Unlike most of the women that we have studied so far, The Shulamite Woman is a fictional character. She is featured in The Song of Solomon as one of the main protagonists alongside her “beloved”. This book of the Bible is an extended piece of lyrical poetry written by King Solomon which, on the surface, appears to be about romantic love (although, like most scriptures about love and marriage, it also contains some parallels between these and Christ’s relationship with the church). As such, The Shulamite Woman has much to teach us- not only about this topic- but adhering to God’s timing. Let's dig in and see what these are!
The beginning of The Song of Solomon serves not just as the opening of this particular book of the Bible, but as an introduction to:
- Its themes
- The Shulamite Woman herself.
This is demonstrated through its first few lines in which she swoons:
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth- For your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. Draw me away!” (Song of Solomon 1:2-4).
Literally, as soon as you begin to read them, those first few lines alert you to the fact that this book is about a woman who is deeply in love. However just a little further reading lets us know that this is not an unrequited love and that this woman is in fact in a torrid love affair with her “beloved”. For he also extols her virtues, describing her as “fair” or beautiful, with a “lovely mouth” and breasts like “two fawns, twins of the gazelle, which feed among the lilies” amongst other things. Therefore, we know that as much as his love has intoxicated her (being better than wine), she had likewise succeeded in “[ravishing his] heart”.
The language and imagery used makes it clear that these two characters have been overcome by their passion and mutual attraction. They are devoted to each other and totally immersed in their love. This is demonstrated through all the talk of love being like wine in its ability to overpower the senses like the many fine aromas that are mentioned throughout the poem, such as “fragrant henna with spikenard, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices…” (Song of Solomon 4:13-15). However, although I adore a good love story as much as the next person, this is not the aspect of the tale that pulls me. What gets me is that despite the connotations of being drunk, carefree and totally given to their passions- The Shulamite Woman still manages to give some sage advice in a moment of sobriety, which I will share in a little bit. I want to give some background about what got me thinking along these lines before I do, though, so please bear with me.
Related: Female Sexulaity & The Church
I was recently speaking to a friend of mine, who was telling me about a guy that she had met. She, like many women, feels a genuine call to marriage and has done so for as long as I have known her (which has been years now). As such I was quite happy to hear that she was interested in someone initially, especially as her previous relationship had been a major one but had not ended on good terms. However, the more she spoke, the more I began to see that this was pretty much a square peg in a round hole situation. She was literally trying to make herself fit with this guy (and vice versa) based on some “potential” that she had seen in him.
Never one to shy away from telling my friends the truth (in love, of course!) I pointed out what she was doing and also that this was a destructive path that she had been on before. What was great is that I think deep down she already knew it, so this was not a heated or difficult conversation at all. I then asked her why she was even putting all her energy into something that she basically knew was a non-starter and that’s when she began expressing frustration at the fact that she was not yet in a committed relationship.
She also shared that she was not only frustrated, but that her behaviour had been a reaction to her fear and insecurity that she would never get what she wanted if she didn’t take things into her own hands. So, she had convinced herself that if she pushed him enough to fulfil the potential that she saw in him or proved her worth enough, she would eventually have the romance that she yearned for- like The Shulamite Woman. Unsurprisingly this had not worked up until now and, in some instances, had caused her more heartbreak than the progress or breakthrough that she so desired.
Since that conversation I have been thinking about the many other women that may be in a similar place to where my friend had been when we met up. Women who feel called to marriage but are scared that their vision will not come to pass. Women who are getting tired of waiting and, so, are preparing to release their inner Sarah in order to take matters into their own hands (quite possibly, once again). If that’s you, lovely, I want to tell you what The Shulamite Woman told her friends and what I ended up saying to mine in the end:
“I charge you, O [daughter] of Jerusalem… Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 3:5 and 8:4).
As one of my favourite ballads of all time says- you can’t make someone love you if they don’t and you can’t make their heart feel something it won’t. In other words, you can’t change people and you can’t make them step into a potential or vision that they don’t also see for themselves- so don’t try. You are not God and that is not your job. Even God respects our free will to either choose or refuse to be in fellowship with Him; so as His child you should be extending that grace to others- for freely you have received; so freely you should give. Anything else is simply manipulation and witchcraft for isn’t that what Satan does? Disguise himself as an angel of light to get his own way…
As for this desire to prove your worth? You are already worthy. God has already justified and validated you through His grace so you do not have to mold yourself to somebody else’s expectations or jump through their hoops. Even God does not make us work for His love. He just loves; so anybody who makes you feel any differently is the one who is unworthy- unworthy of you, yes, but also unworthy to be your husband (who should essentially be your earthly representation of Christ and His love).
Related: 7 Reasons Not To Get Married
So what about you, lovely? Do you see reflections of yourself in my friend? Are you frustrated with God’s timing? Is the story your fear and insecurity are telling you causing you to try and change yourself or others? Do you trust God enough to rest in Him or are you ignoring your instincts about a relationship that you may be in right now to try and force your vision of love into being? What about your standards and principles, are they still intact?
Listen, it is always difficult to wait for something that you want to come to pass so badly. Trust me, I know. I am a self-confessed control freak so I don’t wait very well for the things I want either! But as Psalm 127:1 says- “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”. You may have your ideas, blueprint and timeline about how and when things are supposed to happen in your life but, as a child of God, you must know by now that your life is not your own. Stop trying to run ahead of God and then asking Him to bless the work of your hands, for all that is good and perfect comes from Him (not you!). He is God; the Bible says that He is also love itself- so it stands to reason that, if and when it pleases Him, He will beautify your life with love in its time.