Many people are surprised to learn that the Bible includes a passionate, romantic love poem. Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon in some editions, is more than that, though. While the story that unfolds in that book of the Bible is about romantic love between a man and woman, the metaphors and meaning that come out of that book are about more. They're about the love God has for his people, but they also show us how we can share love of all types with others as people of faith.
Family caregivers, who may have found themselves in a position of caring for an older loved one or someone who is sick, can find some meaningful lessons in this book. Here are some lessons for Christian caregivers from Song of Songs.
Love is not a state of mind or a feeling. It's an action, and sometimes, we must pursue those we love. In Song of Songs, the woman doesn't respond immediately to the advances of her beloved, and when she finally does turn to him, she finds he has gone.
So, she pursues him. This occurs in Song of Songs 5:6-8.
The Shulamite woman pursues her beloved into the city — pursues him even after the night watchmen find her and beat her. She continues to seek her love even through the troubles that pursuing him cause her.
It's easy to see this metaphor in romantic relationships. People aren't perfect, and relationships have their ups and downs. But it's important to pursue each other — to continue to actively love and seek each other — through those struggles.
But this metaphor is also applicable to other relationships, and especially caregiving. If you're caring for an older loved one with dementia, for example, they may not always present as the person they once were. It can be difficult because your relationship is not the same and you are pursuing a new kind of relationship with your loved ones. Song of Songs reminds us that pursuing the other person through those ups and downs is important.
1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." In Song of Songs, the Shulamite woman looks to her lover as a protector — as a knight in shining armor.
Again, we can take this metaphor out of the romantic context and bring it into the caregiving relationship. As a caregiver, you are tasked with protecting your sick or aging loved one. That might mean ensuring they get enough good food and take the right medicine. It could mean spending time with them or ensuring they have activities that protect their mobility and cognitive function.
This concept of protection can be especially poignant for caregivers who are taking care of their older parents. At some point in the past, the roles were likely reversed, and the parent was charged with taking loving care of the child. Now that you're in the role of protector, you can read about how love protects in both Song of Songs and 1 Corinthians for spiritual inspiration.
The characters in Song of Songs are people. They're flawed. They don't always do the right thing. The Shulamite woman shuns her lover and then regrets it when he leaves the door. Even Solomon, believed to be the author of this book of the Bible, had flaws. He had hundreds of wives and concubines, and yet it's Solomon who pens the book of the Bible that talks of faithful romantic love.
The lesson here is that God can use anyone — and anything — and He is strong even in our weakness.
As a caregiver, you won't always do the perfect or right thing. But as a caregiver who is trusting in God to help you with this chapter in your life, you can have faith that He is upholding your loved one and his plan for them.
In Song of Solomon 2:4, the Shulamite woman says, "Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love." In the literal reading, she is saying that her lover's banner flies over her and she is being shown to all present as his love.
In the metaphorical reading, we're shown that God's banner flies over us and He is proclaiming his love over us all the time.
As a caregiver, it's important to realize that His love is over you too. It's easy to feel alone and isolated in some caregiving situations, but God is always with you.
One way He might show that love is to bring other resources into your life. That can range from friends and family willing to help you care for a loved one to assisted living community options that you feel comfortable with. If you're interested in faith-based assisted living services for your loved one, find out more about the communities under the Bethesda Senior Living Communities umbrella.