Woman, Song of Solomon, 1929 by Cecil Buller
I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon (Songs 1:5).
Often, I have kept company with the sister in the Song of Solomon and admit that I always enjoy it. I love that the closest parallels to this book is ancient Egyptian love poetry; that this sister’s speech is expressed through the cadences and literary devices that originate from the Motherland. I admire her because she is not bound by our repressive notions of human sexuality, but showcases the inherent beauty of Godly physical love in a way that is never dirty, cheap, or nasty.
Y’all, I love keeping company with this sister! Like a strong Black woman, she doesn’t let anyone put words in her mouth. She stands alone as the only unmediated female voice in all of scripture. No narrator relays her thoughts. No other character in the book reports her words. She speaks in the first person singular,“I," and that is what draws me to her for this week’s blog. I am struck by her “I” speech that showcases her amazing sense of self. I have to sit with her sometimes because she shows me what it is like to be comfortable in one’s own skin.
The first 2 words of verse 5 is what really gets me: “I am.” It is a theologically loaded phrase that hearkens back to Exodus 3 when Moses receives the revelation of the Divine Name (Ex. 3:14). Here that same "I am" prefaces this sister’s self-identification. It tells us who she is, how she sees herself, and what value she places on herself. I believe her statement is an affirmation of how God made her. I believe she is reminding us that anything that follows the divine name (I AM) ought to ultimately confess what the Creator said or made.
We are each created in the image of God. Therefore, we ought to be a reflection of God. In other words, our little “I am’s” ought to coincide with the Great I AM. They ought to anchor our identity in the truth of God’s word, reflect who God has called us to be, affirm who God created us to be, and empower and equip us to pursue what God commissioned us to do. Put another way: Our “I am’s” should value the Creator by valuing what the Great I AM created.
I believe that we all need some “I am” statements. I believe that everyone needs some unconditional, unwavering, unapologetic “I am’s” that are not dependent upon people, places, circumstances, situations, opinions, feelings, news cycles, relationship statuses, media posts, or achievements. We all need some unchanging “I am’s” that are firm enough for us to hold onto and strong and steady enough for us to stand up on no matter what comes our way. We need some “I am’s” that express who we are, not what we are going through.
We need some “I am” statements like Jesus. Jesus declared
· “I am the way” even though few would follow him without turning aside.
· “I am the truth” even though people lied on him, accused him of blasphemy and demon possession.
· “I am the life” even though he would stay dead for 3 days.
· “I am the gate” even though the religious establishment tried to close the doors in his face.
· “I am the light of the world” even though people preferred darkness.
· “I am the resurrection” despite a crucifixion.
We all need some stable “I am’s,” not a situational “I am.”
Situational and passing “I am’s” can cause problems. “I am’s” based on the fleeting, feelings, and fears can leave us shaky because we are confessing shifting realities.
These situation and passing “I am’s” can leave us confused, conflicted, angry, or unfulfilled, because we are letting the world, whims, and winds of change dictate who we are. These "I am's" only positions us for reacting. We become reactionary people popping off at people and life because we have no basis from which to respond. Therefore, we cannot act, speak, or think in relation TO a situation because we are being dictated BY the situation.
Let me be clear. I know that life isn’t always good, things aren’t always fair, and people don’t always treat us right. I know that we need to be honest about our struggles, fears, hurts, and disappointments. However, we cannot allow these passing things to define us.
"buked, scorned, talked about as sure as your born"cannot be our uncontested “I am’s”
At some point, we have to make those temporary, transient “I am” statements line up with the truth:
It might not look like it now, but I am a child of God and does not yet appear what I shall be.
I might not be as cute as you think I should be, but I am created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Sometimes I am can only remember my sin, but then I recall that I am saved and sanctified, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And when others are out here doing the most to tear me down, I am still more than conquerors through him who loved me.
Just grab a line from "the book" or personalize a line that is based on the book. Make sure your “I am” not only confesses what the Created made, but is strong enough to counter public opinion. Let us to learn from this sister’s “I am" statement. Because without an “I am,” we become a “you are” who is defined by another creature, rather than our Creator.