Guest post by youth group leader, Rob Scholl:
Me: “What are you thinking in terms of our next youth group bible study?”
The rector: “I was thinking we’d do Song of Solomon.”
At least, that’s what I told the rector, but this is what my brain really thought: “I’ve got no clue how to teach Song of Solomon to a group of kids who are either (a) full of raging hormones or (b) completely repulsed at the concept of love and romance.” And I wasn’t necessarily reassured with the information I found on the internet. And, yes, I checked, and Tim Keller hasn’t written anything about Song of Solomon that I could find.
If you’ve never read this book before (as I had not), Song of Solomon or Song of Songs is a short song or poem about “a dude and girl getting together” (to quote one of our kids). While certainly true, the book is about much more, for at its core the writer talks about true love in which the bride and the bridegroom become one and are willing to sacrifice for one another. As the bride states in 6:3, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” But this sacrificial love doesn’t come initially. In Chapter 5, we read about an encounter by the clearly enamored bridegroom and a much less interested bride. He’s come to her door and knocks. He calls her name and anoints her door with special oil. But the bride has already bathed and gone to bed– it’s late and he’s come at an inconvenient time.
Finally, she decides to get up and open the door, but he’s already gone. Did she miss her chance? She runs out into the city to look for him, and he is nowhere to be found. Others ask, “What makes him so special?” It is then that she realizes what it is about him–his eyes are like doves and his appearance is like the cedars of Lebanon… well, ok, our kids didn’t exactly understand all the ancient imagery, and what they could understand made them squirm in their chairs (I think the Israelites were a bit more graphic than our kids’ sensibilities). However, the point was fairly obvious. For her this guy is one in a million. And where, you may ask, is the bridegroom? He is right there waiting–tending the garden, gathering lilies for her, and describing her in the same way as when he first saw her.
As I’ve gotten to know our young men and women, I’ve become more attuned to the pressures they face from their peers and from the culture which presents a very different version of love or romance. It’s a love that is driven by self and leads to pain and brokenness. With this book, we remind each of our kids that one day he or she will meet a young man or woman who’s willing to sacrifice for their well-being and for whom they in turn are willing to sacrifice. At least that’s what we pray for them as youth leaders. And until that time comes, it’s better to wait. As the bride says: “I adjure you…. that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (3:5).
But more importantly, this book reminds each one of them (and me, too) about the One who loves each of us more than we even realize. This Bridegroom loves us no matter whether we’ve spiritually gone to sleep, no matter how inconvenient the time, no matter what our friends say or do to us, no matter how hard life gets, and no matter how much we screw up and fail. This Bridegroom considers each one of us His Beloved not on the basis of our successes or failures, but on what He’s already done on our behalf on the Cross. “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”