I am my beloved’s,
And my beloved is mine.
Song of Solomon 6:3
Right before we were married, we got some great marriage advice from the wonderful pastor who married us. Two bits of advice he gave us stand out on the topic of belonging to one another:
1. Don’t have separate checking accounts or credit cards. You’re a team from here on out. Divided funds equals divided interests and subtracts from your oneness.
2. Hold hands when you argue. It automatically forces you into a different posture; one that is less combative since you are in such close physical proximity and reminds you that you are together in even this conflict.
Now, I know I’ve heard many married couples say that having separate checking accounts has saved their sanity; even been laughed at about the whole holding hands thing. But, for us, those things did indeed help us navigate life together, belong to one another, and maintaining that sense of oneness God designed for marriages to have. And, no we haven’t adhered to that advice perfectly, but it has consistently guided us well.
As we approach life decisions, does “I am my beloved’s and he is mine” cross our minds? Do we remember and consciously commit our hearts and choices to the One to whom we both belong?
Another area of oneness is addressed rather unconsciously: how we speak to our husbands/wives. Our words are often shaped without as much thought as would perhaps be beneficial to us or the recipient. So it’s easy for us to get in a rut with our words to our spouse that just simply don’t serve the purpose of oneness for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes when we’ve had disappointments and hurts in our marriage that have gone unaddressed, or just not fully forgiven, we move forward with them tucked between us. They ever so slightly rear their ugly heads in our tone of voice or in a slight jab here or there. That unforgiven junk (which might be as small as the fact that your man is always late) doesn’t deserve the valuable real estate of your love, marriage, or heart. It ends up stealing away the ground God designed for you to live in oneness together.
Another way our words get turned against us in marriage is just out of a lack of real sensitivity or understanding. I remember watching a newlywed couple. The husband laughed hysterically when his wife fell. I was so humiliated for her. His laughter was worse than her fall. He wasn’t a mean guy. He wasn’t a bad husband. He was just young and had a lot to learn. I’ve seen other married couples struggle when one spouse misses the opportunity to lovingly cover the other with compassion and thoughtfulness. And I’ve been that spouse that joked a little too hard, interrupted too often, or told a story I thought was funny that my husband didn’t quite share the same response. It’s all too easy to pull at the fabric of our oneness with our words.
If we are careful to guard what we say and do with the goal of remembering the Lord we belong to and the sweetheart we belong to, the love in our marriages will be blessed and nourished.
“I took great delight...” Song of Solomon 2:3
The Song of Solomon captures the sacred love of two people whose love “many waters could not quench”--a description of a love we all want. So as we peek into the pages of their “love notes” one of the very simple and obvious aspects of their love was that they told each other! If we want the love in our marriages to flourish, we have to water it with our words.
Eric and I tell each other we love each other everyday. But every now and then I wish I could tell him just how much I adore him, admire him, am thankful for him... but the words feel so corny in my mind that too often they don’t make it out of my mouth. Worse yet, some days (weeks...months) are so busy with responsibility that my love for him gets less words than all our to-do items.
So, does your honeyman think you utterly adore him? Does your wife know she still makes your heart skip a beat? Does your husband know the character qualities and physical traits of his that you "take great delight in"? Yes, it's an almost too-simple of a concept, but the reality is that many marriages suffer for lack of verbal affirmation and support. If your beloved left for their day this morning and missed hearing an affectionate, admiring word from you, I hope tonight, they'll get an extra dose! Pray about how you might add more words into your life to make sure your spouse is bathed in your affection.
One idea if you miss those face-to-face moments to share your heart is to write it. We have a picture frame with scrapbook paper behind it and we use a white board marker to write love notes to one another on the glass. It’s fun! We’ll send text messages while we’re out and about. My husband always walks me to the door if he’s home when I run errands and sends me off with a kiss and “I love you.” Both of us have lost people without getting to say “I love you” one last time. So we feel the depth of that reality.
You might be a spouse in a struggling relationship and you’re thinking “I don’t adore him/her!” If so, I’m sorry for the heartache and am praying for your marriage right now! If you are in that place, I encourage you to start a journal and write one thing everyday that you are thankful for about your spouse. And write a prayer of blessing over them too. It might feel too difficult to do this at first, but I’ve seen this simple assignment bless marriages and rekindle fires the couple thought were too far gone.
Sometimes we have relationships where the horizontal (person to person) dynamic of joy and safety that we wish for is missing. But we can have fruitful, positive, vertical (us to God) relationship. Our words of thanks and blessing might not find a welcome home with the individual, but they will with God. If you are struggling in your marriage I pray renewal for the two of you, and for your relationship with God to be strengthened during this season.
Whether you’re struggling to feel the words of admiration for your spouse or just struggle to find the ways to communicate them, your unique place as the other half of your spouse makes you especially influential. You can be a conduit of encouragement like no one else in your spouse’s life.
When the Lord created Eve to be a “helpmate” for Adam, the Hebrew word there is rather unusual. It’s used in a couple contexts, but one context is the way the Holy Spirit comes along side an individual to empower them. As spouses we have a privileged and special role to love on and encourage our husbands/wives. And lavishing that love on them with our words is one important ingredient to having a love that the waters of this world can’t wash away!
When we pray, “May your Kingdom come soon,” we submit ourselves to God’s kingship over us. We let go of our assumptions about how we think our lives should go. We rely less on reacting to a negative past to fuel us and instead focus forward, compelled by the glorious future awaiting us. It’s a positive, God-fueled way to live. - Mary DeMuth from The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals
When we pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done” in the context of our relationships our faith offered prayer must be met with a willingness of heart to genuinely seek the Lord’s kingdom. It means our motives, perspectives and responses in our relationships will become Christ’s. And while that result is something most of us would say we want in our lives, the process requires much refinement and soul searching.
Mary offers the following categories of misplaced kingdom that we easily fall into:
- The Woe-is-Me kingdom: where we replay our wounds and don’t move forward
- The I-am-Awful kingdom: where we might give grace to others, but hurl our nastiest criticisms at the mirror
- The Narcissistic kingdom: where we excuse ourselves from personal responsibility, while believe everyone else is responsible for making us the center of their world.
- The Vengeance kingdom: where we are in charge of setting the record straight
- The Survivor kingdom: where we just go numb from all our emotional traumas and wall our hearts in from anyone and anything.
(On a totally side, personal note, I am sitting in the crazy animal kingdom right now with kittens swirling my legs, climbing the tablecloth, my pant legs, literally bouncing off the wall, and the dog trying to figure out what to do with them. Now I’m wondering where those words I had planned in my head to write got lost in all the excitement...)
We can so easily get lost in all these less-than kingdoms. Our pain can blind us to the kingdom of our calling and we can lose our way. Jesus beckons us into His kingdom. Mary writes:
God’s kingdom helps us live in the result of others’ abuse. If we enamor ourselves with His purposes and His kingdom, we’ll find ourselves better able to cope with pain...That shift from our kingdom to God’s challenges us to live in the light of now, saving us from reacting to the past. We don’t have to be yoked to the pain that others have caused us. We can be set free, through Jesus’ wild love, toward a better, higher goal
When we come to the place where we are ready to hand over the keys to our less-than-kingdoms in exchange for the Lord’s kingdom, we receive a new goal set that requires moment-by-moment course changes. Our wills and desires must be surrendered to His for us to fully see the fruit of our prayer. If we only pray for His will to be done, but don’t offer our lives as vehicles for His will to be carried out, we’ll miss seeing His power and effectiveness infused in us.
Jesus faced rejection, others’ doubts in His capabilities, their posturing and manipulation, their accusations, their arrogance, their betrayal, and their abandonment. In each instance, Jesus responded differently. No formulas. No legalistic manual we can consult. He relied on His Father’s instruction, His will, to know how best to respond to each individual person and situation.
As we seek more and more to live the lives Christ came to give us, we will learn the art of quieting our natural responses to hear the Lord’s beckoning instruction to lead us closer and closer to His mode of living.
I pray the Lord’s grace to cover over every moment of your day and for Him to call each of us deeper into His kingdom, His will and further from our own!
Order your copy of Mary DeMuth’s The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals You When Others Hurt You.
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“Do not stare at me...” Song of Solomon 1:6
Solomon and his sweetheart were head-over-heels in love. However, despite their deep affection and attraction for each other, she still felt uncomfortable in his gaze. Lots of women feel self-conscious in this department. And quite honestly, as age catches up with the best of us, confidence-chasms can swallow up guys and gals alike.
Our physiques change. Our expected responses to one another change. And the whole process can be a little less than comfortable, or confidence inspiring. Yet intimacy isn’t just a physical act. It’s a weaving of the hearts; the physical is merely the doorway.
Yes, men and women approach intimacy differently and might place different importance on one aspect or another of the whole process. But good intimacy won’t begin and end with just a physical experience. It just starts with it. The Lord designed physical intimacy to be a melding of much more than just bodies. So if you are feeling less than runway model material, you can still be confident in the love you share with your husband. You can be confident in the joy that awaits you both in intimacy. You can be confident that the Lord has designed sex for your pleasure and the good of your marriage.
When the Lord wired our brains, the process of engaging in sexual intimacy was meant to engage certain brain chemistry in us that induces strong emotion-forming bonds. That’s one reason why the Lord designed sex to be set apart for the life-long commitment of marriage only--so our hearts would be protected from damage brought on by forming bonds that are later broken. But this little scientific fact also supports a truth we can see in Scripture: sex is more than just a physical thing. It’s meant to make two into one.
So if you are struggling with how you feel about your physical appearance, know that the Lord didn’t intend for your marital intimacy to hinge on appearances only. It is true that He wants you to take good care of your body. But don’t heap a ton of guilt on yourself over the whole thing. Remember sex was designed for more than just our flimsy frames. Focus on the spiritual truth that it engages the mind, heart and soul more than just the physical aspect of it.
If you are a woman who has suffered from sexual abuse, you might find confidence in your body’s appearance something utterly foreign to you. If you’re a woman who is struggling with some weight you’ve gained, you might be easily derailed from giving yourself joyfully and freely to your spouse because you don’t feel as pretty or as fit as you wish. If you have a health issue or are experiencing hormone changes, you might feel anxiety over your body’s cooperation. All these things threaten to rob us from being transparent with our husbands and free with them in this department. Ultimately, these wrong emphases will rob us from the emotional intimacy God designed us to have if we let them get in the way of our physical intimacy.
If you struggle with physical intimacy because of a “confidence” issue, pray over the following thoughts:
- If you can have a discussion about your worries, try talking to your husband about them. Every time I’ve ever let my husband in on the doubt-filled internal dialogue that goes on in my head, he has sweetly wiped away those anxieties. They aren’t part of the picture for him, so they shouldn’t dominate the picture for me.
- Make sure your identity is rooted in how God sees you, not just the mirror or any of the other host of “definers” we allow into our lives. Click here for a set of little reminders about how God sees you.
- Pray before you make love to your husband. Ask the Lord to show you how He designed intimacy to be. Invite His truth into your heart and into your love making.
- Pray for the Lord to use your intimacy to fulfill His purposes. Proverbs 5 lays out some pretty racy language about husbands being satisfied with their wife’s body. Since praying Scripture draws our requests closer to God’s intention for us, I’m a firm believer in praying Scripture over every part of my life, including intimacy. So pray those verses over your interludes.
In all these things, know that our confidence rests in the Lord alone. Our husbands will let us down. We will let them down. And in regard to sexuality, as a culture we are very broken. So in our marriages, there is bound to be impasses of difficulty. We are human and frail. Any time we place our confidence in a person or thing other than Christ, we will be disappointed. We don’t need confidence in our most recent diet-flattened-bellies, gym-toned backends, or our husband’s responses to us. We need confidence in God alone. And confidence in Him will lead us to trust His design and pursue it with faith. He intended for sex to be a beautiful thing in our marriage. As we pursue His design, we will bump into our human nature from time-to-time. However, if we stay His course and trust His good intentions for us, our marriages will grow more and more into a union that reflects His love for us.