I Sat Down Under His Shadow – Edward Bairstow
I sat down under His shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house and His banner over me was love.
Song of Solomon 2:3-4
Love. It’s an idea that sometimes can feel relegated to this one week in February as we prepare to demonstrate our dedication to our romantic partners through flowers and chocolates and fine dining. However, as a culture, we are utterly obsessed with love. We watch shows like “Love is Blind” and “The Bachelor,” we make love songs the most frequent No. 1 hits, and romance is such an expectation in our movies and TV shows that they will shoehorn a romantic plot line into just about any type of movie.
Song of Solomon is the go-to “romantic” book of the bible, full of love poems and analogies that do not translate quite as well after a few millennia (“Your waist is a mound of wheat…” SoS 7:2). The language of this book is so effusive and dramatic that, at times, it could even be called erotic. It is a unique book in the bible to me for this reason, because it’s innate spirituality is mostly hidden somewhere under the surface.
A common way to interpret this book is by using the allegory Jesus presents in Ephesians 5:22-33 of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride. This, of course, is a beautiful way to interpret this book. Through this interpretation, we get an understanding of Christ’s full, unending, overwhelming love through a lens that we humans understand in a deeper way, personal intimacy. The way the author elevates different parts of the body to jewels and goblets and mountains and fawns align with how God sees our spirit. As shoddy as we may feel at times, God sees us as more than we are, because he loves us.
It’s funny, with this in mind, how differently we connote the word “Romantic” and “Romanticized.” The root of these words are the same, and yet something romantic is seen as an intentional expression of love, while romanticizing is seen as unrealistic, unintentional and irresponsible elevation of the romanticized. So what is the difference?
Is Solomon’s poetry not that of romanticization? Does God’s love towards us not place us a bit higher than a strict interpretation of reality?
I think the trick is in what we choose to romanticize. When we romanticize that which we don’t have – the past, a certain relationship, a certain socioeconomic status – we set ourselves up for unhappiness and regret. But when we choose to romanticize that which is a part of our life, we actually do elevate that which is around us! It becomes romantic.
To take it back to the text of this anthem, Christ’s banner over us is love. In a world full of skepticism and doubt, to live with love feels a bit like romanticizing. In a world obsessed with winning and improvement, to choose to romanticize where you are can seem like settling. But it’s not.
We are called to love, in every circumstance, in every stage of life, in every way we can find.
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church