In our culture, February means roses, chocolates, and all the traditional symbols of romantic love. After nearly five years of marriage to my wonderful husband, I have enjoyed receiving love letters, holding hands over candlelit dinners, and taking nighttime walks under the stars with my sweetheart. However, I have also learned that there is more to making and maintaining a healthy, thriving relationship than these kinds of romantic gestures. The world (and its businesses) may tout their own ideology regarding love and marriage, but I know of no better place to find true principles and sound wisdom than in the word of God.
While every book of the Bible has taught me something about strengthening my marriage and loving my husband, the Song of Solomon is one book in particular that has offered me a wealth of insight on the love between a man and his wife. My husband and I have read this book together and often talked over the main lessons we have gleaned from this beautiful, inspired poem—insights that have also been confirmed by our own experiences. Since February is traditionally a month in which love and romance are emphasized, I thought I’d share four lessons from Solomon’s song that I’ve found particularly helpful in my own life.
1) Love is Worth the Wait
This lesson is mostly for unmarried ladies (and their parents). Three times in the poem the bride warns the young women around her to be careful not to stir up their desires for love until the proper time (Songs 2:7, 3:5, 8:4). There is almost always more wisdom in choosing to wait instead of acting impulsively on our desires. Many people say, ”You have to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your prince!” There may be a grain of truth behind this statement, but I think it’s even better to carefully consider a man’s character and potential before becoming involved in a relationship with him. Incidentally, in the original version of The Frog Prince written by the Brothers Grimm, the frog turned back into a prince not after the princess kissed him, but after she threw him against a wall with all her might.
2) Catch the Little Foxes
In the Song of Solomon, the love between the king and his bride is often referred to as a vineyard. Three lines of the poem (Songs 2:15) read as follows:
“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”
Predators are quick to sneak into a vineyard and injure the growing plants; and if the vines are young, the damage can be particularly devastating. Every relationship can benefit from protection from dangers. With a young marriage that has not yet grown and matured naturally, there is an extra need for a couple to guard their relationship and protect their love against predators. The little foxes are anything that hinder growth. If they go unchecked they can multiply and grow into bigger foxes. For example, a small irritation in marriage, if allowed to fester, can eventually grow into a huge source of division. It’s not always pleasant or easy to catch the little foxes, but it is much easier than waiting until there are even bigger problems that need to be fixed.
3) Feelings Follow Actions
Another passage in the poem (Songs 5:2-8) describes a scene where the king (who has apparently been locked out of the palace) asks his bride to open her door to him so that he can get out of the damp, dark night and spend time with her. She isn’t too pleased that he is picking this particular time (in the middle of the night) to inconvenience her. She is, after all, already comfortable in her warm bed, has just finished painting her toenails (which she doesn’t want to mess up by walking across the room), and was getting ready to doze off. (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.) She tells him as much and starts to go back to sleep. But then she has a change of heart and decides she might like to spend time with her lover after all. Unfortunately, by the time she is feeling like seeing him, her husband is already gone. (A man can only wait outside in the cold for so long.)
This is a classic example of why wives should not seek to let their actions follow their feelings. Instead, we (and our husbands) are much better served if we allow our feelings to follow our actions. That is, we shouldn’t wait until we feel like doing something that we know is right or that we know would delight our spouse. We should perform that act of love (offering to do the dishes, to give a back-rub, or to provide our sweetheart with 30 minutes to unwind after work) even when we don’t particularly feel like doing so. The wonderful thing is that often, while we are choosing to demonstrate love, we suddenly start to get those feelings we were lacking in the first place. Sometimes our feelings simply need an action to jump-start them.
4) Store up Delights
At the end of the poem the bride is speaking to her husband, asking him to come away with her and telling him that she has stored up many pleasant and delightful fruits just for him, the old as well as the new (Songs 7:13). This bride is to be commended for the effort she put into treasuring up special things for her husband that she knows have delighted him in the past, as well as seeking out new things for him that she thinks he will find pleasing. Of course this lesson can be taken to heart by both sides, and men can easily do the same for their wives.
My husband and I think that a healthy, delightful marriage contains plenty of well-loved traditions (like visiting favorite spots, dinner-and-a-movie dates, or keeping up favorite holiday customs) as well as new and novel experiences (such as visiting new places or trying a new activity). Our traditions keep us feeling strong, grounded, and reflective of where we’ve come from, and our new experiences keep us feeling active, adventurous, and mindful about what the future holds. One isn’t better than the other, and striving to give each other both traditional delights as well as new enjoyments has definitely kept our marriage strong and vibrant.
A Picture of a Greater Love
Of course, the greatest lesson that I have learned about marriage from reading the Bible is that the union between a man and his wife is meant to be a picture of the incredible love that Christ has for His bride, the church. The covenant my husband and I made on our wedding day is ultimately a display (however imperfect) of the eternal and perfect covenant between Christ and His church. Not only is marriage a foretaste of heaven, it is a means by which the world might see Christ’s faithful and loving leadership and His church’s joyful and reverent obedience. We are to be living love letters for all the world to see, that they might know Him and, through Him, know the indescribable joy of His redeeming love.
There will always be more I need to learn about marriage, love, and my role as a wife. Thankfully, I don’t have to rely on worldly wisdom or greeting card philosophies to learn how to strengthen and enrich my marriage. God has given us the most beautiful love letter of all in His word, and it will always contain more lessons to learn, more truths to ascertain, and more treasures to discover.
In Love with Christ: The Narrative of Sarah Edwards
Sussannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love (Morning Devotions with the Life of Susannah Spurgeon)
Helping Them to Choose
The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers