Dark am I, yet lovely. (NIV)
I am weathered, but still elegant. (MSG)
Song of Solomon 1:5
When I first read the above scripture, my heart did a somersault because I knew that the Lord had made something very clear. Circa 2008, my husband + I were youth pastors + I had taken my girl youth leaders camping. Early one morning, the girls + I were sitting at a picnic table enjoying our cold cereal in paper bowls. The conversation was pretty light; probably talking about how we slept the night before (or didn’t sleep). About half way through my cereal, one of the girls shared what they were reading about in their devotions.
Song of Solomon 1:5, Dark am I, yet lovely.
Mid-chew, I froze. My spoon fell into the warm, milky cereal + tears welled up in my eyes immediately. The girls were caught off-guard. Was she choking? Was something wrong? I pulled my legs out from under the picnic bench + darted to my tent. Once alone, I broke. This was it. This is what Jesus had been calling me to. To help others see the beauty in their ashes; the lovely in their dark places.
13 years, 3 kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat + 3 chickens later, I'm ready to start this journey.
For me to understand the heart of this calling, I had to first understand the context from which these words, “yet lovely”, came from.
The speaker of this verse is King Solomon’s bride. She is not of royal descent. In fact, far from it. She grew up tending + working the fields with her brothers. A Shulammite bride- just an ordinary farm girl- yet chosen to be the wife of a king.
Some might say this is a beautiful storyline for a Hallmark rom-com. And I concur; although it’s already been done 47 times. But you’d better believe that if #48 came out, I’d be recording + watching it anyway.
Such a sucker for love.
Cheesy love at that.
I can imagine the bride standing in front of a floor length mirror, all ready for her special day. She’s dressed in a simple, yet stunning wedding gown, envied by every woman within the town’s perimeter. Her hair is pulled back, yet a couple strands fall naturally to frame her face. There is no one who rivals her today. And yet. As she’s looking into the mirror, she catches a glimpse of the darkness of her skin. The beautiful, rich color wasn’t due to her ethnicity, but from the truth of her past.
As a lowly farm girl who worked the fields, it was common for skin to become darker by the sun. From sun up to sun down, she was in the fields as only the non-elite's would do. Day after day, year after year, her skin would get darker + darker. Hiding it would be impossible. It was exposed for everyone to see.
Especially on her wedding day.
This farm girl is marrying a king. A royal, freaking king. And as she looks into the mirror, she sees her wedding dress… her carefully placed hair… + her story that has led her to where she is in the moment.
Her dark skin doesn’t derail her. Her plainness doesn’t overwhelm her. The truth of where she came from + all that she’d been through doesn’t cause her to run away. No; she believed that even despite all of that, she was still lovely.
Even despite the gossipers who wondered how in the world a king would choose her to be his wife.
Even despite her inner doubts of insecurity.
Even despite the fear of the unknown.
Despite all of it, she remained.
And this is where I want to live. This is what I want to journey through.
The comma in-between the “dark am I” and the “yet lovely”.
Why did this bride, who had a lowly + plain background, not cut the sentence in half + finish it with a period?
You’d think it would be more like, “Dark am I.”
And maybe it was. Maybe her mind was filled with words like:
"This is all you’ll ever be."
"You’ll never leave these fields."
"No man will ever desire someone like you."
Until someone who loved her for ALL she was- the good + the bad- changed that period to a comma + opened up the possibilities for more.
The heart of this post is this: even in the dark places, there is still lovely to be found. When hiding it just isn't possible anymore, the reminders of the not-so-pretty pages of your story can still produce something lovely.
I know it can seem daunting.
So, take a deep breath.
I know I do often.
My hope is that as I share my dark moments + proof that there is still lovely to be found, you can too.
Looking forward to continuing this conversation.