When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says you’re beautiful – when you don’t know you are,
And all you long to see is written on his face,
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day.
When I listened to this song I suddenly realised what all those conservative evangelical books on ’emotional purity’ before marriage were really talking about. They were all so vague; they used so many generic, fluffy terms that their advice about ‘protecting your emotions’ and ‘not giving away your heart’ didn’t seem like anything I could hold up as a mirror to my own inner life. I had been so promiscuous about my emotions when I was younger that I’d become calloused to the indignity of throwing them around. Over the course of a number of months the cogs had slowly been starting to turn, when I heard this song and the truth hit like a sledgehammer. After the big moment of penitence my major urge was as follows: I’ve got to warn the others before it’s too late for them. So, dear daughters of Jerusalem, treat this as a plea from one worn and weary maiden tired of crawling through beggars’ dust, to another (hopefully less worn, less weary, less tired and less dusty).
Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church – and as relationships go, it’s as exclusive as they come. This song paints it more vividly than I could readily have imagined. It’s no wonder adultery and idolatry are so closely linked in the books of the Prophets; that the harlotries and whoredoms of God’s people are so often instances of Baal-worship. But it’s clear from the text that sex is not all there is to it. Take Hosea 2, for example. Judah didn’t break God’s heart just because she ‘did the deed’. Rather, it was about whom she allowed to be her Saviour, whom she allowed to provide for her, whom she allowed to allure her when he spoke tenderly to her, whom she would accept her peace from that she might lie down in safety on his account, and whom she allowed to give her hope and accept her. This takes ‘purity’ to a new level. Christ tolerates no rivals in that intimate kind of service and neither would a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church – and it is the exclusivity of that relationship – the ‘holiness’ or ‘set-apartness’ – which is so beautiful.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5: 22-32, ESV)
If you throw your heart, mind, hopes, dreams, fears, memories and emotions at someone before you’ve learned what that person is truly made of and what they’re going to be to you, then you can’t take them back later.
Protect your inner life. Control your own body – possess your own vessel – in sanctification and honour. It goes for women as it goes for men – but I address women especially because I am a woman, and because I see elements of my own expressly female constitution in Judah’s heart-whoredom, over which God laments in the book of Hosea in the shoes of a wronged husband. Remember the Leona Lewis song – “My heart’s crippled by the vein that I keep on closing – you cut me open and I keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love” – don’t let it apply to you. Don’t bleed devotion like a leaky flask onto whoever waits eagerly enough to get their fill. Honour those to whom your inner life really belongs, even if that’s just you and Jesus for now, by not pouring your heart out to people you aren’t meant to be bound to. The more you give of your heart to a person, the more you become bound up in theirs, and here I speak from experience. I stand guilty as charged; what can I say? I have my regrets and my heartaches; I have that one leaky vein that I struggle to keep shut, and this is the long, painful lesson I’ve been learning.
Tell me, you whom I love,
where you graze your flock
and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
beside the flocks of your friends?
(Song of Solomon 1:7, NIV)
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you are to present it as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Don’t set yourself up for abuse and exploitation for another’s pleasure. Don’t lay yourself a trap to fall into. Don’t let other loves ‘sap’ your reserves of trust, intimacy and affection, and rival your Lord and your husband to whom you pledged these things in love. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and obey, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance… You gave yourself to him, giftwrapped, with love in your eyes and joy in your heart, and you promised to be his forever.
If Christ has chosen you to be his bride, his specially elect and a member of his body, then he needs your heart just as your earthly husband does, and he needs you to let him be your hero, and he needs you to be pure. So protect your inner life. Keep it from emotional scavengers and voyeurs. Be careful whom you allow to dry your tears, and win your heart, and convince you that you are beautiful when you wouldn’t let yourself believe it. Don’t look for all you long to see in the face of any Tom, Dick or Harry (or Sally) who etches it there. You don’t even know what they really want those pieces of you for.
Christ paid a high price for you and your heart. You might have zero self-esteem, you might hate yourself, but whatever you feel inside, if Christ was crucified to reconcile you to God, then your heart is too valuable for you to throw it around. It’s been called in, claimed, taken, reserved, bought and set uniquely apart by someone who has pledged to love and cherish and own it forever, and sealed that pledge with his own blood, that he might have it exclusively. You were was his before he even quickened your heart to love and summoned you to the altar to say your vows: he betrothed you to himself forever and wooed you, in the manner of Hosea 2 and Ezekiel 16. So don’t throw your heart around. It’s not for you to throw. Daughters of Jerusalem, set your heart apart for Christ, and for those whom God has appointed to take care of it, for his sake and for yours.