Week of Oct. 23: Scripture sets the example for all relationships, man and wife included
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Scripture: Song of Solomon 4:8-5:1a
In the introduction to the Song of Solomon in The Message, Eugene Peterson says, “Christians read this book on many levels: as the intimacy of marital love between man and woman, God’s deep love for his people, Christ’s Bridegroom love for the church, and the Christian’s love for his or her Lord. It is a prism in which all the love of God in all the world, and all the responses of those who love and whom God loves, gathers and then separates into individual colors.” Whether it is an immediate attraction or a love that grows over time, true romantic love is a deep sense of connection at an intimate place. The church can be the healthiest place to talk about intimacy in all relationships because I John tells us, “God is love.”
Who said that reading the Bible was boring?
Solomon expresses his passion so well in writing that some will blush. Try reading these words to someone other than your spouse and you will not be considered among the wise. What we do hear and feel is the reality expressing our deepest feeling of love and appreciation. Solomon depicts the uncommon and extravagance of love for his wife and closest family member. In light of what society learns on the movie screen, online and from those who profane love and passion, the faith community has both a responsibility to teach fidelity in marriage and the gift of intimacy and passionate love. A few parents still sit down to have that talk about the “birds and the bees” and hope that one conversation will do. To value and promote the love of husband and wife, we have the common responsibility to teach each generation what is appropriate. Saying “I love you” is not permission for intimacy, and refraining from expressing our passions for those we love is also profane.
The love poetry is passionate
Maybe you wrote letters to the one you loved when you were in college or when they were in the armed services. Those professions of love and devotion become treasured pieces of your history. We would do well to follow Solomon’s example of reminding our loved ones of the depth of our feelings. Not all our feelings are the same, but how important it is to say, “I love you, and to explain why?” Or to say, “I am proud of you, and explain how” or to share in print, concretely what so often is unspoken or uncertain in our minds.
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even." Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" She did it with enthusiasm. For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?" "Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
One of the great treasures I have is a Bible that my parents gave me when I went into the ministry. In the front cover are words of hope and encouragement that meant so much in times of anxiety, fear, and confusion. The real gift I found in a box of my father’s old papers were several revisions of the words that were finally inscribed in my Bible. To realize that there was so much thought, consideration, and depth in preparing what appeared to be such simple words made them come alive and grow deeper in my study of the scriptures. It is a love letter from a parent to a child that sustains me still. I encourage every United Methodist Men’s fellowship to take part in the “Letters From Dad”™ ministry and learn how to write letters to their family that will bless and encourage for generations. Just as we read this passionate letter hundreds of years later, it speaks of a husband’s passion for his wife.
Beauty, fertility and fragrances
The pomegranate is a symbol of fruitfulness and fertility from at least as early as the period of King Solomon. The image is seen in ancient artifacts and in contemporary art throughout the streets of Jerusalem today. The top is a crown, with six points, which might have been the foundation for the Star of David. It was believed that there were 613 seeds equaling the number of Mosaic laws. This sacred fruit is used in a very provocative way of describing the author’s lovely bride. Solomon connects love with the best of the whole creation. Solomon uses the tangible to express the intangible. What parts of God’s good and awesome works of creation make us feel most alive, connected and allow us to celebrate our part in each other’s lives? What makes us want to get out the real potpourri and put away the empty dried out air-freshener? Ernest Havemann, journalist for Time and Life magazines and author, once wrote, “An old man with snow-white hair, a little hard of hearing, reading the newspaper through a magnifying glass and an old woman in a shapeless dress, her knuckles gnarled by arthritis, wearing sandals to ease her aching arches are holding hands. In a while, they will totter off to take a nap, and then she will cook supper, and they will watch television, each knowing exactly what the other is thinking, until it is time for bed. They may even have a good, soul-stirring argument, just to prove that they still really care. And through the night they will snore unabashedly, each resting content because the other is there. They are in love; they have always been in love, although sometimes they would have denied it. And because they have been in love they have survived everything that life could throw at them, even their own failures.”
Action: Read the text aloud to your Sunday School class and ask who needs to hear these words today? Who in your church is in a struggling marriage that has no passion or intimacy and yet hungers for support from the community of faith?
“Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control; our spirits long to be made whole. Let inward love guide every deed; by this we worship, and are freed.” The United Methodist Hymnal #643.