We often hear that God is love. We hear that God loves us. We are not only okay with these statements, we say them to others.
So, why is it strange to talk about God as Lover? Does that make it ‘too’ personal and intimate? Is that just a way we can’t conceive of relating to God? Does God feel? Or is God pure logic?
St. John of the Cross, in his famous Dark Night of the Soul poem, says:
5. Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!
6. Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
7. The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to be suspended.
8. I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
Is the Song of Solomon primarily a human love song between husband and wife, or an allegory about God’s love for His people? I prefer the former. There are many more comfortable with the latter. If you prefer the allegorical view, are you comfortable with the metaphors for intimacy and sex that would be attributed to God?
In the Book of Hosea, Hosea is commanded to love a woman, Gomer, that he knows will be unfaithful. There is nothing clinical about his love though. He puts his heart into it, and LOVES her. At some point, he loves her enough to let her go, and later, loves her enough to redeem her from slavery. He doesn’t hold back, even after being betrayed. This parallels the words God speaks through Hosea. God loves. He made a covenant to love, and even when betrayed, repeatedly, HE made a covenant, and HE won’t hold back his heart after having it broken. After awhile, God lets His people go their way, when they choose to worship other gods. Once they are broken, he then loves, in spite of betrayal: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14).
I think of myself, and how I hold back my heart for fear of being hurt. How well do I love after being hurt and betrayed? Would I do what Hosea did, even if commanded by God? What’s amazing though, is that this isn’t about my love, but about God’s. He loves US that way, and if I can get that into my heart, maybe I can grasp a fraction of what it means to love others that way.
If you’ve ever known the love of God, you know it’s nothing but reckless and it’s nothing but raging. Sometimes it hurts to be loved, and if it doesn’t hurt, it’s probably not love, maybe infatuation. I think a lot of American people are infatuated with God, but we don’t really love Him, and they don’t really let Him love them. Being loved by God is one of the most painful things in the world. It’s also the only thing that can bring us salvation, and it’s like everything else that is really wonderful: there’s a little bit of pain in it, little bit of hurt.