A Place to Dwell

Lately I have been craving a good dose of writing from the Old Testament’s Song of Songs to rescue me from my routine existence and draw me closer to my God who is passionate, creative and intimate. Like a favorite song, its poetry penetrates straight to my soul.

I’ve found myself lingering in Chapter 2, reveling in its imagery of blooming vineyards, cooing doves, cunning foxes, unabashed declarations of love, and a curious Call to More. It is this Call that tenderly beckons a dove from her hiding place to venture forth and be seen. A Lover calling the one he loves to emerge from obscurity and find her voice.

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song of Songs 2:14).
Doves hide because, well, they are prey. Their choices revolve around survival. They feed in the open because they can more readily see predators approaching, and they nest and sleep in the hidden places. They know they are vulnerable and defenseless, so to hide means to be safe.

In more ways than I care to admit, I identify with the doves in this passage. As long as I can remember, a voice deep down inside has cautioned me that the world is threatening and to hide is best; that I am inherently weak and the shadows will keep me safe; that others are more capable, and that exposure is my enemy. I tend to fret and dodge, hunkering down by instinct, hypervigilant and exhausted.

Over the years, I have intuitively adapted and chosen new hiding places. I have hidden in the shadow of my family and coworkers, deep in my work, and even behind God. Obeying the inner voice that warns I am insufficient, I have kept imminent shame at bay and survived. But an anxious dove doesn’t sing or coo.

In this verse, I imagine God calling me out of hiding, offering to be my protection, my strength, and my shield. He beckons me to change my way of thinking, to trust and abide in Him.

It is curious to me that Scripture does not do away with the idea of a dwelling place, but rather personalizes it. In Psalm 91, God establishes Himself as the dwelling place. There are still rocks and shadows and shelter, but not for hiding. He is the Rock on which to stand, a Shelter from the heat, a strong Fortress and Refuge. He is a covering and Place of rest. A safe place to be known, where instead of hunkering down, I’m invited to nestle.
He covers me with His wings, so fear need not rule. He declares my voice worthy of hearing and my presence desirable. And His faithfulness both protects me and provides me with mighty weapons to battle unseen foes.

I’m trying to live more courageously these days. Although at times I still find myself instinctively seeking cover, I recognize the habit more readily and remind myself that I am safe. Safe enough to discover and embrace my uniqueness, secure enough to choose vulnerability and authenticity, and free enough to share my story and encourage others to do the same.

Tamara Carpenter

October 19, 2016

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.“ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart”. Psalm 91:1-4

 

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