Church-Community Connection: It's important to live loved in unloving times

Here’s a thought for you. Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

One of the Scriptures’ most influential and insightful books is the Song of Songs. It is a love story of two real-life characters and their relationship that happened long ago. One was a sun-beaten shepherdess at the bottom of the social spectrum. Her life and choices had beaten her up. She had given up on most anything other than the worst happening to her.

The other character was a king named Solomon. He was at the top end of the social spectrum. He ruled one of the most powerful kingdoms the world has ever seen. As the shepherdess saw him, she was overwhelmed by his persona, but, in her mind, the king would never be overwhelmed by her persona. Hint: Be careful when talking to yourself, because you’re listening.

What happens next is recorded for eternity for us to get a glimpse into the wonders and essence of God.

Solomon sees the shepherdess and is ravished by her. He saw in her what she could never see in herself. Solomon’s attraction wasn’t physical. The years and her background had taken some of that away. Nevertheless, Solomon recognized her value, essence and potential royalty even though she wasn’t a queen. He loved her… “even though.” That’s what true godly love is.

The Hebrew words in Song of Songs illuminate a type of love that is much more the world’s type of love. The original language reveals words like passion, ravished, fervent, desire, intimate, longing, wonder, splendor, reckless holiness and total abandonment. It took a “Solomon” who loved her unconditionally to awaken the sun-worn shepherdess to her value, potential and future. His “reckless” faith, hope and love awakened her faith, hope and love. The shepherdess moved from living to be loved to living from being loved. There’s a big difference there.

The king’s unconditional love transformed the shepherdess’ mindset about herself. She thought, “I’m ugly.” He thought, “You’re beautiful.” She thought, “I have a terrible past.” He thought, “You have a great future.” She thought, “I’m poor. I have no money.” He said, “You’re wealthy. I’ll give you ornaments of gold.” She thought, “I’m a lowly shepherdess.” He thought, “You’re a queen.” She thought, “I’m unclean from sin.” He thought, “You are now whiter than snow.” She thought, “I was condemned and ostracized by my family.” He thought, “There’s no condemnation in my family.” She thought, “I’m unworthy.” He thought, “You are worthy.” She thought, “My house is a dirty field.” He thought, “Your house is now the king’s chambers.” She thought, “I’m bad.” He thought, “You’re good.”

The four basic human needs for people to prosper in their souls are significance, acceptance, love and security. Most people live to be significant, not from being significant; to be accepted, rather than from being accepted; to be loved, rather than from being loved; to be secure, rather than from being secure. That’s where the shepherdess was living before meeting the king.

After the transformational encounter with the king, she moved to living significant, accepted, loved and secure. And how her soul prospered. Why? She had the correct IP address. So, what does IP mean? It’s living from your God-given identity and purpose, rather than for some human-made fake identity and purpose. When you know your worth, you will stop giving discounts.

Do you see how this real-life example relates to you and me in a way that most everyone can connect with? The king dismounted from his royal horse and met the shepherdess where she was. Then he took her up to where he was. That is what God did for us; God is the king. We are a type of shepherdess.

The Bible says we can love because God first loved us. Just like the shepherdess and King Solomon, we awaken to our actual worth, identity and value by God awakening us to what we mean to God. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. Our part is to believe it and then receive it, just like the shepherdess did.

Why do we need to know God loves us? Pastor Mike Bickel says: “We will never have more affection or passion for God than we understand that He has for us. Likewise, we will never be more committed to God than we understand that He is committed to us.” Hello?

Did you know there is a maternal side to God? Mark Twain captures God’s maternal side in this writing about motherhood.

“Being a mother is not about ‘birthing a child into the world.’ Rather, it is about repeatedly ‘birthing into the child’ a steady sense of their inestimable worth, a prized understanding of their authentic self, a conviction that the impossible perfect life is largely the stuff of myth, and an utterly unwavering belief that the cold actions of men never represent the warm heart of God. The relentless act of birthing these things into the innermost soul of a thirsty child makes a woman a mother. The child you hold in your arms is your gift to a future that you will not see.”

King Solomon birthed the maternal side of God into the shepherdess (and us, too). That’s how you live loved in unloving times.