I am dark but lovely, O maidens of Jerusalem,
dark like the tents of Qedar,
lovely like the tent curtains of Salmah.
Do not stare at me because I am dark,
for the sun has burned my skin.
My brothers were angry with me;
they made me the keeper of the vineyards.
Alas, my own vineyard I could not keep!
(The Song Of Solomon 1.5-6, NET)
Feeling a passionate and powerful love for others (vv.2-4) can sometimes make us doubt ourselves: am I good enough, do I deserve him/her? The lover feels these self-doubts (I am dark but…Do not stare at me…) yet at the same time affirms that there is inherent beauty in how she has been made (…lovely like…cf. Genesis 1.27, 5.2).
In an agricultural culture in which our beloved and lover found themselves dark and burned skin was a sign of status, but not high status:
“…fair skin was considered more attractive than tanned skin, because it showed that one was of a financial or social status high enough to where they did not have to perform outdoor work…”
Despite the self-doubt and the (lack of) social status the lover still believes that she possesses worth and dignity and value, that she is dark but lovely. Therein lies a great truth for us: true beauty and true worth are far deeper than simple appearance. I would encourage you today to see that in yourself and in others, and to learn to behold as beautiful that which God does;
“Let your beauty not be external—the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes— but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.”
(1 Peter 3.3-4)
“Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way people do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16.7)