By Russ Ramsey
I have a recurring dream—a nightmare of sorts. It usually comes on a Saturday night when I have some important responsibility at church the following morning. In the dream, no matter how hard I try, I cannot get to the church. And the obstacles that prevent me are the strange stuff of dreams. I get into a cab (which I never do) that has to stop by a different city first. Or there is an apocalyptic traffic jam, and I have to run over the tops of cars. Or, my favorite, the church I go to is the wrong church, even though it is my church, because no one told me we moved.
Dreams are weird. I am not the sort of person who thinks there’s some deep hidden meaning underneath everything that flies through our heads while we’re sleeping. But I do believe our dreams often are the result of the untangling of our consciences. Our worries, fears, hopes, and longings all show up—some to a great, cartoonish effect and others to nightmarish terror. But they do show up, don’t they?
Today’s passage in Song of Songs is, many scholars believe, a description of a dream. It is the couple’s wedding night. They are in bed and she has a nightmare, which she introduces by saying, in effect, “I’m asleep, but my heart is awake, and it hears a knocking at the door” (my paraphrase of 5:2).
In her dream, her lover is outside knocking, asking her to let him in. In a haze of sleep, she offers excuses for why she can’t get out of bed—she’s naked and doesn’t want to get cold, she just washed her feet and doesn’t want to get them dirty. But soon, still in her dream, she warms to his presence and gets up to let him in. But when she opens the door he is gone. She panics. Has he left her to find another lover? She goes out into the night searching for him, and in her nightmare, the city watchmen find her and beat her (5:7). The worst thing that could have happened has happened. She has lost her lover on their wedding night, and her refusal to let him come inside played a part in her loss. She is sick with love.
Why has such a nightmare made its way into one of the greatest love poems ever written? Because her fear is a terror everyone can relate to. Will I push you away to the point that you leave me? Will I treasure my own comfort over letting you in?
These fears are rooted in many things. One is the false belief that the strength of love is found in the intensity of romantic passion. Young lovers fear what will happen if the wedding-night intensity fades. But deeply rooted love takes work. It is good work, but work nonetheless. Colossians 3:12-17 describes the work. It is the work of forgiving, the work of celebrating, the work of listening, the work of growing in wisdom, the work of maturing in Christ together.
The truth is, no matter how dark the nightmare goes, the Bridegroom is not really gone. He is right there, beside the one He loves. And He is there because He made a covenant to never leave and never forsake.
May God wake us from the nightmare that denies the possibility of such a love. And may we come to trust the faithfulness of God, even if our deepest fear is the fear of being left alone.
Written By Russ Ramsey