I got nothin’.
I’m not talking about romance with my husband. He gave me flowers. I’m talking about flourishes of prayer that address God as a lover.
You know how your gut just twisted a little when you read “husband” and “romance” in the same sentence and you started to imagine my Valentine’s Day escapades?
That’s what I’m talking about. Love songs to God creep me out a little.
I know. I know. It’s in the Bible. At least human marriage is used to illustrate God’s relationship with his people. Or not.
In Jeremiah 3, God lists the reasons why he ought to divorce them, starting with “Where haven’t you had sex?” (3:2). And the entire book of Hosea is an extended metaphor for God’s rickety marriage to his whoring Israel.
Come the New Testament, the marriage sounds more successful. The illustration reverses. God’s relationship with his people illumines human marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25).
Nevertheless, I dare you to tell me which is easier: explaining sex or explaining the virgin birth to a pre-schooler. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Luke 1:35) sounds suspiciously like something I do not wish to ponder overmuch.
But it doesn’t stop with Scripture. There’s also historical precedent. In the sixteenth century, St. John of the Cross penned The Dark Night of the Soul. Here’s a bit of it as arranged by Loreena McKennitt:
Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o’er the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow
No wonder it’s mostly mystics who have the nerve to write down this sort of thing, much less let other people read it. You need to be a little ethereal (read: “hopped up on ether”) not to scrunch up in discomfort.
So are you a kisser of Jesus’ crucified feet during Good Friday service? Or are you a squirmer at such public displays of affection?
John of the Cross’s eponym insisted that we display our love for God by loving one another (1 John 4:12). Still we are people of the word, just as we serve a God of words. God spoke creation into being, called out a people to his name, and finally enfleshed the Word (John 1:3, 11, 14).
Because our God speaks his love, we also adore him, not only with our obedience, but with our words and in our songs (Exod 15:2). Actions might speak louder than words, but actions without words do not suffice. So here’s an exercise to help with the language of adoration:
Ask yourself, “What qualities or characteristics of God do I enjoy?” Write those down: “God is merciful, patient, present.”
Then turn your third-person statement into a second-person address: “I love you for your mercy, your patience, your presence.”
Or list things God has done for you: “God gave me a snow day when I needed to sleep.”
Then change them again so you can direct them to God. “God, you gave me a snow day. You gave me rest.”
Did you fail to write a Valentine’s card because you couldn’t think of what to say? The above exercise works pretty well for generating one of those, too.
And if you’re inspired to sing a love song on YouTube that details your intimacy with God, go ahead, but close your eyes as you sing, ‘cause it ain’t God on the other end of that camera. It’s me, and I’m a squirmer.