It seems the whole world is searching for self-definition. We lean on people, hobbies, careers, and relationships to tell us who we are. The world says our identity is what we make of it.
Yet the concept of identity is different for Christians. Because all of our old nature was crucified in Christ, our identity is uniquely tied to God's identity. We don't define ourselves, God defines us. We are defined not by what we've done, but by what Jesus has done. We are defined not by what the world calls us, but by what God calls us. For Christians, the more we know God, the more we truly know ourselves. Knowing God's identity shapes and defines our own identity.
Depending on our faith backgrounds, we each tend to have facets of God's identity that are easier for us to understand and accept. Perhaps you struggle to fully understand the love of God as a Father because of a tense background with a biological parent. Or perhaps you understand intuitively that God is the King of Kings, but it's hard to comprehend Him as your Provider.
Today, I want to talk about a facet of God's identity that is particularly challenging to most people. Yet without a deep assurance of this identity, we will find ourselves lost.
The Lover of Our Souls
God defines Himself as the Lover of our Souls, and therefore, we are defined as the Beloved, the object of all His affection and desire.
"I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me."
"I am my lover's, and he claims me as his own."
These words are both translations of Song of Solomon 7:10. Song of Solomon is a curious book smack dab in the middle of our Bibles, which tells the tale of two lovers through song. To read Song of Solomon is almost embarrassing. After the first couple of pages, you might even think, "Why is this allowed to be in the Bible?!" Readers are essentially witnesses to the whispered intimacies of two lovers. And they don't spare any details when it comes to their desire for one another emotionally and physically.
But the book becomes even more bizarre and challenging when we realize it is also an analogy for God's love for us, His people.
That doesn't mean that God is literally speaking the words of the lovers to us. On one hand, Song of Solomon is very firmly a portrait of love and desire between a very real man and woman. But just as each book of the Bible teaches us something about God's character, Song of Solomon is no exception. And this book demonstrates for us the passionate, all-consuming, ever-desiring, overwhelming, shockingly intimate love of God.
"Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as the grave; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.” -8:6-7
Love, in all its intensity and passion, is the very flame of the LORD--the very essence of God. This passage isn't talking about fleeting affection for a boyfriend or girlfriend. This passage is talking about deep, committed, pursuing love. The kind of love that nothing can stop, not even death. And in fact, this kind of love can only be found in God Himself. It was manifested once and for all through Jesus Christ. He is the embodiment of love that overcame death in order that we, the Beloved, could be united with our Lover.
"Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)
Song of Solomon reveals another facet of God's identity: the Lover of our Souls. Even more beautifully, this book helps us define ourselves in relation to God as our Lover. If He is our Lover, we are His Beloved. This is what Song of Solomon 7:10 says: "I am my lover's, and he claims me as his own!" We are God's, He claims you as His own and calls you His!
This is hard to understand, and truly a great mystery. But it is true. We see throughout scripture that God has always seen His people as His Beloved. The story of Israel is the story of a people who would not simply be content to be loved by God and inhabited by God -- who continually went astray, breaking God's heart. God even had the prophet Hosea marry an adulterous woman and take her back again and again as a prophetic symbol of this truth:
"Then the LORD said to me, "Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them." (Hosea 3:1)
Living as the Beloved
Since we are indeed God's Beloved, this tells us some important truths about our everyday life with Him.
First, the Beloved is the object of affection. That means we receive His love freely and don't have to earn it, ever. Jesus says, "Abide in me," --NOT find me, reach me, or get to me. The truth is we are already firmly planted in Christ's love--our task is to live everyday from that place of love. Do we live out of the truth that we are already loved as deeply and fully as we will ever be?
The Lover never leaves the Beloved. Even when she rejects Him, He will return to win her back. He will continually guard and protect her. Do we believe in our heart of hearts that God will never leave us, no matter how lost or distant we may feel?
The Beloved has intimate access to her Lover. Like spouses share special access to one another as confidants, telling each other what they think and feel, we have special access to God as His Beloved. We can go to God at anytime and enjoy the access we have to Him through Jesus. This isn't just a symbolistic access, but a real intimacy. We can tell God our secrets, and ask Him to reveal His own heart with us in return. Do we simply enjoy our access to God in the intimacy of deep relationship?
Lastly, the beloved can always lean on her Lover for guidance and leading. In Song of Solomon, there is a beautiful picture of the bride being led out of the desert by her Lover: "Who is this sweeping in from the desert, leaning on her lover?"
The Beloved was led out of a dry, barren place, the deep desert, by her Lover. And the whole time, she leaned on Him. When it comes to God's leading, it's not so much about discerning His will as a "yes" or "no" as it is about staying in step with Him, deeply rooted in His love, leaning on Him in all seasons. When we lean on Him as our Lover, He is faithful to lead and guide us. We can trust He will never let us go, and He will never let us go astray too far before He takes us and leads us home.
And so I challenge you today:
Are you letting God love you in the fullness of how He wants to love you? Are you staying in His love? Are you leaning on your Lover and being led by Him?