“She was to me more than the Shulamite to the singing king, fairer, more spotless; a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.”
Simonides speaking of his late wife, in Ben Hur
It’s not very popular these days to speak of one’s wife in these ways, although it could be amusing to drop this line at a party. When I read this line, though, I was struck by how truncated my view today is. With my media-saturated sized brain, I have come to think, though not necessarily by choice, about women in a somewhat two-dimensional fashion. As a young single man, meaning no offense, the woman I wanted to be with was yea tall, athletic, funny, endowed with “huge tracts of land,” and gorgeous. Now as an older very happily married man I look at that list and realize how far and wide it misses the mark; and this is not to say that I am more than pleased with Darla’s physical appearance. “A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon” – each of these metaphors capture the essence of being with a woman through time and hit more closely to her character and what her character brings forth.
This notion of character expressing itself through time I find almost completely absent in our current day rendering of the “perfect woman.” Since being married to Darla, I have been so steadily blessed by her that this notion of her person being compared to a garden, a well of living water, and a river seems perfectly fitting. She is always bringing laughter into our house. She cares for our boys and me in ways of which I wouldn’t even think. She blesses us and people around her with compassion and support. She is thoughtful and generous with her time and money. When she speaks, her words bring life and laughter, strength and encouragement. And she is always like this. Well…almost always. Like a river or a garden or a well, she is continually bringing refreshment, encouragement, strength, laughter. I am free around her. She is my home and that makes her beautiful.
I write this because I find this way of viewing the human person missing in our day and age and yet it is so very helpful. How do we view ourselves? As a constant place like a garden that provides rest and refreshment, safety and strength? As a well from which people can drink and are set at ease so much so that their hearts become light and bring forth laughter? As a constant stream that has the means to provide good things for those whom the Lord sends our way? For me, understanding myself in this time-enduring way is inspiring and feels like setting my course by the ever fixed north star that will serve as an inspiration for my feet until one day I am finally home.
Rob Schmidt, pastor of worship and arts