Song of Solomon: God’s Picture of Marital Intimacy
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Author Sharon Jaynes dives into the Song of Solomon to teach us about biblical romance. By studying the relationship between Solomon and his Shulamite, we get a picture of God’s design for marriage.
Song of Solomon: God’s Picture of Marital Intimacy
Bob: When a man and woman are married, we expect there to be some evidence of marital affection/mutual affection being displayed in that marriage. That was not the experience Sharon Jaynes had in her family of origin.
Sharon: In my family, I had a really distorted view of what that looked like; because my parents argued all the time. I never saw them hug; I never saw them kiss, and I didn’t know that that’s what married people did. It took—I think I was about 12 years old; I went to a friend of mine’s home, and I saw Mr. and Mrs. Henderson hug and kiss each other. They had little pet names for each other. That was the first time I’d really seen affection between a husband and wife and knew that it could be different.
Interestingly enough, my family—not Christians—that family was Christian. I thought, “I don’t know why that family’s so different from mine, but I know it has something to do with Jesus.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 15th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. How much is marital affection on display in our marriage?—and what does that say about the state of our marriage?—what’s that saying to our kids about what marriage should look like?—and what’s it saying to our neighbors about our walk with Jesus? We’re going to explore all of that today with Sharon Jaynes. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think we just need to say, right here, at the outset—
Dave: Oh boy. I wonder where we’re going.
Ann: Me too! [Laughter]
Dave: Here we go.
Bob: I think it’s important for married couples to understand that, when it comes to love in marriage, that intimacy, and passion, and romance—they’re not the most important thing in your marriage—but they’re not nothing, either. We can sometimes emphasize that passion and romance are kind of secondary. I’ve heard somebody say, “When it comes to marriage, passion is nice but not necessary; commitment is necessary and not always nice”; right?
Bob: But there’s something that God has included—in terms of marital love, and passion, and romance—that is a part of His grand design for the marriage relationship to be all that He intends for it to be, and so we need to talk about that from time to time!
Ann: If God included it, it must be important.
Bob: This is one of the things we talk about, regularly, at Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Right now, I just want to remind our listeners—you have an opportunity to sign up to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember and save
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Bob: It is a deal.
Dave: It really is.
Bob: By the way, there’s a money-back guarantee anyway—so you come and if, for whatever reason, you say, “It didn’t do it for us,”—we’ll give you your money back. But if you want to sign up now for any of the upcoming spring getaways, you can save
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Ann: We went to the Weekend to Remember marriage conference two weeks before we got married. I was 19 years old. As we sat in that session, it was the first time I had ever heard God’s plan for intimacy in marriage.
Dave: Yes; we’d never heard it.
Ann: It was transforming for my life, because I was inundated with so much of the world’s culture and view.
Ann: It changed everything for us.
Bob: Well, let’s hope that we can have a transforming impact on listeners this week. Sharon Jaynes is joining us on FamilyLife Today. It’s been awhile; welcome back.
Sharon: Thank you. It’s good to be back here.
Bob: Sharon is an author and a speaker—one of the founders of Proverbs 31 Ministries. You continue to write and speak with them; right?
Bob: She is a married mother of one, who just got married.
Sharon: Right, last summer.
Bob: What was that like for you, mom, to hand your son off to a daughter-in-law?
Sharon: It was awesome. [Laughter] It really was, especially after coming off of writing this book and being focused on marriage for the past 18 months; then to watch it happen, it was just wonderful.
Bob: You took a deep dive into Song of Solomon to write the book, Lovestruck—that’s the book you’re talking about. The subtitle is Discovering God’s Design for Romance, Marriage, and Sexual Intimacy from the Song of Solomon. The Bible is candid on this subject, and we don’t want to be inappropriate; but we also don’t want to shy away from what the Bible talks openly about.
Sharon: Right. It was really a surprise for me, writing the book, because I’d read the Song of Solomon before. A lot of times, I would read it as an allegory of Jesus and how He loved me/how Jesus loved the bride. But then, when I started really studying it—and actually, it was through Proverbs 31—they were going through on the First 5 App, doing Bible studies all the way through the Bible. They got to the Song of Solomon and people are like, “Hmm; not sure I want to do this one.” [Laughter] They’re like: “Let’s call Sharon! She’ll write about this!” [Laughter]
I wrote four little short Bible studies for the app, and then I just fell in love with the book. Once I started deciphering what those words really meant, I myself was going, “Is this really in the Bible?” I couldn’t believe—it was very explicit, but not illicit. It was very sensual, but not sordid at all. The code words that they use—I call them code words—make it just so beautiful! Yet it’s very revealing—like I say, it’s very explicit of what’s going on, once you understand what those words mean.
Then I started asking myself, “Why did God make sure that this book was in the Bible?” The reason is He wants us to see it; He wants us to know His design for physical intimacy.
Bob: Most of us, our picture of marital intimacy is not first formed by Scripture. It’s first formed by what we see in the home we grow up in as we watch our mom and dad interact and we look at how they express love to one another. I’m not talking about what they do in private; I’m talking about what we see in public.
I remember, with my own mom and dad, seeing times when my dad would make an affectionate gesture toward my mom—to reach out, hold her hand or something—and she’d kind of pull back. My mom was pretty no-nonsense—like: “If you’re going to say you love me, I want to see it in all of your actions, not just in these tender little affectionate things you do. I want to see your life lived the right way.”
There was tension that I observed between my mom and dad in terms of what their romantic relationship looked like. You saw some of that in your family, growing up.
Sharon: I did. Before I tell you that, I want to just say, too, that yes, we see it in our families, but what is forming a person’s view of sexuality now, so much, is just the culture itself.
Sharon: I mean, even a young boy, before he graduates from high school, will see 14,000 depictions of that just on television alone; so we’re getting that from the culture probably even more than in the family.
But in my family, I had a really distorted view of what that looked like. Honestly, Bob, I didn’t know what it looked like, period; because my parents argued all the time. I never saw them hug; I never saw them kiss, and I didn’t know that that’s what married people did. It took—I think I was about 12 years old; I went to a friend of mine’s home—she lived on the next block, Wanda Henderson—and I saw Mr. and Mrs. Henderson hug and kiss each other. They had little pet names for each other. That was the first time I’d really seen affection between a husband and wife and knew that it could be different.
Interestingly enough, my family—not Christians—that family was Christian. I thought, “I don’t know why that family is so different from mine, but I know it has something to do with Jesus.” Here we have this Christian family—he’s loving on his daughters, but he is loving his wife/called her Gertrude—we have no idea why he called her Gertrude—but they had little pet names for each other. Seeing that love between the husband and the wife, and their affection toward each other, is one of the things that pulled me to Christ; because I got to see that, and I’d never seen it before.
Dave: You know, which is exactly—
Bob: —what it’s supposed to do.
Dave: —supposed to do. I mean, you read the Book of Ephesians; Paul says in Chapter 5 that the marriage is a picture of the relationship between God and His bride. You actually saw it, as a 12-year-old little girl; that is just amazing.
Sharon: I saw it. I wanted what they had, as far as the joy and the love that they had in their family; but then, when I got married, I wanted that for my marriage too. I’d seen the good, and I’d seen the bad.
My husband’s parents—they were amazing. He had only seen a good example of what a marriage should be, so you can imagine we have this combination of coming into the marriage.
Bob: So, how do you think what you saw or didn’t see in your family, how did that impact you as you moved into marriage and as you started to build romance and intimacy with your own husband?
Sharon: In the Book of the Song of Solomon, there are two principle people: there’s Solomon; and then there’s what I call the Shulamite, and then her friends.
One thing that Solomon said—he says, “Catch for us the little foxes.” What he was referring to there is anything that can come in and steal the intimacy or the joy/the passion from the relationship.
One of my little foxes that I had, when we were dating, grew out of how I was raised; because when my parents would fight—when they would get violent; when I’d hear the yelling, and the screaming, and the swearing—I would go and hide. I would hide in a closet and put my hands over my ears, or I would get in bed and pull the covers up over my head; but I wanted to shut it out.
Now, you have a grown woman—all of 23 years old—and she’s entering into this relationship with the man, who will become her husband. When we had any tension, I would shut down; because I didn’t want tension. I didn’t want to have a discussion about anything that would make me have that same feeling in my tummy that I had when I was a little girl, so I would shut down.
What Steve had to do—that was new to him—I mean, his parents didn’t shut down; they worked through things—so he had to teach me how to talk about the difficult situations we were having/to talk it out. That was one of the many things that I had to get over, being brought up the way that I was.
Bob: Yes; Dave, you had a similar experience to what Sharon had growing up.
Dave: I’m sitting here, just going, “Oh my goodness; it’s identical,” Ann taught me; because when we got married—I don’t know if you had the same sort of thought process, and I never thought of this until later, but one of the reasons I shut down, when we got married/when conflict would arise, is because I saw it in my home, growing up; and it was bad. I did the same thing—I went and hid in the bedroom, actually got a pillow and put it over my head; because I didn’t want to hear the yelling—and there was alcohol and that kind of thing.
What happened when I got married, then, was—I just thought: “That’s what conflict does. It ends in divorce, so you just avoid it!”—
Dave: —which I learned is a really bad way to handle conflict—[Laughter]—just pretend it’s not going to happen!
Dave: I married a woman, who came from a family that worked it out; and she’s following me around the house, going, “Where are you going?!”
Ann: I don’t think I was as sweet as your husband, Steve, though, Sharon. [Laughter] I said things, “Come back and fight me like a man!” [Laughter] That didn’t go over well, not realizing that so much of our past we carry into the present/into our marriages. We so often blame our spouse or our situation when it really is tied to the past.
Then your husband, Steve—you open the book with this beautiful story of discovering some letters. Tell us about that.
Sharon: Well, his parents were great. When they passed away—his father died first; and then six months later, his mom passed away. We had to clean out their house very quickly; and some things we didn’t have time to go through, so we just put it in my attic.
Several years later, I went to go through their things. I pulled out a box from underneath an old wing chair. I pulled back the flap, and in that box were letters that his dad had written to his mom. They started out being written to Mary Ellen Boone, so she was his girlfriend at the time. He had gone into the Army—this was during World War II. I sat down and just read letter after letter of this 19-year-old pouring out his heart and just wooing this woman with pen and ink. It was really written like a 19-year-old would write; it was very precious.
Then, about halfway through the letters, it changed to Mary Ellen Jaynes. He had come home; they had gotten married, and then he was shipped back off to the Aleutian Islands. I realized—in that box there were about 500 letters—what a treasure we had—to see how his parents came together, as husband and wife, and how those first few years he wasn’t even with her/they were apart as he fought the war; but it was such a treasure for us.
Really, the Song of Solomon is a lot like that. I start the book with that; because the Song of Solomon—you could read that like letters, saying how a man and a woman are actually pursuing each other. But the letters were so precious to us. Actually, what I did, Ann, I took those 500 letters—and another sister-in-law and I—we made them into books. There are two volumes—I’m talking New York City phonebook thick! [Laughter] We have all the letters, and we gave it to the kids and the grandkids for Christmas.
What I treasure in the legacy that we have, looking at how that marriage began—and not only that—but when they passed away and had been married over 65 years, they were the same people.
Bob: You mentioned the parallels between those letters and what we read in the Song of Solomon—and you know this; we’ve talked about this. One of the challenges we have with the Song of Solomon is we know a little bit about Solomon’s love stories—not just story; stories—700wives, 300 concubines; right?
Sharon: Yes; that’s kind of the elephant in the room, isn’t it?
Bob: He’s the guy that God says, “I’m going to have you write a book about romantic love in marriage”?
Ann: Well, I remember, as a young believer—I hadn’t grown up in the church—so I read this, and I read about his life and his wives, and this discounted the book of Solomon for me for awhile; because I just thought: “I’m going to listen to this guy! He had so many wives; why would I read this?” A lot of women will ask that question. Sharon, how do you answer that?
Dave: Yes; we’re going to throw this right at you, Sharon Just tackle that one! [Laughter]
Sharon: Listen; they have already asked me, and I do talk it about it in the book—that this is the elephant in the room. When a devotion runs or when I right an article for someone, this is the kind of feedback I get from women—they’re like, “I’m not going to read that!”
But listen, this is what it shows me: Solomon, at the time, was considered the wisest man on earth. He asked God for wisdom; God gave him wisdom—people came from far and wide to hear his wisdom—yet, he failed. The one thing God told him not to do was not to marry other women or take in women from other nations and worship their gods. The wisest man on earth failed and disobeyed God.
What that shows me is: “If the wisest man on earth can do that, any of us are susceptible.” A lot of those wives, of course, were for political reasons. Every time he conquered a nation, he got a wife; but a lot of them weren’t—there were not 700 nations. It just is a warning to me that even the wisest among us is susceptible to falling away from God.
Ann: You know, the other thought that came to me is that women have incredible influence over their husbands, good or bad.
Ann: I think some women can feel like, “I don’t have a voice in my husband’s life; he doesn’t listen to me.” Look at Solomon, the wisest man in the world, and yet he was influenced in a negative way to worship other gods.
Bob: We don’t know whether he is writing his own story or whether he’s writing romantic love poetry—I mean, he is talking about the king and the Shulamite. It’s not necessarily historical; it could be love poetry that we’re reading here.
Ann: Could it be his first wife?
Bob: I think that’s possible.
Sharon: People say that it can be. But here’s what we do need to know. Regardless of the questions that we have, we need to know that God wanted this book in the Bible.
Sharon: The Bible starts with marriage in the Garden [of Eden]; it ends with marriage with Jesus and the church. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. He made sure, this little book, between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah, was eight chapters that focuses on romance and marriage. Regardless of who that writer was, who do we say wrote the Bible? We say, you know, “God really wrote the Bible; a man was holding the pen,”—
Sharon: —it’s by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We can’t negate the Song of Solomon because of his past; because if we believe that the Bible’s the inerrant Word of God, God’s the one, actually, that—
Ann: —is the author.
Sharon: —is the author of it; and He made sure it was in there for a reason.
Bob: And it paints a glorious, beautiful, wonderful, warm, romantic, passionate picture of God’s design for marriage.
You know, I started off by saying romance and passion aren’t everything; but if you have a marriage, where you would say: “This husband and wife—they love each other, and they care for each other, and they do nice things for one another—the romance and passion is drained out of that marriage; they don’t have that in their marriage,” we would go, “There’s something wrong there.” They can’t have the kind of marriage God wants us to have unless this component is a part of this.
I mean, I’ve met couples, who have kind of said, “We’ve shut that aspect of marriage off.”
Bob: I go, “You can’t have the joy and the glory that God wants us to have in marriage if you just say, ‘We’re not going to make romance, and intimacy, and passion a part of what we’re all about.’”
Dave: Yes; and I think it’s pretty exciting, actually, to think that God puts—like you were saying, Sharon—God puts this in the Bible, which means a couple things. One, like you were saying, Bob, this is a very, very important part of marriage. It’s a very important part, and God wants it to be a very important part. He actually gives us sort of a manual to say, “Here’s how it can be exciting as I’d like it to be.”
Again, I’m not sitting here, saying, “It’s going to be fireworks for 40 years in your marriage”; but man oh man, God designed it/He created it; and then He says: “Let Me give you some instruction,” and “If you follow this, it’s going to bring a lot more passion, and romance, and intimacy in your marriage than typically will happen if you just try to do it your own way. If you do it My way, here’s what it could look like.”
That’s what’s exciting to think about; let’s look at these eight chapters and say: “Okay, what did He say? What can we learn from this story that Solomon wrote down for us?”
Bob: Well, and I think it’s important for us as well—and we’ve talked about this today—what you’re modeling for your kids and for your neighbors in terms of a loving relationship being on display—what you’re modeling for the 12-year-old from around the corner, who comes over to your house and sees you kissing and hugging each other—
Bob: —what you’re modeling for your own kids, like Steve saw with his mom and dad/your husband, as he’s growing up—you’re sowing seeds either for good or for ill in the hearts of the next generation that will either help them thrive and experience oneness and joy in their marriage, or you’re sowing seeds that can create conflict in their marriage and can take them off-course when it comes to God’s design and His purpose for marriage.
Sharon: We need to know that the children are watching. At the beginning of the program, you mentioned that your dad would reach for your mom’s hand, and she would pull away. How old were you when you noticed that?
Bob: I was six/seven years old.
Sharon: See, you were that young; and you’re noticing that. I know that, when Steven was was a teenager, he would love it when [they] would hug and kiss around his friends. That gives a child so much security, and they are looking to see how their parents are reacting toward one another.
Ann: It’s interesting how we all remember that. My dad would come home every day from work; and almost every single day he would grab my mom and passionately kiss her. She’s flushed; she’s like, “Oh, honey, you know the kids are here.” [Laughter] But as a young girl, I’m thinking, “That’s pretty amazing,” and I loved it.
I love that you thought, as a 12-year-old, “I want that in my marriage.”
Bob: I’m hoping that listeners, who would say, “Okay, we’ve let the passion atrophy in our marriage,” because that can happen. You get kids; job’s busy; you know, you travel and all—you can just kind of say, “We’re not going to worry about that”; then, all of a sudden, you wake up and you go, “We’re not one like we’re supposed to be one.”
I’m hoping they’ll do two things. First of all, get a copy of your book, Lovestruck, and read it together as a couple.
Dave: I thought you were going to say, “…and kiss.” [Laughter] That’s what I thought you were going to say.
Ann: That would be good, too.
Sharon: That’s the first one in the book, after all!
Dave: And kiss.
Bob: You know what?
Sharon: “Kiss me, kiss me again!”
Bob: At the end of Chapter 1, if you’re not kissing, you’re in trouble. [Laughter]
And then I hope they’ll come to a Weekend to Remember. You spend a weekend together, thinking about your marriage/talking together about your marriage, listening to what the Bible has to say about how to build a stronger marriage. I’ve just seen it happen so many times—couples come away from that weekend—on Friday night, we see them; and they’re just kind of winding down. It’s been a busy week, and they’re a little separate from one another. By Sunday morning, they are hand in hand, or arm in arm, or sitting closer to one another. You can tell it’s been a great weekend; and then they tell us, “This weekend has had an impact on our marriage.” In some cases, “This weekend has saved our marriage.”
Right now, we’re making a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners. You can sign up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—or if you don’t know which getaway you want to attend, you can get a gift card to attend any getaway—and you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee by signing up this week. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information on when the getaway is coming to a city near where you live or a city you’d like to visit, and then register online; or call us to register at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Again, if you register this week, you save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Plan to join us; plan to build some affection and romance back into your marriage by spending a weekend together. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the getaway, or register by phone by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Don’t forget Sharon’s book, Lovestruck: Discovering God’s Design for Romance, Marriage, and Sexual Intimacy from the Song of Solomon. That book is available, online, as well at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about romance and marriage with Sharon Jaynes. We’re going to talk about the power of attraction/the art of attraction. What does the Bible have to say about being attractive to one another in a marriage relationship? We’ll continue our conversation tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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