The narrative of Song of Songs 5:2–6:3 surprises. The woman is in bed, her lover knocks at the door, she delays, he departs, she searches, she enlists the women of Jerusalem to tell him if they find him that she loves him, they ask where he is and she surprises us: “He’s right here. Tending his garden (me).”
What do we learn from this passage and interrupted narrative?
Perhaps one thing we learn is that love has its union and its separation, its delights and its downers, its moments of fear and its moments of courage. It is both satisfaction of desire and frustration about distance.
What keeps the relationship, what maintains the love, is not the verbal commitment but instead the deepness of that love because it reflects God’s relationship with humans:
The “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” is not simply the mustered commitment of two humans, but participation in God’s commitment to us and our commitment to God: “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).
This, the so-called covenant formula of ancient Israel, is behind the words of the woman to her shepherd lover. We are here for one another; I for him and he for me.
The ups and downs, the ins and outs, the intimacies and separations are part of the process of knowing one another, loving one another, and learning the fine art of love in the key of delight.