“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)
For the average African, romance is not a word we can easily connect with as a people. Our culture doesn’t celebrate public display of affection and love. We aren’t used to seeing our parents squeeze hands, hug, kiss or express tender love to each other openly before the kids. We know they love us deeply and care for us, but they hardly express them through words or tender touches except when we were babies and worthy of being cuddled. When passion is ever expressed, it’s among young teenagers answering the ‘call of emotions’ at dark alleys or groves. We grow up without an idea of what romance truly is, and our first contact with romance as teenagers is either through romantic comedies/movies, books or love songs.
The case is seemingly worse for a Christian who is expected to not give rein to his inordinate desires, hence can’t stow away in a love-grove with a lover like a teenager would. He knows about Agape Love, which is the greatest of all versions and genres of love as we have it in our world. Romantic love he thinks has been subsumed into God’s kind of love hence can’t be expressed openly without a feeling of guilt. So being an African and a Christian becomes a burden. Those who are expressive in their public display of love are often looked with some lens to scrutinize their motives, especially when many can hide under the cloak of Christianity to wreck the lives of others emotionally. But is it still safe for a Christian to express emotionally how he feels in his heart to another, especially when romance is involved?
I grew up a bit inhibited in the expression of PDA (Public Display of Affection) though I was not denied such expressions from my significant others. I felt that affection should not be showed to others outside one’s family. The first time I attempted to write a romantic poem as an adult, I felt a bit awkward for I’d thought that God loathed the idea of emotions and expressions of passion however pure it appears. More importantly, I was shocked that the words flowed freely even when I’d not read any romantic poem before then. It was as though this ability to express romantic thoughts was wired into me by default, and there was no denying the fact , save that I felt a bit uncomfortable showing the poem I wrote for an ‘Imaginary Beloved” to my Christian friends. So I stored it away in my journals until I read the Songs of Solomon for the first time. How could God allow such writing in the Bible? I was so dazed that the Bible could dare write about passion and love between a man and woman. In Songs of Solomon, there was no true mention of God so one might argue the poems were not instigated by God.
But my cautiousness was punctured again when I read through the book of Hosea and saw how God Himself expressed passion without let. It’s a story of a passionate love and romance between a man and a woman which God had orchestrated at the prophet’s expense. He was to unreservedly love a whoremonger and lascivious woman who never promised to be faithful ab initio. I hated the idea of God literally ‘coercing’ someone He specially loved (Hosea) to marry a woman of easy virtue, Gomer. The thought of sharing his wife with strangers must have haunted and hounded him, with the attendant feeling of betrayal and unfaithfulness lurking in his heart always. Yet he still loved her passionately.
Though a jealous lover, I have found that men have an attribute of God which makes us men; the ability to make overtures and woo the beloved! God is a passionate lover who knows how to romantically win over the heart of His beloved. When he couldn’t bear with punishing Israel further for their idolatry and unfaithfulness, He brought out the trump card: His romantic weapon of wooing his beloved to a desert, where He’d speak tenderly to her and make her know how deeply He loved her: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”
In my early teens, I saw myself trying to woo over the heart of a childhood friend back to me. Everyone in my family and hers knew there has always been something between me and Nnenna (not her real name). We not only were class rivals through out primary school, our mothers were close friends, and her younger siblings were fond of me. As a kid, I felt very shy and sometimes cried each time my folks called her my wife. I lived in utter denial as a boy until our early teens when we attended two different secondary schools, and hardly saw each other often unlike when we’re in primary school. Then the worst happened when a senior prefect in my school ‘toasted’ and wooed her to become his girlfriend. She fell for it and I was heart-broken, yet I had assumed ‘nothing existed between us”. I felt jealous even though the prefect was someone I respected so much, and he liked me too.
‘What did I do?’ you may ask. I picked my pen and wrote her my first apologetic letter, telling her how bad it is to have a boyfriend and why she needs to serve God etc. I included some holy pictures of the Catholic saints and Virgin Mary that I’d received as gifts from
In a similar vein, God is constantly wooing our hearts back to Him because he wants a passionately intimate relationship with us His children. Many a time we rebuff His overtures towards us, but He relentlessly keeps pursuing us because He doesn’t just want an intellectual understanding of who He is to us. He wants us to celebrate the passion that our hearts are capable of experiencing when we commit to deepening our relationship with Him. From the first time I had a near out-of-body experience and felt the reality of God( I bet many others who have experienced such deep emotional but spiritual realities in their pursuit of God,) over a decade ago, I yet to know any other deep experience that is comparable to the immanence of God; when God breaks through the vaults of cosmos and reveal His essence to a mere mortal. Though a rather transient but deep experience, I never recovered from that point when my intellectual ascent of God was suspended, and passion took over, thus transmitting me to sublime heights no mind-altering drug could have projected me to. Nothing can ever describe the joy of knowing that God loves us deeply, and desires a passionate devotion to Him. Anything short of a deep and passionate relationship with God would hurt the heart of God who is ever ready to lure us back to Him. Aside that, anything short of intimacy with God can only leave us hollow and unfulfilled. Once again, I wish to begin to reach for the road to His heart. And after a long detour which left me hungry for the Divine, I start to seek God again, having taken for granted that my true joy and fulfillment comes from Him alone. Now I know, we can only find ourselves when we passionate pursue a deep and intimate relationship with our Father-in-heaven!
I wish I can boastfully say that I am always passionately seeking God, but one thing I am certain about is that God Himself is passionately seeking and wooing my heart. I know this when I stray and how home-sick and desperately unsettled I feel until I make the spiritual journey back home. This is God’s unrelentless passion and He is not yet ready to give up on His beloved whom He would have a candle-lit dinner in a desert, far away from distractions of mundane living, so he can woo her and re-affirm His Love for her. We may rebuff His overtures as long as we try, but His superior wooing skills will always triumph…at least I’ve known that personally!