Maintaining a House of Intimacy
In recent weeks, we have been walking through the Song of Solomon, where we will now continue. …
The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs (Song 1:17).
Here, we see the exquisite, yet unbending nature of the relationship shared between the Lover and the Beloved. Not only is this dwelling place of love built of rich materials – cedars and firs – but this house of intimacy is a sturdy, safe place of covering. There is no safer place than the secret place of His presence, where we are called to dwell. One of these trees was used for casket making, and the other is an evergreen, flourishing throughout the year. They represent the death and life of Christ.
Amid the initial intoxication of holy love, there is a call to the necessary consistency and diligence it takes to maintain this relationship. The Christian life can truly be a continuous string of ecstasies and supernatural experience as we live a Kingdom lifestyle. We need more of the supernatural, but neither can we forsake the very basic disciplines of prayer, study, giving and demonstrating good character. It is one thing to take new land in the Kingdom; it is another thing to mow the lawn. But the key to these disciplines is to have them infused by the Presence of God. Otherwise, they are counterproductive. Let us look briefly at another passage from Solomon related to these beams and rafters:
If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks (Eccl. 10:18).
The Lord will never abandon us, but we can abandon the fires of intimacy in such a way that our hearts grow cold toward Him. Through slothfulness and idle hands, the rafters will fall in, as we gradually abandon the zeal we had once cultivated for the Lord. What begin as little leaks in this roof can eventually lead to an entire house of decay.
Small compromises lead to devastating sins.
There is an assertion here of the effort that goes into this house of love. It is a volitional, calculated pursuit of God that we are on. It takes time to dig out a deep, secret relationship with Him. And quite frankly, it is not always an emotionally exhilarating process at the onset. I do not think it ever has to be dry and boring, but sometimes the glory is masqueraded behind the mundane things of life. Pursue Him in that place of exhileration, until you lose yourself in bliss.
:: everyday lovers ::
In a marriage, or a relationship with a friend, emotions are involved, but not all of the time. There is just the everyday fabric of life that consists of simply being together and being aware of one another that makes up the bulk of a loving co-existence. Intimacy is not just an emotional exhilaration, but a life of honesty, humility and transparency lived before God and men that most demonstrates the Kingdom.
We cannot talk about intimacy with God, while ignoring the needs of our neighbors, hating our spouses and abandoning our children. There are basic principles of the Christian life that must be maintained as part of this house of intimacy. We serve Jesus when we serve the poor. We love Jesus when we love the broken hearted. We visit Jesus when we visit the prisoner, and feed Him when we feed the hungry. This is putting hands and feet to the gospel.
We want God’s presence to saturate our everyday lives, whether we are washing dishes, doing business reports, hammering nails or studying algebra. We want His Kingdom to be manifest within our common lives and vocations and thus be released in the earth. The very nature of a “calling” is that one task, job, venture or career that a man is driven to perform, because he most experiences the anointing of God smeared on it. Under the blood, the Genesis 3 curse of toil is reversed, and a man can actually enjoy the works of his hands and walk with God in the midst of his earthly activity. Our pursuit of God’s heart is never so “spiritual” that it is divorced from the activities of the natural realm. Adam walked with God, and he tended a garden. God does not negate natural activities, but His presence actually enhances them.
On the same token, we do not want to confuse the common with the sacred – though the two often walk side-by-side, like Almighty God birthed in a manger. Yes, we are called to a thorough, holistic diligence in our pursuit of God in every area of our normal, natural lives. Yet, at our core must always be kindled that undying spiritual flame which says “There must be more!” The Christian life is not a gray balance between the black and white of natural and spiritual life. We need to be more spiritual and more natural. The result is a life of vibrancy and color.
:: diligent heart ::
As for the spiritual end of this pursuit, too often, the Christian life is reduced to a set of morals, practices and disciplined character, yet the intensity of a deep, supernatural chase of the person of Jesus Christ is somehow shuffled to the side. In our removal of “laziness,” therefore, understand that we are not merely advocating a lifestyle of outward performance and activity. This is ultimately a kingdom not built by hands that we chase hard after. We can never forget the bottom line – that it is all about Him and Him alone.
The diligence of which I speak does indeed produce the fruit of good deeds and character. But this is foremost a maintenance of the fire that burns in the altar of our hearts. The fire of holy passion is the heartbeat of every believer. And, I believe, it is the sole thing we will be called to account for when our deeds are weighed by the Lord. On this matter, I believe that a major key to keeping this house strong is found in the next two verses:
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens (Song 2:1-2).
It is imperative that I identify myself foremost as a lover of God. I am a rose of Sharon. I am the beautiful one, the fragrant one he adores. Yes, I may be a tailor, a butcher, an accountant – but I am foremost the Beloved.
:: rose of sharon ::
Sharon means “plain” and it is a place of grazing. The deepest roots of the word speak of the heat of jealousy, to vie with a rival, or to burn, blaze up and wax hot with anger or jealousy. You see, this is a place of strife, a place of pressing in, a place of warfare. It takes a real diligence to maintain the heart, because it is where the crux of all determination takes place. A place of decision where two kingdoms are jealously vying for our lives. The course of a man’s life is determined by the substance of his heart.
But Sharon is also a place of grazing. A place of feeding. Unless we actively engage in the wrestling process of diligently pursuing the Lord, we cannot feed on the best of the land. No victory comes without pressing in. Like mature eagles, we no longer depend on others for regurgitated food in this place, but we learn to pursue meat on our own. We dig out revelation from the Word. We get hungry for the things of heaven.
It is here that we become a thing of beauty in the midst of the struggle. The lily among thorns is one who receives and gives revelation. Lily means “trumpet,” speaking of one who declares the prophetic word among the maidens and among the thorny system of the world. It is in this place of adversity that we will either be crushed, or we will grow most fruitful. We must learn to view opposition and warfare not as an altogether bad thing. The Lord allows opposition, because He always wants us to turn it into opportunity. The greatest saints always used the enemy’s attacks to propel them to altogether new levels of intimacy and power. Challenges should always serve to bring us to a higher level in our walk with God.
Perhaps the primary tactic of the enemy during warfare has always been to question our identity as it correlates to the identity of God. This is because he despises the relationship between God and man. How did he constantly tempt Jesus in the desert? “If you are the Son of God. … If you are the Son of God. …” He questioned Jesus’ identity.
Amid the warfare, the struggles and the strife between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, we should never surrender our identity as the beautiful Beloved. As the one loved by God. This is the secret source of our strength. In fact, many think Jesus is the lily of the valley in this passage, but we see that the Lord is really talking about us, “Like a lily … is my darling. …”
Of course, the original text of the Song does not even differentiate which words are spoken by the Lover and which are spoken by the Beloved. In the deep place of spiritual union, the two merge into one to such a degree that there is no separation. In that place, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). As you died with Christ, you were given freedom to let go of all self-will, self-esteem, self-determination and self-identification and to be filled with the increase of God’s will, God’s love, God’s zeal and God’s life. It is to identify ever more with God’s name and authority.