a promise-keeping, selfless, God-reflecting way. It is good and beautiful because as the second passage says, Jesus is loved (and has always been known and loved) by the Father. Love exists and is good because God exists and is good. Love, intimate and sacrificial and God-glorifying mercy and grace, is wonderful because it is like Him.
“Husbands, love your wives”
is good because of what comes next:
“as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”
Knowing, intimate love is good because the perfect Creator of all loves knowingly and intimately.
I’ve spent a good chunk of my life, hours upon hours strung together in fretful and sweaty chains, trying to put up a front of goodness and acceptability before God. Trying to prove to myself and to Him (though I know intellectually that this is poppycock and impossible) that I’m worth His mercy and that I deserve His grace. I have tried desperately, poring over my good deeds or strengths over and over in my mind, to cast myself in the best light. I have wanted to be ethical or special or strong or holy enough to merit His love and mercy.
This is a dead end, guys.
It can’t work. I am, of my own intrinsic qualities, not holy. Apart from Jesus the sinless and victorious Christ, I am not acceptable to God. And to pretend I am is arrogant, haughty, and stiff-necked.
All that self-righteous sweat is a dead end, and it is also a sledgehammer that will bludgeon any precious, trusting intimacy with my Savior in my own heart. But repentance, God-wrought, humble acknowledgment of and turning from sin and sinfulness? Admitting my incapability and trusting in the Jesus who brought me to life (and who is preparing an eternal inheritance for me) by His own great love? That is freeing. It is a breath of good, healthy air for tired lungs, and it reminds me of what He already knows perfectly: That I am a wretched sinner rescued and loved only by grace through faith in Jesus.
Intimate, good loves involve both parties knowing one another and cherishing one another. They are awash in trust and adoration. In our relationship with God, we bring nothing to the table and He brings everything, and thus it is different from most of our healthy human intimacies. But the knowing is still part of the sweetness. We trust His goodness and mercy for us through faith even though we deserve nothing but wrath and judgment. We know He sees perfectly every twisted sin and every shameful crack in us, and that He spent His own blood to redeem us (if we have believed). When we are aware of our poverty, when we truly get that He intimately knows all of our greeds and lusts, all of our past wickednesses and odd idiosyncrasies, but that He loves us anyway, then we can enjoy Him in a freedom that only sons and daughters get. When we trust and remind ourselves that we truly are awful and spiritually dead but that He will redeem us if we repent and believe, will make us His own for all eternity despite our not deserving it, we can freely treasure Him. We can enjoy and love Him with with our deepest shames shattered.
In the best loves, the cherishing is able to produce obedience and faithfulness that can far outrun sin, shame, and self-righteousness.
I can trust God and love Him better if I get that He knows the real me. And that transparent repentance, that humble self-awareness, is a freeing place to stand and love the King who intimately knows and sovereignly saves.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”