The Art of Loving (Happy Valentine’s Day! Song of Solomon 2:3-7)
The Art of Loving
Song of Solomon 2:3-7
The next issue of Christian Family magazine is scheduled to be printed around the first of March. By that time, Jewell and Jacob will have been married seven months. “JJ” as Rachel and I refer to them collectively seem to be doing pretty well. They are broke but all newlyweds are supposed to be, right? It’s a right of passage. When we talk to them, we use FaceTime and we talk to both at the same time and that’s nice. Jewell has a lighter course load than Jacob and she’s always made sure that he was available to talk instead of just talking to us by herself. It’s encouraging to see them interacting with each other.
I asked “JJ” to write an article for the next issue of Christian Family and talk about how their marriage has met their expectations. I’ve read their article twice and I think you’ll enjoy it. There is humor and some touching thoughts that might bring tears to your eyes and there’s a lot of Bible. That’s what I would expect from those two. In fact, Jewell is teaching a children’s Bible class at the congregation where they are worshipping.
On the article, there are some parts of it, some sentences, where I can tell it is Jewell talking. But there are other parts of the article, other sentences, where I can tell it is Jacob talking. Then there are parts of the article that sound like it could be either one. That’s the nature of marriage and, in fact, any interpersonal relationship.
There are aspects of our personalities that we keep separate when we get married. We never, we should never, stop being our own person. But when you get married, and the longer you are married, the more you each bring out aspects of the other’s personality that are similar to yours.
But often times, it is those aspects of our personalities that are not similar, that don’t change that can cause friction between us. Inevitably, there will be friction. There will be disagreements. There might even be arguments.
Back in 2018 (before Jacob proposed to Jewell), Rachel and I bought two ESV Journaling Bibles. A “Journal Bible” has wide margins on the outside for taking notes. We read the Bible through together, and we underlined and highlighted every verse in the Bible we came to that had to do with marriage and relationships. Sometimes we made notes in the margins. We gave Jewell her Bible when she and Jacob got married. There are two things that strike me after Rachel and I read through the Bible for that purpose: 1.) There’s a lot in the Bible that relate to interpersonal relationships; 2.) The Bible is not about marriage. But there’s still a lot in the Bible that can help a marriage be strong and healthy. Yes, the Bible is God’s marriage manual and Christ’s teachings have saved a lot of marriages from divorce.
Today is Valentine’s Day and I would like to share some principles from God’s word that will help you strengthen your marriage or, if you are single, it will help you still strengthen your relationships with your friends. I have 10 principles, so I’ve got to spend about 3 minutes on each one.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul writes: “Examine yourself whether you are in the faith.” There are half-a-dozen times when the psalmist would say to God, “Search me,” or “Try me.” The psalmist knew himself and was calling to God to examine him as well, to be sure his life was proper in the eyes of God. Know yourself.
It is important for each of us to know who we are, what we want out of life, what our weaknesses are, and what are strengths are. We need to know ourselves. We need to pay attention to how we respond to the words and actions of others.
The NT encourages Christians to practice self-control. It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). To engage in self-control, we have to be aware of who we are and what we’re doing. How do other people perceive our words and our behavior?
The better you know yourself, the better you will know your spouse because your spouse responds to the way you behave. If you don’t like the way your spouse is behaving, examine yourself and see if he or she is simply responding to your behavior. Knowledge leads to understanding and awareness, to toleration and consideration, which are all necessary for a successful marriage.
CHERISH YOUR MATE:
In Ephesians 5:28-30, Paul writes that “husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”
That word translated “cherishes” meant, at one time, to “warm.” It is used one other time in the NT, at 1 Thess. 2:7 in the context of a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children. “Tenderly caring” is the same word as “cherish” here. So, Paul is telling husbands to “tenderly care” for your wife.
Marriage is an acknowledgement that we are going to be interdependent. The basis of that interdependence is the love we have for each other. The joy of love is bringing happiness to the other person. Tenderly care for your spouse and build a strong marriage connection.
The cords that bind two hearts together are many. Love is the center and the strongest of those cords. But there are other cords: mutual interests, mutual experiences, mutual loyalties, a mutual way of life. The more strands you weave together into that single cord, the firmer your marriage will be. Weave a strong cord and that no human being or no behavior will ever sever.
#3 - MAKE A UNIT OF YOURSELVES:
We are all familiar with God’s teaching Adam and Eve that when they got married, they were no longer two but “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). It was based on that principle that Jesus forbids the dissolution of a marriage and the beginning of a second marriage except for sexual immorality in Matthew 19:1-9.
When you get married, don’t leave yourself tied to your parents. Do not leave yourself tied to your friends either. Form a new bond with your spouse. After “JJ” became engaged, we all started making wedding plans and Rachel and Ana and I made a suggestion about something one time (I can’t remember what it was), but Jewell basically said, “OK. But I’ve got to talk to Jacob about it.” I realized that Rachel and I weren’t the primary influences in Jewell’s life any more.
But that’s the way it should be. When you get married, you should be a unit with your spouse and any significant decisions you make should be made with your husband or wife’s input. And, you should make sure that you talk and you share and you discuss what you want to do with your life with your spouse and include him or her in those decisions.
Honor your father and mother but don’t cling to them. Make your own home and give your marriage a better chance for success. And, to those parents whose kids are now married, stay out of their business. Don’t give your kids advice unless they ask for it. When Jewell was 6-8 months old (I can’t remember, maybe she was older), my mom asked permission if she could give Jewell a bite of fudge. My mom was a chocoholic! She asked permission to give Jewell a bite of fudge. That act, itself, was a powerful message to me that I needed to let my daughters make their own decisions about their own families.
#4 - ACQUIRE THE ART OF PHYSICAL LOVE:
A good sexual adjustment in marriage makes a strong marital bond. Let’s read Song of Solomon 2:3-6: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. “He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love. “Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples, Because I am lovesick. “Let his left hand be under my head And his right hand embrace me.”
That is just one example out of the Song of Solomon that illustrates how important the physical relationship is in a marriage. God designed the sexual relationship as a gift to men and women and we can enjoy it within the relationship which God has authorized - marriage. Learn the techniques of love and develop a mutually-satisfying physical relationship. Blend sentiment and sensuality. The more harmonious your physical relationship is, the greater your chances for a happy marriage.
#5 - PREPARE YOURSELF FOR PARENTHOOD:
We might go through an apprenticeship for 5 years, or we go to college for 2 years or 4 years, sometimes even longer. We prepare ourselves for a job so we can provide for our families. But how much preparation do we put in to being a parent?
Having babies is the easy part. Being a parent takes more time, effort, and a degree of skill. There are a couple of verses in Genesis which have become some of my favorite verses. In Genesis 33:5, Jacob tells his brother Esau, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Later in his life, Jacob’s son, Joseph, says the same thing to his own dad: “They are my sons, whom God has given me here” (48:9).
Every child is a gift from God and every child deserves to be prepared by his or her parents to go back to God. Talk to your parents about child-rearing. Talk to your grand-parents. Talk to your peers about child-rearing. Read good books. James Dobson and John Rosemond are two of my favorite authors on child-rearing.
The physical and emotional well-being of your child depends largely on the care you provide for them during their early years. The better you are prepared for the care of your children, the more likely they are to grow into healthy and mature adults. Till the soil well and provide a good nurture for the seed. Give your child a good start in life.
A happy home, a peaceful home with little to no drama, is a good asset for any child. Children who come from happy families, from homes where the parents are affectionate, congenial, and considerate, are better prepared to have a happy marriage themselves. So, the best preparation for parenthood is to have a strong relationship with your spouse. And, let your kids know in words and actions that your spouse comes first in your life.
#6 - PLAN YOUR FAMILY WISELY:
Studies have shown overwhelmingly that the best way to have a solid life is to: 1.) Get your education first; 2.) Get a job; 3.) Get married; 4.) Have children. Psychological studies and sociological studies have shown that the biblical pattern is the best pattern to have a solid, successful, fulfilling life. God condemns fornication. He condemns having sexual relationships before and outside of marriage. It can throw the whole rest of your life out of balance.
Make a good emotional adjustment before you plan your first baby. Acquire knowledge of contraception and avoid the anxieties of unplanned babies. Children should come when they are wanted and expected. They should come by choice and not by chance.
Avoid premature parenthood. The apostle Paul said, “Flee immorality!” (1 Cor. 6:18). But, don’t put off parenthood too late in your own lifecycle. For physical and psychological reasons, it is wise to start a family early in life. To the degree you can, space your children apart according to your own needs and finish your family while both of you are still young.
#7 - HAVE TOLERANCE IN YOUR MARRIAGE:
Let’s go to Paul’s letter of Colossians and look at 3:12-14: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
If you are going to dance alone, you can take any steps you desire. But if you are going to dance with a partner, you have to harmonize your steps. At the beginning, you can step on each other’s toes, but after a while, with patience and practice, you learn to adapt yourselves to each other’s rhythms. In marriage, it takes time for physical and emotional adjustments. It takes time for two people to adapt to each other’s patterns of behavior and ways of living. Tolerance and patience add to your chances of a successful marriage.
Patience and tolerance are also needed by the families on both sides. It takes time for an adjustment between a new couple and the members of their respective families. Just because you fall in love with someone does not mean you are going to like his or her dad or mom or siblings. New sons and new daughters-in-law are not necessarily easily and quickly adapted into the original family. Time and understanding are needed to adjust properly.
#8 - NURTURE YOUR MARRIAGE:
Don’t just nurture your spouse, but nurture your marriage relationship. A marriage has to be cared for and fostered, especially while the marriage is young. You can strengthen the foundation of your marriage by being considerate of each other. Give daily attention to the needs of your spouse. Be courteous all the time, every day. Do not treat your boss better than you treat your spouse!
Give affection to your spouse regularly, daily. Be thoughtful. Those behaviors are like sun and rain to make a marriage grow and flourish. And communicate, communicate, communicate! You have to talk about what you like and what you don’t like. From the bedroom to the kitchen to the living room. You must be open and honest about what you like and need from your spouse. Show your feelings for each other in a positive and helpful way. Love has to be spoken and it has to be shown in actions. Nurture your marriage and make it grow stronger.
Also, the care of a plant often times requires weeding. If weeds are permitted to multiply, the plant may be stunted and withered. If they are removed early, the plant will have a good chance to attain its full growth. In marriage too, weed out your difficulties as they come up. Don’t allow little frustrations and irritations to accumulate. The word Paul uses in Colossians 3:5 is “put to death…” behaviors which are sinful and unproductive.
Talk your problems over and resolve them as they arise. Give your marriage a chance to grow and develop.
#9 - SEEK COMPETENT COUNSEL WHEN YOU NEED IT:
Solomon said, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov. 11:14). If you cannot resolve your difficulties, don’t be ashamed of seeking advice from someone whom you both love and respect. We have a lot of wise members of the church here whom you can consult; advice is one reason why the church has elders. If your situation is beyond our abilities to help, then we can find someone who is qualified to give you the help you need.
What we are looking for is understanding and insight, information and guidance, and help to prevent or remedy ills in a marriage relationship. Sometimes arguments stem from some deeply hidden insecurity, or a desire for power, or sexual frustration or something. Seek guidance and further the success of your marriage.
#10 - FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE:
How can we not talk about the golden rule when we’re talking about interpersonal relationships? Matthew 7:12 is Matthew’s wording of the golden rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Do to your spouse the way you want your spouse to do to you. Be aware of each other’s feelings and be sensitive to each other’s needs. Forgive as you want to be forgiven. Be gracious as you would want to receive grace. Avoid domination or condemnation, disrespect or disloyalty, as you would want your spouse to avoid these toward you. If you live by the golden rule in your marriage, you will have an excellent chance of success.
The marriage relationship is not really based on laws. People ignore laws all the time. The marriage relationship is not based on compulsion nor on some kind of binding contract. It really is based on affection and loyalty, our inner compass that directs us to honor Jesus Christ first and to honor our spouse second. You can’t do one without the other.
Take home message: If you assume your responsibilities in your marriage, in your physical relationship, in planning for parenthood, in nurturing your marriage and your spouse, your marriage will have a good chance of being both happy and successful.