but I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go, (Song of Solomon 3:4)
I looked around in the serenity of an early morning, and everywhere found signs that spring is finally stirring things to wakefulness. Wild bursts of early colour in the bolder clivias and azaleas tease their slower companions to follow their lead, while the lavender presents its simple offering with the same calm steadfastness it always displays. Leaves sprout and begin to unfurl as naked trees stretch and yawn and begin to don their summer clothes. This is a time I treasure – a time of day when the Creator’s hand softly etches the sky with hints of the day to come, when this new spring life is draped in a quiet peace and whispers of the life within.
I was reminded, in the stillness of His presence, that for those of us who believe, spring is always in our hearts. We may go through ‘seasons’ in our lives – times of mourning, times of hardship, times of tempation and trouble – but within us, the new life that is Christ always remains. It is the promise of light in the darkness, the promise of His faithfulness and His mercy, the promise that nothing can separate us from His love and His will for our loves.
How easy it is to lose sight of this in a world that seems determined to challenge us at every turn. Often, it is those we love most who ridicule our faith and, through unbelief, seem to constantly erode our convictions. Perhaps it is our colleagues, our friends or simple chance acquaintances who mock and deride our belief in Christ. We can be very sure, whoever they may be, life will present us with challenges to our faith at every turn. It ‘comes with the territory.’ The Kingdom of God, by it’s very nature, is constantly in opposition to everything else.
We all experience the frustration and sense of failure in an encounter with someone who lashes out at what we believe and simply refuses to hear the truth. All of us have moments when we emerge feeling battered and bruised, when our love for that person and concern for their eternity overwhelms us with a sense that we have somehow failed. In these times, the peace we treasure seems somehow swallowed up by the forces ranged against us.
Today’s verse is my ‘antidote’ for these moments. I remind myself of these words, and hold fast to Him whom I love – the Author and Finisher of my faith, my Kinsman-Redeemer, Alpha and Omega, my love, my life, my all-in-all. The remarkable truth is that this love – this constant, visible relationship with the source of life within us – is often the most eloquent testimony, one which may succeed when words fail. This is more than religion. It’s living in one we love and who loves us. It’s holding fast, never letting go, a visible, manifested truth that transcends human understanding and religious ritual. And it’s our sure and certain life, joy and peace.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. We are also reminded in 1 Corinthians that the greatest of these is love. I have discovered, through a life of hardship, tragedy and sometimes seemingly endless toil, that this is an enduring truth. I count myself blessed – though I do sometimes wonder at my obstinacy and willfull ignorance that made it a long, hard lesson – that through all things my God, in His grace, taught me that loving Him is the foundation of everything else.
I rejoice that I have found Him who my soul loves. It is pure joy and abiding peace to come to the place of ‘You alone, Lord,’ where ‘stuff’ becomes irrelevant and plans are simply redundant. Of course, humanity persists and will always seek to intrude. It is a daily choice, a daily surrender, a daily returning to Him who my soul loves, a daily holding on and never letting go.
This love is what Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:17-19: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This love defies description and leads us beyond our fears, our inadequacies, our weaknesses and our striving. It is bigger than our hopes and dreams, greater than our desires, stronger than our opinions or attitudes. It is a place to live, a way to live and a means to live. It is the place of total surrender – the daily, joyful surrender as He teaches us, draws us, holds us and transforms us. This love is the journey of growing faith, of deepening trust, of increasing dependence. It is measured by immeasurable moments ‘You alone, Lord.’ In this time, place and situation, in this choice, decision or confrontation, in this fear, inadequacy or weakness, this love is constant, unchanging and eternally faithful.
Yet is is also our greatest challenge, the life within us that stirs us to change and growth. It is a love that is not satisfied with second-best, the here-and-now, or better-this-little-than-nothing-at all. This love brings us to prayer, to intercession for those who reject it and His truth. It stretches us beyond our weaknesses and limitations. It ignores our fleshly tendencies and spurs us on to things we would never consider possible.
The real love that is God challenges the common perception that He loves us just as we are. Our God will never compromise. He loves us, and has and always will love us, despite the way we are. His love is so total and so complete that it took Him to the cross so to provide the only way to transcend the way we are. His love is the power for transformation.
When we enter into that love, when we hold fast and never let go, we enter the place of transformation. We cannot hope to have the love and escape the change. Living that love means letting go, embracing change, knowing that every day will bring those moments of ‘You alone, Lord’ – the choice to love Him no matter what. But it is a place of rejoicing, a discovery of life, truth and purpose that this world can never replace or tear down.
Lord, draw us into Your love. Release in us a spirit of humility and surrender, a hunger and thirst for You and You alone. Help us to embrace the changes, to yield to Your transforming power, to love You no matter what, so that Your love may be revealed through us according to Your perfect will.