Over the centuries of man’s existence, countless love stories have been written. Many transcend both generations and continents such as Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and Beauty and the Beast. We all know the stories. However, a love story even more compelling was recorded that may not be as well known.
Tucked near the middle of the Bible is the book, Song of Solomon, a short narrative containing only eight chapters. Surprisingly, this book does not mention God at all. Yet His fingerprints are all over the story as the writer depicts the kind of love God designed between husband and wife. The two main characters in the story are never named. We, as the reader, then can simply place ourselves into the story and get a sense the exclusiveness, tenderness, and joy that God molded into this most intimate of human relationships.
As the writer unfolds this dialogue between husband and wife, a number of building blocks to a strong marriage emerge. As a wife, I was struck by these simple, yet imperative marriage-fortifying truths. Here are a few insights into true marriage intimacy gleaned from this small window into the love story.
Marriage intimacy is exclusive. The husband and wife have taken vows to devote their most intimate selves to each other alone. They no longer belong to themselves; rather they have given themselves to each other. Selfishness and self-centeredness have no place in a strong marriage, nor does “innocent” dabbling in intimacy with others outside the marriage bond.
Marriage invites intimacy. The physical relationship reserved for marriage is the most intimate of human experiences. Becoming physically one through the sexual experience provides much more than just a physical pleasure and release. God has designed the experience to bond husband and wife emotionally through the unique release of hormones in our bodies in the process that actually program our brains to bond as our bodies join. (See the note below to learn more.) Thus, the marriage intimacy needs intentional work. Husband and wife invite each other to strengthen the growing bonds on a regular basis.
Marriage seeks time together. In this crazy world of technology, we are constantly bombarded with information and distractions. Phones, emails, texts, television, news feeds, social media…you name it, it is on and pulling at our attention strings 24-7. And that doesn’t even mention the day to day tasks of work, school, family obligations, and friendships. Taken together, it is easy to put the marriage relationship on the back burner as we bustle about nurturing our children, tending to chores, or keeping the “to do” tasks at work at bay. But marriage requires one-on-one time to connect, regroup, and re-energize. Strong marriages make a regular practice of seeking time together as a couple, time that is untethered from distractions, whether that is children, chores, workload or just simply setting our phones down.
Marriage uplifts and honors. The exchange preceding this verse is interesting. The wife’s friends simply ask her, “What makes your husband so special?” A hint of sarcasm seems to be in their voices. Her response begins with the words, “Distinguished among ten thousand” (verse 10) and continues with a sweet description of what she loves about her husband. She bookends her words at the close of her response with the statement above, “This is my beloved and this is my friend.” What impact do you think it would have on marriages today if every husband and wife only spoke words that uplifted and honored their spouses in public conversations? What jokes would end? How would conversations over lunch with friends or at the water cooler at work change? Because of the vulnerable intimacy exchanged in marriage, husband and wife should be each other’s greatest protector and encourager. We have the greatest power to uphold as well as to crush our spouse’s spirits in the simple choice of our words. Strong marriages chose to honor and uplift.
For those of us that are married, perhaps you, like me, see some opportunities to strengthen your marriage in these simple truths. For those not married, two thoughts. If you are seeking a life-mate, consider that choice carefully. These traits don’t grow themselves magically after marriage. If the foundations of honor, love and respect are not there before marriage, don’t expect them to suddenly pop into existence after the “I do.” Secondly, honor the exclusive relationship designed for marriage. In everyday life that means that you respect boundaries of those that are married but also that you hold fast boundaries within your own life until you have found the person that will join you on this intimate journey. The wait is worth the reward!
If you haven’t read the whole story, I’d encourage you to grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable spot, and take it in start to finish. Find a version that shows who is speaking, similar to a script to a play, so that you get the true sense of the conversation that is taking place. Here is an online version that I found helpful: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Song%20of%20Songs%201
God, grant us strong marriages. Give us humble, seeking, honoring hearts for You and for our spouses.
*For more information on the chemical bonds in marriage intimacy, here are a couple of resources:
Gift of Purity by Rachel Welborn
Hooked by Joe McIlhaney and Frieda Bush
As always, thanks for reading. Do you know someone that could use some marriage encouragement? Maybe a few words from this would help. Feel free to share.