Sunday, February 10, 2013

"On Fire": "Come with Me, My Bride." (SOS 4:1-8)

"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, you are beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are like doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats streaming down Mount Gilead. Your teeth are white like newly sheared sheep just coming from their bath. Each one has a twin, and none of them is missing. Your lips are like red silk thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks behind your veil are like slices of a pomegranate. Your neck is like David’s tower, built with rows of stones. A thousand shields hang on its walls; each shield belongs to a strong soldier. Your breasts are like two fawns, like twins of a gazelle, feeding among the lilies. Until the day dawns and the shadows disappear, I will go to that mountain of myrrh and to that hill of incense. My darling, everything about you is beautiful, and there is nothing at all wrong with you. Come with me from Lebanon, my bride. Come with me from Lebanon, from the top of Mount Amana, from the tops of Mount Senir and Mount Hermon. Come from the lions’ dens and from the leopards’ hills."---Song of Solomon 4:1-8(NCV)


What the Shulamite woman's beloved said in Song of Solomon 4 is so *much* that I am going to break it down into two parts.

We'll start with verses 1 thru 8...

Not too long ago, I was talking to a woman about her appearance. You know, one of the main things about coveting (which is one of the Ten Commandments-Exodus 20:17) is that you find yourself eagerly desiring *what isn't yours*. There are a lot of women who wish they looked differently than they do *or worse*, they wish they looked like someone else. And then when you add to that what the Word, which is Adonai (John 1:1), says about envy, it just makes things that much more complex: "A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones." (Proverbs 14:30-NKJV)

Envy makes one rotten. I know this for a fact because I used to be the woman who would covet and envy the appearance of other women. It wasn't all women. It was a very specific type of woman. After a lot of self-work and self-reflection, I realized it was women who looked like my mother. She's pretty stunning and people always used to tell me that while I was growing up (usually without even acknowledging me at all; watch how you talk to children, y'all!). As for me, I represent a significant amount of my father and his mother's DNA and yet,  ironically, people say that as I get older, I look more and more like my mom. Do you know what's a trip about that? I realize that it's not really that we *physically look alike* (although she is my mother and so we do have some similarities. You can see her here.). It's because I am maturing (Hebrews 5:12-14) and with maturity comes a deeper sense of self and purpose and the understanding that life is far too short to be wishing you didn't have what you don't while ignoring all of the things that you do (James 4:14). I have always loved confidence in a man. It's appealing. Confidence in a woman is no different and to a man (because I asked), it makes him feel like she's a lot...safer to be around. Insecure women tend to want everyone to fill voids that really have nothing to do with other individuals. They always want to be complimented, edified and reassured that they have value and after a while, being around a woman like that can be...really draining. Besides, a woman who trusts in her Creator should already know that (Psalm 139:14). Yep. You can tell a healthy Christian, in part, by their level of self-worth. When you know that you are, as R&B singer Brandy says "made in perfection", then you honor, well...*honoring it*.

And so, this brings me to the conversation that I had with a particular woman about her appearance semi-recently. She was telling me that she knew that she was not as beautiful as other women but she hoped that a man would still find her to be desirable one day. OK, let me say this about physical beauty. Just like any other gift in life, I am totally at peace with the fact that there are some women on this earth (shoot, for that matter, there are some cultures on this earth) that are simply breathtakingly beautiful. *It's genetics*. They have nothing to do with it and so there's nothing to be mad at them about. My brother is an award-winning singer. He's very gifted in that way. I am an (almost three time) author. You couldn't pay him to sit down and write as much as I do (LOL). We have different gifts but it doesn't make one of us have more or less value than the other (bookmark that).

One thing that I believe a lot of women are caught up in the web of (literally) is trying to be someone they are not. It's self-deprecating. It's counterproductive. And it's also the ultimate insult to their Creator. Psalm 139:13 says that the Spirit (John 4:24) formed our inward parts and so however God made you, *he purposed you to be that way* and honestly, a big part of the reason why so many women have the image issues that they do is because they lust after the world's (I John 2:16) beauty standard; they have an overmastering desire to look like how the world tells them they should. The delusional thing about that is most of the women that they want to look like don't even look the way that they appear in movies, music videos and fashion spreads. Shoot, in high school, I sat beside many female teenagers who had crafted the art of creating a face that wasn't really theirs (thanks to make-up). That's why I dig the quote by Oscar Wilde that says "A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction." Fiction is not real. Fiction is imagined and invented. To wish to look like something (or one) that isn't even real is...just the opposite of how the Word tells us to act: "It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it." (Ecclesiastes 7:18-Message)

The reality is that who you are is how God wanted you to be, so instead of *coveting* someone else's appearance or doing drastic things to alter yours, why not figure out how to *celebrate* your individuality (Psalm 33:15)? Especially since the man who God designed to love you is not going to be comparing you anyway. He's going to be like the Shulamite woman's beloved was with her. He is going to declare that you are beautiful and that there is nothing at all wrong with you.

OK, let me say this to clarify. *Every woman has flaws* so when this man said that about her, I don't believe he meant that she was perfect (although she obviously was *perfect to and for him*). I believe that when he said nothing was "wrong", he meant some other definitions of the word. He meant that nothing was "not in accordance with what is good" and that nothing was "not in accordance with [his] requirements". If you have big breasts and no butt, it will be in accordance to what your husband thinks is good and fits his beauty requirements. If you have no breasts and a big butt, it will be in accordance with what your husband thinks is good and fits his beauty requirements. If your hair is long and flowing and short and tightly-coiled, it will be in accordance with what your husband thinks is good and fits his beauty requirements. If your lips are full or very small, it will be in accordance with what your husband thinks is good and fits his beauty requirements. If you're thin as a rail or "super thick", it will be in accordance with what your husband thinks is good and fits his beauty requirements. If your teeth are perfectly straight or you have some flaws (some men like gaps and overbites...*trust me*-LOL), it will be in accordance with what your husband thinks is good and his beauty requirements.

And so, if you really believe that, then why spend (or is it waste?) so much time trying to look "beauty in general" for the masses? Why not spend this time going to God about what his "beauty blueprint" is for you (Proverbs 3:4-6) and seeking him (Matthew 7:7-8) about how you can adorn your individuality? Why not spend this time freeing yourself from coveting other people (wanting to look like another women is almost like wanting to attract her man in a way...weird, isn't it?) and their appearance and celebrating your own? Growing up, I went to school with a lot of white kids and so their beauty standard was not my natural hair and full lips. *Now?* I rock an Afro proud and those who know me know that I love me some lip gloss. My lips are one of my best features and my husband will be praising the Most High (Genesis 14:19) for them! I spent many years purging myself from how another culture tried to make me want to be. I am free (John 8:31-32) because I choose not to compare myself but prepare myself. Thousands of people don't need to find me "so beautiful that nothing is wrong with me". Hundreds of men don't need to do a run down of my features (hundreds of men don't need to be looking at me so hard that they could!). *One man*, MY MAN, will find me to have distinctive (beauty) gifts that will fit his preferences and I'll know he's the one (in part) when he can* praise the God who made me* for making me...just the way that I am.

That's what's so divine about the first part of Song of Solomon 4. The breakdown of the Shulamite woman's features are not given to us so that we can go out and try and emulate them. No, they are to remind us that when a man goes beyond "lusting a woman" and into *loving his woman*, he is so into her that he can pick out so many things that, in his eyes, are simply...amazing.

I will interject with one part, though (because I feel led to). The section where he gets into her neck and he says that's strong as a tower and that the "like shields" that are on it are like a strong shoulder? Your neck is connected to your spine and that gets back to what we were talking about earlier in reference to having confidence. Genesis 2:18 defines a wife to be a helpmate and as I've shared many times on this blog, the Hebrew word for that is Ezer Kenegdo which means "lifesaver". A man can't trust you to "have his back" when you can't even sit up straight with your own. A lot of us don't need to be asking God "Why don't I look like so-and-so?" The real wisdom (Proverbs 4:7, James 1:5) prayer is "God, help me to develop more self-confidence."

And then there's one last part that I am led (Luke 12:12) to address. It's the title of this particular blog: "Come with me, my bride".

As soon as I get some other "On Fire" tokens taken care of, I'm going to do a few Cracker Barrel giveaways. Why? It's because I am a firm believer, now more than ever, that women who doubt that true love exists need to go sit in Cracker Barrel and talk to some of those couples who have been married for so long that they've lost count!

Take Bill and Alice, for instance. I met them last night while getting some take out. Bill is 82 and Alice is 85. They met at a YWCA dance years and years ago. When I asked Bill how long they had been married, he said "Shoot, I don't know. I stopped counting at around 50 or 55 years." As he shared with me their connection that is so tight that they can interpret grunts now (LOL) and how they didn't have children (because they didn't want the stress-LOL), he said something to me that I knew was God-ordained (Proverbs 16:33-AMP): "It's a shame that these women are out here with more ambition than they guys have. That's why a lot of you are taking care of them. These boys don't know how to want to be strong and responsible men."

Amen Bill! One definition of ambition is "an earnest desire for some type of achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment". In the context of this blog, men with the *ambition* to join to their helpmate. If we as women really altered our focus to pray "Lord, please prepare me to have the discernment to see the man who has the ambition to be joined to me as his wife (not his "tap partner" or girlfriend for years on end) and will be a responsible leader in my home", a lot of our anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7) and fear (I John 4:18) would cease to exist. A lot of us are so busy wanting "a man" that we are not training our senses to know who *our man* is. Going from guy to guy (to guy to guy) is not preparing us for covenant. It's actually teaching us how to give pieces of ourselves to people who are not deserving and fragmented emotions are a leading cause of why there are so many broken relationships (marriages). Hanging out with male friends is one thing. Making every outing a potential "love connection" is something entirely different.

The Shulamite woman's beloved had ambition. He didn't just talk about how beautiful she was. He had a plan in mind. He told her "Come with me." You know, there are a lot of men who will talk a good game about how fine a woman is but other than a night or two in their bed, they ain't tryin' to take her anywhere. What was it that the rap artist Young Buck once said? "Yeah, you can be my wife but only for tonight." Do you know how many women, women even reading this blog, settle for that foolishness (Psalm 26:11)? When the Shulamite woman's beloved said "Come with me", he wanted her in the day and the night, today and tomorrow...being without her was no longer an option. *This* is what we are to desire. A man who we don't have to *ask to be with* but who will *extend the invitation to come*.

Plus, I like how he said "Come from the lion's den". That is oftentimes a euphemism for swine (Matthew 7:6)---men who have no other intentions but to "physically partake" and bounce. In a way, it would appear that this man was not just wanting her to come away with him, but to get away from anyone who had less than the best intentions for her too. *As a good man should*.

And finally, if he was going to say "Come with me, my bride" (not "my girlfriend" but *my bride*) this means he had *a plan for provision* in place. I don't know why women want to marry men who don't have a plan, *for them*, in motion. Please don't do that. You are to be a man's helpmate not his parent; you want to be a wife not someone joined to a mama's boy (a man who always wants the woman to do everything for him). If "he" doesn't know how and where you fit into his life, either you're not the one or it's not the time. Either way, he and God have more talking about it to do than you and he do. *Let them*.

This study is just getting better and better and more and more confirming and for some of us *conforming* (Romans 12:2) as we step further away from what we've been settling for (even if it's just within our minds) and into what we are deserving of.

This week, seek God on how you may be coveting others, how you can become more confident and the reasons why you should wait for *the one* (not *ones*) who will see you as *his kind of beautiful* and will then extend for you the invitation *come away with him*.

Not to be his "jump off" or "girlfriend"...but his *bride*.



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