Song of the Romancer: Part One: Chapter Ten: A Necessity
“Oh children, children, why are you following me?”
“We couldn’t sleep,” said Lucy — and she felt sure that she need say no more and that Aslan knew all they had been thinking.
“Please, may we come with you — wherever you are going?” asked Susan.
“Well-” said Aslan, and seemed to be thinking. Then he said, “I should be glad of company tonight. Yes, you may come, if you promise to stop when I tell you, and after that leave me to go on alone.”
“Oh thank you, thank you, and we will,” said the two girls.
Forward they went again and one of the girls walked on each side of the Lion. But how slowly he walked! And his great royal head drooped so that his nose nearly touched the grass. Presently he stumbled and gave a low moan.
“Aslan! Dear Aslan!” said Lucy,” what is wrong? Can you tell us?”
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
And so the girls did what they would never have dared to do without his permission, but what they had longed to do ever since they first saw him — buried their cold hands in the beautiful sea of fur and stroked it and, so doing, walked with him. And presently they saw that they were going with him up the slope of the hill on which the Stone Table stood. They went up at the side where the trees came furthest up, and when they got to the last tree (it was one that had some bushes about it) Aslan stopped and said,
“Oh children, children. Here you must stop. And whatever happens, do not let yourselves be seen. Farewell.”
And both the girls cried bitterly (though they hardly knew why) and clung to the Lion and kissed his mane and his nose and his paws and his great, sad eyes. Then he turned from them and walked out onto the top of the hill… -The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Song of Solomon 1:12 — While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
There is such a blatant correlation here between the bride’s statement and two scenes in the New Testament I almost don’t know what to do with it. It is practically a vision of the act of romance Jesus would undergo before he preformed his act of love for us; the most intimate scene we see between him and women while he lived on earth.
The scene was set several hundred years before: a great and powerful king sits down to eat, and his beloved comes with perfume that fills the air with an aroma that just screams beauty. And haven’t we covered how important scent is? Here, Naamah is no longer just a peasant girl slaving away in a vineyard; she has come home to the king’s house, she sits at his table to eat, donned in apparel and ointments worthy of Esther in all her regality.
And he can smell her. It’s insinuated since Solomon writes it down that he noticed it, noticed it a lot, and loves it. She’s decked herself out for him, she’s bathed, and cleaned, and no longer smells like a long day in the field. She smells wonderful. This offering is the foreplay coming towards the furtherance of their romance….
Skip ahead several years, and we find a mirror of the story in the lives of two different women who encountered another great king, The King, Jesus. They get the details down to the exact spice that fills the air. Let’s hear their stories just as Jesus himself told it:
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me… She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken for a memorial of her. — Mark 14:3–6&8–9
Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith … Judas Iscariot… Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief; and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. — John 14:1–7
Note the central themes in all these passages; intimacy, generous offering, adoration, protection, bravery. Intimacy because these women are comfortable enough with Jesus to show their love with physical acts, and they know how deeply he loves them. They offer not just small tokens or baubles or a whiff or perfume, but they douse him in it. Their adoration is obvious — look how Mary wipes his feet with her hair, as close to a man as a Jewish woman would ever dare to be. And he protects them from the accusation of their onlookers, quick to stand and shield them from their glares and criticism. Immensely brave, because they did not choose to offer this intimacy to him when no one else could see, when there was no chance they could be seen, but in front of everyone, in front of those who would surely misunderstand and misrepresent them.
Notice also that these two women are polar opposites. The first woman was a… well, we would say she had a reputation. At least, before she met Jesus. He’d turned her around; not because that’s what he required her to do, but because his love changed her heart. And we know Mary was an upstanding young Jewish woman, sister of one of the three raised from the dead during Jesus’ ministry.
So we see the ‘town whore’ and the ‘pure virgin’ both perform the same act of love. And we see Jesus accept their offerings equally. Without an ounce of rebuke towards one, or a special favor towards the other. Truth be told, they were once both terrible sinners, whether their sins were outward and seen by all, or private faults within. Jesus did not see their sin. He saw their love for him. He saw the heart. He smelled the spikenard of a much more peculiar brand and savor that pleased him far more than ointment could ever provide.
Lucy the Valiant is one of my favorite heroines of all time. Her sister, Susan the Gentle, reminds me a lot of Martha. She keeps herself busy and tends to her family like a good elder sister, but can become so focused with what is going on around her that she forgets the best part.
Lucy never forgets. She is always the first to be going after Aslan, seeing him just around the corner, following him into the depths of the forest where the trees dance together, and leaving everything and everyone behind for a chance to be closer to him. Jesus would have said, like Mary, that she chose the good part. It’s beautifully reminiscent of the passage that says we must come to Christ like a little child; filled with wonder and awe at this wonderful Being who has taken us under his wings and showed us Paradise.
And Lucy is not valiant because she can swing a sword like Peter or Edmund, or can shoot an arrow like Susan-
She’s valiant, she’s brave and courageous, because she has the guts to follow Aslan. She has the desire to pursue him to the ends of the world, and when she finds him, she won’t let go. And Aslan adores the youngest Pevensie for it. He lets her in; he plays with her, walks with her, advises her, loves her. She delights in his equal parts nobleness and playfulness; he can change from mighty lion to mischievous kitten in moments.
Both she and her sister Susan, as they are walking with Aslan, have the desire to be closer to him. But they are afraid to initiate that intimacy. They can’t be sure how he will accept it.
And then he asks them for it and their hearts leap. Isn’t that how we feel the moment that we realize Jesus is looking for a deep and romantic intimacy with our hearts? When we come to grips with just how greatly he longs for that closeness? There is no boundary where he says, “No, we can’t go any farther than this; I’m not comfortable with this sort of intimacy with you. I don’t love you that way.”
Lucy buried her hands in his mane and snuggled into Aslan’s fur as he walks slowly towards the Stone Table that will be the slow and humiliating death of him, comforting him. Mary wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair; another cries and cleans his feet with her tears; pouring the oil through his hair as the dawning of an inkling of the truth of what he is about to do for her soul breaks through, and Jesus thanks her. This isn’t just about how much we desire his love:
It’s about how much he needs ours.
“What?!” you say, “Jesus doesn’t need anything! Certainly not from us.” Oh yes; us pitiful little humans, so sinful and imperfect that we can’t offer anything worth taking. Yes — our works and deeds might be worthless rags in the end, but our purely washed hearts of love and beautiful glory… that’s a different story.
Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. -Crazy Love
Something that is needed must be had. It’s critical. This Story you’ve been hearing about since the beginning of time isn’t just about this God who decided he was bored so he came up with a few playthings to pass the time. He made us to be image bearers of himself, an extension of his glory, connected to himself through the immortal spirits bestowed on us. God could have lived on in eternity by himself if he’d have chosen to, but he chose to share infinity with us. He chose to desire us, to need us close to his side, to desperately want our love. The love of these intricate creations to whom he has given an amazing gift — the gift of freewill; to choose him, or to say, “We don’t need you.”
When Jesus protects the women who so unabashedly love him, he basically says, “Don’t you see — someone has finally gotten it right. She understands how much I desire this love. I needed someone to encourage me in this hour. Leave her alone!”
I need air so I can breathe. I want mascara because I like the way it makes my eyes pop. I need food; I want food that tastes good and has lots of calories. I need love — it is not optional. We think we can live without it because the body survives. The heart makes life worth living; a heart alive and fulfilled is what life is about, what God made us with hearts for. The things we need are deep and powerful and the things we want are often ephemeral, meaning they are only valuable for a short time before they fade away.
After all the work God has gone through to show me the value and worth of my heart and soul, I do not believe them to be ephemeral. I believe them to be necessary. They are necessary to him because he desires them to be so. Is this crazy to anyone but me, that the Lord of Heaven wants to need me? Has the desire to draw close enough that the thought of living life without is a life not worth living? That’s what life without love is. That’s what we have felt and known to be true in our hearts, hearts that reflect the heart of our Romancer.
Strange, isn’t it? But doesn’t it make this romance just a trifle deeper? Another layer is revealed. Yes; we know that God does not need us for some physical reason, like we need things. But he needs us because we are so important to him, there is nothing else in this universe that means more to him. We are a necessity to him. Because we are the object of his greatest desire.
I want God, not my idea of God. -C.S. Lewis
This is hard for many of us (it is still hard for me) to accept this — that our hearts are not only necessary to God, but good. The bride in Song of Solomon, sweet Naamah, she isn’t perfect — she has already shared her flaws with us. But we can see that her heart is good. We can see that the shepherd king adores that heart. Do you think it’s really the spikenard that meant something? Do you think a particular smell or sound or taste will grant you a special love from God? When we are sitting at the table with Christ, he won’t want our perfume. That good smell, that adoration, is emanating from our hearts.
Our good hearts.
First, we need to know what we’re talking about when we say ‘heart’. We seem to have this idea that the heart is weak, selfish, and vain, but that, sisters, was our old heart. God promised to take that old, stony heart when we trusted him to save us, and give us something brand new.
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God. — Ezekiel 11:19–21
The weak, selfish, vain part of us is the flesh, the old man, the sin nature. The good part of us is that heart that Jesus has washed clean. Just like our desires, we often interpret them as evil or wrong because we don’t understand what it’s saying yet after all these years of hearing incorrectly. We drown it out because we are afraid it will lead us down the path of evil, or it will get us in trouble, or simply because it is too painful. But according to this, your heart is good. It is a heart made new and fresh by God. It is worth being valued.
God has been trying to tell you that your heart is good — out of it springs the very issues of life. There is a war fought for your heart, for your love. He put that heart in you, a heart with a pure desire to follow after him, and he wants you to now offer it back to him. The heart, your spikenard, is good.
Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual. -Ernest Hemingway
Lucy and Susan never, ever would have dared come so close to Aslan without permission — he was too marvelous to them to consider that. But all along, that’s what he is desiring. Finally, he tells them, asks them to comfort him. They think themselves too low, but they don’t give themselves enough credit. He loves their good, young hearts. Their hearts love his heart.
I believe that one of Satan’s most effective ploy thus far in my life has been making me question the motives of my heart. How good it is. I know in my heart that I want more of Jesus, more of his love, a closer knowledge of him. More than anything, I want to dive into that endless wonder he has in store for those that love him, I want to see his miracles, I want to hear his voice in the night. I want all the things the great saints had, I want to know his friendship like that.
Satan says, “You’re not good enough for that. That’s just the vanity of your heart. You think you’re better than everyone else. I’ll bet God thinks you’re disgusting.” David knows what I’m talking about — his big brother accused him of pride when his heart rightly desired to avenge God’s people. His heart was good, but his motives were questioned. Mary’s heart was good; her motives were questioned and Jesus protects her, “Leave her alone!” I have heard him do the same to Satan’s lies. My brain almost sounds like a schizophrenic at times, because just as the lie comes in, Jesus is there. “Not true. Don’t you listen. I love you. Leave her alone, Satan.”
Your heart is good, and the desires therein are also good. Not your flesh, that rises occasionally and reminds us we are faulty and human. Your heart, the home and throne of Jesus within you, has pure desires. A clean, awakened heart that is alive to the love of Jesus and his romance of our souls knows this and wants to reveal the glory its Creator has bestowed on it. It wants to be used as it was made to be used, it wants to love as it was made to be loved. But that kind of intimacy is so rare that people will question it.
What do you believe about your heart? In examining your heart, what are your desires, your longings? What are the things you love most? It’s all right if you don’t instantly answer, “I love God most.” We sometimes put that at the top of the list because we know that if we don’t, something is wrong. Here are some things that I love:
-reading a good book
-being in a Bible study
All of those things are what God has made me to love. When he made my heart, he knew that I would love the prose and lore and even the smell of books. He knew that I would love looking for shooting stars, and watching through a telescope to find hills on the moon, or basking in the unparalleled beauty of a red moon or a solar eclipse. He knew how much I love to hear about Jesus hard at work in other people’s lives, hearing how I am not the only one having this problem, being encouraged and set on fire again. He knew that I would love the freedom of a sunny California day flying northbound over the San Diego coastline as the white waves break against the shore. And he knew that I would love him for making those things loveable to me. He knew that I would find him in the midst of all those things I loved and love him better than I could before. See? The heart is good.
Believing that your heart is evil and that God loves your heart is contradiction in terms. God can’t abide evil. Yet, he loves your heart. He loves you.
Let me put it this way: What has life taught you about your God-given glory? What have you believed about your heart over the years? “That it’s not worth anyone’s time,” said a woman. Her parents were too busy to really want to know her.”That it’s weak,” confided a friend… “That I shouldn’t trust it to anyone.” “That it’s selfish and self-centered.” “That it’s bad.” And you… what have you believed?
Those accusations you heard growing up, those core convictions formed about your heart, will remain down there until someone comes to dislodge them, run them out of Dodge. -Waking the Dead, John Eldredge
Thank God, that is what Jesus is here to do. He is here to run the flesh and its weaknesses six feet under, to cut back the weeds in the garden of our hearts so that the vines and herbs can grow. He sends Satan’s minions back howling, unable to confuse or condemn you for what he has already forgiven in you. Jesus did not just come to save or forgive you — he came so that we could have life, and that abundantly. He came to heal the broken hearted and mend the downcast in spirit. He has come to show us the value of that lovely, spikenard heart. He came to redeem that heart and make it his again, to romance it with the song as old as rhyme. The smell of that spikenard is good; it’s a wonderful smell.
If you are keeping a respectful distance from Jesus, like Susan and Lucy keeping their dirty hands out of Aslan’s spotless fur, then you are too far away. If you are afraid your motives or your desires or your heart wants something wrong when they just want intimacy with God, you don’t have to be afraid anymore. If you want freedom to be yourself with him, if you desire his voice, presence, counsel; you have it. The king is sitting at his table, waiting to smell the fragrance of your good hear