Whilst taking some time out this week I watched Brooklyn on DVD, a story about Eilis, a young Irish woman who travels to America in search of a new life. Along the way she meets Tony, a young guy from an Italian American family. Both are shy and cautious, but Tony is also intent on winning Eilis’s heart.
This is a joyful, tender story about a girl in a strange land, at first terribly homesick, who is brought to life by a Brooklyn boy with a good heart. Whilst taking the time out this week I also dipped in and out of the Biblical book known as Song of Songs. Now there’s no doubt that it’s a fairly fruity love poem, but it’s included in the Bible not merely as a celebration of human love and intimacy, but as a kind of poetic parable about God’s love for us and his call for us to respond to that. Some verses in chapter 2 dug their way into my soul this week.
‘My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant and your face is lovely.’
This verse seems to me to be a mirror image of Moses’ request to see the face of God in Exodus chapter 34 verse 22. Moses had an extraordinarily close relationship with God (though it took a while to develop) and by this point he longs to see God, even if it means costing him everything. So God hides Moses in the cleft of a rock, covering him with his hand, and he allows Moses to see him, but only from the back. Now, in Song of Songs God calls to us, asks us to take time to speak to him, to look to him, because he loves and delights in us, the people he has made.
I often speak at men’s events and a, very aware that the good news of Jesus needs to be communicated in a way that makes sense for guys. After all, when Jesus called four sweaty fishermen to follow him, he understood them, and appealed to them by offering them a new job. But as I have reflected this week, and rediscovered something (a little glimpse) of God’s love for me, I have come to this conclusion.
This is good news that is both tender and tough, romantic and muscular, gentle and manly, extreme and sensitive. It is both/and – not either/or. The Bible contains the tender, intimate book of Song of Songs and the rugged, tough-talking adventures of Joshua and his people. We find the characters of Moses and Mary, Ruth and Peter, Esther and Joseph. All very different people, all connecting with God in their various, but different and uniquely personal ways. David wrote some incredibly intimate psalms. Psalm 142 verse 5: ‘Lord, you are my place of refuge, you are all I really want in life.’ And he did some tough talking too. Psalm 141 verses 8-9: ‘Don’t let my enemies kill me, let them fall into their own traps.’ So I leave you with another clip from Brooklyn, a moment where Tony and Eilis talk of their love for each other. They are cautious and nervous, as we may often be with God. But they are learning, and growing closer together. And so the one who made us keeps calling, asking us to show him our faces, to let him hear our voices. Growing closer to him.