Deeper Walk: The Bridegroom
Dawn Xiana Moon, originally published in Relevant Magazine
The long tables are covered with heavy silks and brocades, but every available surface is laden with delicacies from duck swimming in pomegranate and walnut sauce to spiced, roast lamb. Flutes and oboes join a lone singer in layers of melody, but all eyes are on the woman dancing in the center of the floor. All eyes, that is, but the king's.
He took me home with him for a festive meal, but his eyes feasted on me! Song of Songs describes a king so in love with his bride that in the midst of a banquet, all he can think about is his beloved. Everything else - the expensive food, the music, the dancer - is mere distraction. She's perfect, he thinks. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring. She glances his way and smiles - and he is overcome. Even her necklace is stunning.
What we often fail to grasp is that this is a picture of how God looks at us. You have ravished my heart, my treasure, my bride (4:9, NLT). The Creator of the Universe is amazed by us, devoted like a man on his wedding day staring in wonder as his bride walks down the aisle. They've spent months planning this day, organizing every detail from the flowers to the cake, from the invitations to the vows. But all he sees now is the woman he's pledged his life to. It doesn't matter that she had other lovers, or that she has scars on her arms, or even that she's terribly insecure. He knows this and accepts her anyway. Because he loves her.
Too often we imagine God as a doting grandfather, a cosmic killjoy, or a stern father figure we're never quite able to please. But the truth is that he doesn't look at us in constant disappointment or vague disapproval. Those secrets we've been hiding are plain to him, but we don’t have to be ashamed; we've been forgiven, and in him we can satisfy our longing to know and be fully known. He doesn't just love us because "God is love" and he's supposed to - he loves us deeply, passionately, with an unconditionality that even the best of human bridegrooms cannot match. He wants to be with us, to comfort us as a parent dies, to rejoice with us on publishing that first novel, to laugh with us as we experience our first snow. And like a groom, what he desires is intimacy and our love in return.
Song of Songs, Luke 15:4-5
Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen
By reflecting on the painting by Rembrandt, Nouwen grapples with grace and what it means to say that God's love is unconditional.