"Tell me, my love, where are you leading your flock today? Where will you rest your sheep at noon?" Song of Songs 1:7
It was a Friday evening in 2004. The school hall was packed full of noisy high school kids. The lights were on bright so you could see everyone around you and when the music began to play everyone danced, clapped, sang along. It was fun, a welcome break from the boring routine.
Later that night when I saw him and heard his voice, I moved towards him as if propelled by something outside of me. My legs had a will of their own, right, left, right, left. And when I reached the other side of the room, something on the inside of me cracked and the dam wall came crashing down.
I collapsed right there and cried like I’d never cried before because that night, at a youth church service, I’d seen Jesus in a way that I’d never seen him before.
Today I’m older, wiser and much more independent. We sit across from each other at the table every night, usually in a comfortable silence. But occasionally I’ll chatter away about my day, while he’s doing whatever. I hope he’s listening. We’ve settled into a predictable routine, week-in, week-out.
I don’t know when my love cooled; I don’t when your loved cooled. There was no decidedly definite point. But somewhere between that first encounter and now, you became jaded. You lost your awe and fascination. You lost your fire and in its place is something much less all-consuming.
You can control it. You can be rational and level headed. You can be more dignified.
Is this what mature faith is? Is this what it means to reach the nadir of knowing God? The comfortable silence crystallises into cold indifference. The chasm grows wider and wider; the cross fades into the distance.
"Restless in bed and sleepless through the night, I longed for my lover. I wanted him desperately. His absence was painful.
So I got up, went out and roved the city,
hunting through streets and down alleys.
I wanted my lover in the worst way!
I looked high and low, and didn’t find him. And then the night watchmen found me as they patrolled the darkened city.“Have you seen my dear lost love?” I asked.
No sooner had I left them than I found him, found my dear lost love. I threw my arms around him and held him tight, wouldn’t let him go until I had him home again, safe at home beside the fire." Song of Songs 3:1-4
The desperation that’s expressed by the Beloved in this passage is the same desperation that we are meant to feel at the idea of being away from the presence of the Lord, even for a moment. It’s persistent, it’s painful and it doesn’t take no for an answer!
And it doesn’t matter how far we’ve gone and how long you’ve been away, it’s never too late, it’s not to late for us to return.
Where do we start? Like the Beloved, a good place to start is longing or desire. A good place to start is desperation.
God, I long to know you and to hear your voice. My desire is to be where you are and to follow you wholeheartedly. Help me, Holy Spirit, and fill me with passion for Jesus, a fire that cannot be put out, a love that cannot be quenched.
In the name of Jesus, Amen!