My church is currently (January - March 2014) going through the Song of Solomon, a pretty obscure and unfamiliar book to a lot of people, even church folk. But it is a great revelation of God's desire for marriages and a beautiful poem of passionate love. The expressions of the lovers requires some homework (pretty easy with the internet) to understand and appreciate but the studious effort is rewarded with insight into what makes for healthy marriages.
So reflecting on this sacred writing got me to think about my marriage. I’ve been married to May, for over 2 decades. I am totally in love with her, really crazy about her but how do I express it? These are the eloquent things that flow from my lips:
"Hey Honey, how was your day?" and of course, "What's for dinner?”
I do say, "I love you" every morning when I'm off to work and at night before going to sleep. But it all pales pretty pathetically compared to the things that Solomon says to his wife in Song of Songs.
As I read this book, I am overwhelmed by the many expressions of deep desire, passionate obsession, joyous delight, and even profound longing. How in love are these lovers!. And it is a love relationship which inspires those around them.
So many references to awesome fragrances and delectable food to describe the enjoyment of the lovers for each other. Pomegranates are mentioned quite a bit; I found that Hebrew writers often used this fruit as a symbol for harmony and peace where 2 people are living in authentic oneness or concord, (total opposite of discord). This kind of peace is definitely the foundation for a healthy life of love and sex. But how do we experience this?
By being vulnerable. And God gives us frequent opportunities to do so. If it's been awhile since we've let our guard down, we may miss the more subtle ones but don't worry, the bigger, louder, attention getting opps never fail to surface, even if we've ignored them with previous success.
But why do we deprioritize this value that is so clearly embodied by Jesus, especially when He went to the cross?
Because it scares us to death. And if we’ve experienced a lot of hurt, combined with insecurity, we’ve probably worked hard, really hard, to protect ourselves. Nevertheless, if we’re going to be real in life, love, and family, we must surrender to Christ’s call to deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Him even into something so terrifying as vulnerability.
Following Jesus is a journey into vulnerability. When we are vulnerable, we open ourselves to good and bad. We open ourselves to pain and pleasure. But most importantly, we open ourselves to God. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Christ-like humility is being vulnerable. God's grace can only be received when our guard is down and we are open to God's good work in us. And when we receive His unconditional love and grace, we will also be able to give it. This is the beginning of true intimacy. We can’t give what we don’t have. Jesus said in Matthew 6, we don’t have because we don’t ask. We don’t ask because we try to be invulnerable. Invulnerable people don’t ask for mercy and grace on an ongoing basis. But this is exactly what we need to grow unconditional love in our most intimate relationships, most especially, our marriages.
By having this grace-based unconditional love, God makes us open to dealing honestly with the tensions that regularly come up. This also requires us to be brave and aware of our feelings enough to share openly about them. Of course, this too is God’s good work in us. This is what God meant and intended for us in Genesis 2 about being naked and unashamed. This is the essence of a real marriage and it is how I am defining healthy vulnerability. When we aren't being naked and unashamed, can we be intimate and loving with our spouse? Big time NO! When we aren’t being vulnerable, can we even be faithful reflections (image) of God, ruling / leading according to His will? Definitely NOT.
Maybe the biggest reason we need to be vulnerable (to God and spouse) is so we can be filled with His desire - to love and be loved / to know and be known. Deep loving desire for our spouses, as well as deep, intimate knowledge of them which gets reciprocated only comes from God. Apart from God, we all naturally fill our desires / hearts with non-God things, ie. idols. How do we get pure, genuine desire for Him and others? By being vulnerable. Remember, grace is given to the humble. Grace is God’s favor. God favors intimacy and vulnerability. He favors them because they grow the kind of love that He originally wanted people to have in their marriages.
If we’re going to grow our expressions of loving beauty and intimacy, we need to single out one desire and that desire needs to be the same as God’s. Vulnerability is the way. By God’s grace, we must faithfully choose to open our hearts to Him and our spouse. Our marriages depend on it. Our children need it. We need it. “Love your neighbors as you love yourself.” Being vulnerable and being filled with desire for love are some of the most important ways we love ourselves and each other.
Most of us find our professions relatively easy when compared to the work required for personal relational growth. Coaching can be a great resource to help you move forward and discover greater balance between the work place and home. Message me to try it out!
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