“(6) I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away [and] was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. (7) The watchmen who went about the city found me. They struck me, they wounded me; The keepers of the walls Took my veil away from me.” – Sng 5:6-7 NKJV
It was one of the most difficult times in my life. I had been inner-city church planting with Jo for a number of years, reaching out to the vulnerable and outcast of society showing them the love of God by bringing them into our home as part of our family until they knew Jesus well enough for themselves, developing the maturity of faith and life-skills they would need to live independently free from alcohol, drugs or any vice which had previously brought so much pain and devastation. But something wasn’t right. Certainly the Lord was moving beautifully in many lives, bringing healing and deliverance, restoration and hope. We often experienced miracles of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision over the years, but the closer I came to Jesus in my own devotion and study, the more I realised the fragmentation and division that existed within the Body of Christ. Often, we were unsupported, criticised and opposed even from within the denomination we represented, until one day, and I still remember it clearly, the Lord spoke to me the words in John 12:24.
“(24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” – John 12:24 NKJV
I knew then the Lord was calling me to lay everything down and resign as a pastor. We had given so much, it was all I knew, and now the time had come to abandon everything for a new season to begin. I had absolutely no idea what the future would look like, only that the current season was ending. Over the following six months everyone in the church relocated to a new spiritual home and then that’s when it hit me. I didn’t see it coming but by the depth of suffering, I knew it was here. Others had written about it, but now I was experiencing personally what brought me to the very end of myself. I refer to what Saint John of the Cross in the 16th century called the ‘dark night of the soul’. I felt so betrayed and alone by those I had trusted, I felt used and deeply wounded by those who professed to love the Lord. My spiritual life hung by a thread and I had nowhere or no one I could turn to. Oh, I still deeply loved the Lord, but I could hardly pray or read my bible, until one day the Lord showed me a forlorn picture of myself and said, “I love you!” When I was empty and had nothing left to give, when I was broken, depressed and confused He said, “I love you!”. I knew then more than I had ever known before, the depth of His love pierce through my brokenness and wrap around my heart. I felt ‘born again’ again! I wept and asked His forgiveness for ever doubting Him and gently He opened my eyes to see what I couldn’t see before. It wasn’t much but it was enough; a glimmer of hope which gave the strength to carry on and the faith to believe He would one day fulfil His promise to me: ‘if a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it produces much grain’.
Oh I wish I could say it was all over then, but it would be another eight years of solitude in the wilderness until I received the commission I am still running with today: to romance His Bride. What a privilege, what an awesome responsibility; to help His Bride prepare for His soon return, yet it required everything from me, a lifestyle of abandon, familiarity with the desert and the pain of sharing in His suffering. I became so used to the desert, it became my home until I learnt to treasure those wilderness places more than the crowds or congregations. Over the years I came to embrace the privilege of living in the barren place, and discovered the wells contained therein, precious places of restoration, revelation and romance. I wasn’t in obscurity because I had done something wrong, but because I had been called there; it would be there in the shadows, beyond the noise and bustle of church life, I would encounter my Bridegroom at the deepest level. I weep as I write because I know many have experienced this too.
When the Shulamite opened the door to her Beloved (the handles of which were covered in myrrh), she became anointed as his Bride to go out into the night, but little did she know the anguish about to befall her or the wounds soon to be inflicted by those she should have been able to trust. As she arose for her Beloved her heart pounded anticipating the amorous encounter beyond the door. She hoped for love’s embrace, instead the void of the night greeted her. She sought her lover but could not find him, she called yet without response. What are we to make of this? What manner of injurious love imposes such wounds? Think we to escape the suffering of Christ? Listen to what Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians
“(10) My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death,” – Philippians 3:10 NET
It is the anointing of myrrh by which the Bride may share in her Bridegroom’s suffering. Myrrh is obtained by “wounding” or “bleeding” the tree from which it comes and collecting the resin which bleeds out. The drops gathered are called “tears” because of their shape. This is significant. Myrrh is released by being wounded. Through the cuts inflicted bleeds a beautiful aromatic resin used as the number one fragrance of love. It is this fragrance of Christ that we are now called to share (2 Cor 2:15) and how it was for the Twelve disciples. On the night Jesus was betrayed after their last supper together (which was a wedding betrothal), this is what He said to them:
“(30) I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, (31) but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave.” – John 14:30-31 NIV
Come now; let us leave. And from the intimacy of their betrothal they headed out as His Bride into the night, down the Temple Mount, across the Kidron Valley and into the Garden of Gethsemane where the Bridegroom rendered Himself to agonised death as He anguished through the prevalent evil baying for His blood. That night of betrayal was the first time the Bride entered out into the night, but it would not be the last, for the Day will come, when the wise virgins shall venture a final time with lamps lit going out to meet Him. Soon that Day shall come, but not yet, for the Bride must first prepare. First, we must follow the steps of our Bridegroom to the garden of Gethsemane because there are wounds we must partake of and humiliation endure. Ultimately, we must follow our Bridegroom to the Cross if we are truly to be crucified with Him. Alas Gethsemane, the garden of suffering by which all must partake, what secrets there we shall find. If by suffering we shall be free we embrace this dark night of the soul, knowing whom we seek had never left our side. There is purpose in pain, there is a hope that darkness cannot extinguish.
“(1) “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (3) To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”” – Isa 61:1-3 NKJV