About 10 years ago, I became a member of a book club, and our first assigned reading was “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In this story, a man named Florentino Ariza is to be wed in his youth to the beautiful Fermina Daza. But under the pressure and influence of other people and circumstances, she dumps him and marries a rich doctor instead. So Florintino waits in hope for 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days for Fermina’s husband to die so that he can get another shot at marital bliss with this woman.
Though I finished off the book, I was unable to attend the meeting where it was discussed. I’m guessing, however, that the nature of longing was addressed at length. From where does the desire for relationship, romantic or otherwise, come? I love the answer posed by the well-known author and scholar, C.S. Lewis. He believed the experience of longing or desire to be an internal signpost pointing us towards the God of the Christian faith. Lewis’ conclusion necessitates a belief in a relational God, and indeed, the entirety of biblical scripture is a drama of relationship lost and restored.
The story begins in a Garden where people walk and talk with the One who fashioned them to interact with Himself. But love cannot be forced. So He allows them to supplant relationship with their own ephemeral pursuits. Man asserts his volition, then furtively loiters among the flora and fauna where he used to stride in peace and confidence. Ultimately, the story ends in a City where the connectivity between God and man is reestablished, unimpeded by the sinfulness that made a mess of things in between.
Of course between the beginning and the end, there is a lot of hope and longing for the Messiah, or Christ, who would repair the rift between an unholy people and a holy God. In the meantime, humans try to commune with God in their own sin-handicapped sort of way. Catching glimpses of the divine and longing for more.
People like Job, who in while in great suffering declared, “I know my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth…I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25, 27)
The warrior-poet, David, crafted the verse recorded as Psalm 27:4 saying, or perhaps more likely singing, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Nevertheless, when Christ finally appeared, he had to remind people who were caught up in rules that the first and foremost rule was one of relationship: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that when you love God indeed, you will desire to live life within the parameters of that relationship.
Now it’s one thing to love God; he is perfect in beauty, grandeur, justice, and mercy. He is worthy of longing. But what is more amazing is that He longs for us.
At the end of the biblical narrative, humans once again dwell with their Maker. The reunion is described as a wedding, with Christ being the bridegroom and his followers throughout all time collectively being called his bride. Why the use of a bride-groom metaphor rather than a husband-wife metaphor? They would seem to be parallel, but there is a clear distinction. Anticipation. God himself eagerly awaits this divine consummation, revealing that “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.*
In Christ we find a bridegroom who waits for his bride, with even a more perfect expectancy than that of the fictitious Florintino Ariza.
*From “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, 1747.
Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.
Leave your own tracks…The biblical story is concisely summarized in the lyrics of “In the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable” by Stuart Townend, who specifically references the biblical Bride and Her Lover. There are several arrangements of this song that you may want to explore.