The Song of Songs is a story about a lover dedicated to the pursuit of her mysteriously elusive beloved. With the desire of love and longing she calls after the fleeting presence, “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle on the rugged hills…” “Until that day,” she says to him, “run free.” Like a used lover asking to be lead on, she is content just to chase after him, pursuing the shadowy presence of God not to possess him, but as one who is possessed by longing for the time when “the day breaks and the shadows flee.”
God set his children free, but not before commissioning them to longing so that their longing would lead them home. Like love weary wanderers are prone to do, we often stop to deify the expressions of our longing. Rather than reckoning with the terrifyingly true God of reality veiled in thundering clouds, we get together to construct towers and golden calves and systematic theologies. Rather than being drawn into the saving Mystery, we worship the gods that we can wrap our minds around and run our fingers through.
We inhabit the dominant ideologies of the day that promise to conduct the saintly procession into the highest heaven. “Everything happens for a reason,” they say, “there are no accidents, and we know why.” The preachers and the teachers, their philosophies and ten-step solutions, those who speak for God and those who laugh at God, these are the merchants we meet on the road, and they will only stand in our way.
God is an intentional mystery so that we, like lovers lost, will spend a lifetime captivated. There will come a breaking day when the shadows flee upon the horizon, but it is not that day. We are still a people commissioned to our longing, being lead on by “a poor reflection as in a mirror” until that day when “we shall see face to face.” Today we “know in part,” and so we search, drawn by the hope of a lover after her beloved wherever the shadows lead, chasing the day when we “shall know fully, even as [we are] fully known.”