Rise Up, My Love (286): Who’s Our Real Father?

Song of Solomon 8:10 …See how the Lord works! It is now May (written fourteen years ago, although it’s also May again in 2018), and I can imagine confusion of broods, because I’ve seen it! Our family just returned from a wonderful vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we spent a refreshing week at the beach soaking up the sun and sharing ideas at our “Vision 2004” conference (organized by one of our older sons, who’s working on his Ph.D. in theology).   It has rained twenty-one out of the last twenty-five days here in Michigan, causing the worst flooding in over twenty years. While out trying to walk with my kids along the Grand River, we discovered that the river park had become a flood plain in areas. Confused fish that had washed over the bank were frantically trying to find their way back to the main river. Park benches and picnic tables were almost totally submerged. The children’s playground had become a swimming pool for ducks and geese, as had the parking lots and soccer fields.  Perhaps the saddest thing to me was seeing a little group of six ducklings swimming together anxiously but aimlessly with no parents. Where were their parents? Had they drowned? Further down the river we saw a mother duck surrounded by no fewer than sixteen ducklings taking refuge under a willow tree that had become a little island. Surely all those ducklings couldn’t have been hers. She must have taken in a batch or two of orphans.   So, back to our main story. Suppose for a moment that a baby cygnet got separated from his parents in a flood and took refuge in a brood of adorable little yellow fluff ball ducklings or attached himself to a group of goslings with their charcoal gray markings, gangly legs, and clumsy gaits. I don’t really know what would happen if a cygnet got mixed into one of these families. I know geese are good parents! If you try to get close, the parents put their heads down low, wave their necks back and forth in their most menacing manner, and hiss loudly! “Don’t touch my babies!”   But, I suppose at some point the cygnet would be detected as being different and would be rejected. That’s also what happens to us after we are born again. We may appear a little different at first, but as we begin to mature, we become more and more obviously out of place. Our appetites are different; our walk is different; our needs and interests are different. We just don’t fit in anymore.  Somewhere along the line, those around us begin to notice, and for the most part, they tire of our obsession with Christ and our desire to become like him. Sooner or later, we are ostracized or persecuted “for righteousness’ sake.” What does Jesus say? “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).   How do we become like beautiful swans? How do we grow up to become like the ideal bride in the spiritual mirror? “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how do we become the most beautiful of all?” Not by killing Snow White, but by becoming snow white in the blood of the Lamb and day by day taking “milk baths” in the Word until we grow up to be strong and beautiful.

Don’t despair! We may not have the genes to be the world’s most physically beautiful bride, but we all have the spiritual genes to become gloriously perfected…like a wall with breasts like towers! Sound impossible? The Shulamite didn’t think so. So, let’s keep holding up our spiritual mirrors and asking God to conform us to the image of his perfect Son and his perfect bride! Then we too will be “in his eyes as one that found favour.”

One last treasure, and then we’ll move on to the next verse. The word for “favour” is shalom, which means “peace.” The name “Solomon” is built on the same root word. In Solomon’s eyes, the bride found favor…peace…and that peace was Solomon! As the bride of Christ, we become like Christ and find our favor and peace in his eyes…and he is our peace (Ephesians 2:14)!

As we become more like him, he is ever more pleased with us. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, “God is easy to please but hard to satisfy.” He is pleased with us the moment we come to him in repentance and faith and are born again, but his pleasure increases as we grow more into the beautiful “swan” of his likeness…more like the statuesque bride with the towering breasts.   Oh, heavenly Father, you are our true, eternal father! Please fashion us into masterpieces of your love and grace. May we grow into the beautiful bride that you have planned for us to become. May we find favor and peace in your sight…the favor and peace that is you and is only found by growing in the knowledge of you (2 Peter 1:2).

Rise Up, My Love (284): “Beautiful in His Eyes”

Song of Solomon 8:10 “. . .then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” Well, so much for personal struggles (as a prototypical female). What’s the bottom line on this verse? Was Solomon’s bride being realistic? Did she have a pride problem? Or, was the bride simply expressing how beautiful her husband made her feel? I’d like to believe the last option, although for those of us mortals who live in this physical, fallen world, I suspect the Shulamite was truly a stunningly beautiful woman, Solomon had been attracted to her for that reason, and she knew it.

This is the most reasonable, literal interpretation of the verse, and the fact that Solomon gathered a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines who became idols in his life and led him astray from God strongly supports this view. (1 Kings 11:3: “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”) This is one place in the book where—on the physical level—Solomon departs from our precious Savior, who looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7. Thank you, Jesus!).We’ll discuss spiritual beauty next, but on the physical level, what lessons can we learn today? First, a word to all of us, but especially guys (who are often extremely visual in their orientation). Of course you’re attracted to a woman’s beauty, so be sure you marry someone who is physically appealing to you. Never try to be “super spiritual” and refuse to acknowledge your basic feelings about how physically attractive a potential girlfriend seems. However, your physical attraction should only be the first step in identifying the right girl.

If you want to be content in this life…if you want a happy marriage…then learn to be like Christ. Look for an attractive mate who is intently developing spiritual beauty…and make sure you’re intently developing godly character yourself! It is our flesh that draws us to physical beauty, and if we don’t train our hearts to focus on and love that which is spiritual, we will forever suffer lustful attractions to members of the opposite sex based strictly on physical appearance. Why do you think the draw to pornography is so incredibly powerful? Modern men may not have Solomon’s wealth and power to acquire a physical harem, but for the price of his soul a man can develop a Satanic harem through visual images that will lead to his destruction just as surely as Solomon’s lust turned him away from his God.

The Proverbs remind us: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:31). If you want to be still singing your spouse’s praises when you’re seventy, look for someone who loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The spirits of such people grow more attractive year by year.Second, another word to all of us, but especially to us as women (who due to child birth and hormone shifts have an extremely difficult time retaining our youthful figures). Let’s try to be as beautiful as possible for our spouses! A fact of human nature that we would be wise to understand and accommodate is that human beings are attracted to physical beauty. (No offense on the lizard; I was thinking of myself!)

Let’s assess ourselves realistically. Are we firm and straight like a wall, or are we sagging and bulging under the weight of indulgence? Are we being self- disciplined enough to eat and exercise properly? Do we have good posture? Standing up straight will go a long way toward looking as attractive as possible. Our breasts may not exactly seem like “towers” to us, but if we’re not overweight, we’re standing up straight, and we’re wearing undergarments that are appropriately supportive, most women will have a pleasant frame that can be totally satisfying to her husband. (If he keeps his eyes off strange women; a man with wandering eyes will never be satisfied, no matter how beautiful his wife is.)Believe it or not, being as shapely as possible is something that God desires for us as part of living “heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). It is part of good stewardship. He gave us our body as a gift to maintain, and he wants us to be beautiful for him. We are his abiding place, and just as he is preparing a place for us, so we can express love to him by keeping our earthly tabernacle as beautiful as possible for him. Although our motive in everything should be first and foremost God’s pleasure, a beautiful body will also be a pleasure and attraction to our husbands.

We probably do not think we could compete in a Miss Universe contest, but let’s work on being able to go at least this far towards feeling like the bride. Let’s work on being able to say: “God gave me just the body he wanted me to have, and I am beautiful to Him. I want to be a good steward of the body that God has given me, and my husband appreciates me for that.”(Hopefully!! 🙂  )

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:19-21).