“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
Song of Solomon 2:1-3
In one of the most famous verses from The Song, the Lover cries out, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” and the Beloved replies, “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” What does this mean? Well, as you might recall, the Lover is unjustly forced to work long hours in the vineyards by the Lover’s family, keeping the Lover away from the Beloved. Their love is the only bright spot in the Lover’s life, so that the Lover could rightly say: their love was the flower amidst the thorns of the Lover’s life; their love was the near-impossible bloom in the valleys of what was a dismal set of abusive circumstances. Their love was the only sweet taste, compared to all this bitterness.
Yet, their love is more than just a bright spot, as it were. They, themselves, have been transformed into the bright spot for the other. Does not the Lover say, “I am the rose of Sharon. I am the lily of the valleys”? Their love transformed the Lover into lily that blossoms in perilous circumstances. This love has converted the Lover into something new. In much the same way that the love they share is a bright spot, now the Lover has become a bright spot in the Lover’s very nature. The Lover has been transfigured into the lily of the valley, into something beautiful among very ugly surroundings.
But, what is the lily of the valley or the rose of Sharon in our life, today? I doubt many of us are capable of being able to say that we have become the rose of Sharon in our very nature. (Certainly, I am not!) So, if we cannot point to the fact that we have become so one with Christ that our very nature has been changed, what is the lily of the valley in our life? What is that near-impossible bloom amidst weeds? The one fruit-bearing tree in the middle of the wood?
The lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon in our life is our soul. It is that place deep within where God reigns as king, through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. While most of us believe that there is such a place within, fewer of us even acknowledge that the soul is surrounded by weeds, thorns, valleys, unfruitful trees and abusive families. Many of us think our interior landscape is utterly pleasant, where every thought is good and every impulse is holy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth!
Our souls are like the seed that Christ spoke of in parable (Mt. 13:3-8). Some seed was placed by the roadside, immediately devoured by birds. Some was placed in stony places, where it sprung up but never took root. Some seed was sown in dry earth, where it was dehydrated to death; other was sown among the weeds were it was choked to death. This is the perfect image for the soul! It is is placed within us: amidst ravenous birds of envy, hearts made stone by hate, sucked dry by lust and suffocated by pride. Our sinful desires do everything in their power to keep that seed from growing, from keeping our souls from enlarging.
And yet, our souls are this seed of the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon. Our souls are placed in the midst of all of our hurts and all of our sin as a shining beacon of God’s love. Our soul is the brightest spot of our life, much like how the love between the Beloved and the Lover was the brightest spot of their own lives. It is our soul that blooms amidst near-impossible circumstances, while we almost choke it to death. And it is there that we go to meet our Beloved.