Song of Solomon is one of those books of the Bible I used to be reluctant to read.
Before marriage, when I read it, it seemed too intense—this passionate, adoring love between a king (King Solomon) and his lover (the Shulammite woman). I felt totally overwhelmed: I could hardly imagine a love like that. It didn’t seem real.
After marrying Justin, almost 18 years ago, I struggled for years to feel comfortable, to feel free, in being physically intimate. Freedom, when having sex with my husband? That wasn’t the way I felt. I didn’t feel free, I think, because I didn’t see much joy and trust between a husband and a wife, growing up. But, more significantly, I didn’t feel free due to the pain of my past choices in relationships before marriage.
Physical intimacy requires vulnerability.
I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to protect. I wanted to protect myself from the shame of bad choices.
In the Song, I saw two people surrendering themselves to each other, completely lost in passionate adoration of their lover. I read the pages and was filled with surprise, cheeks aflame with embarrassment, heart beating fast. What is this book—these poems about two people letting it all go, letting go of self-consciousness, letting go of barriers, letting go of ghosts of the past, being totally vulnerable, totally present, totally in the moment, totally in the feelings, totally in the love of this one person? If am I honest, the beauty and wild openness between these two on the pages can surprise me still.
Even if you don’t have a closet full of bad sexual experiences/memories/regrets before you got married, you still face this reality: we live in a world where it can be difficult to imagine, and believe in, a love where lovers abandon themselves completely and trust the heart of another. Infidelity, pornography, promiscuity . . . we’re tempted to believe the lie that physical intimacy within the confines of a marriage must be boring, stale, and confined. Outside it can be exciting. Inside, it must be tame. I’ve learned that this just isn’t true—it’s just taken some time, some work, and some pain. Because of that time and work and pain, though, I have a much better understanding of the Song of Solomon now.
I’ve come to realize that these songs can also be viewed as a reflection of God’s love for His people, too with beauty and wild openness. I know that can seem too amazing to believe. But I want to.
To be loved like that, by God, helps me to love like that too. It helps me begin to believe this kind of love is actually possible between a wife and her husband, a husband and his wife. What a great thing to believe. I mean, can you imagine the Church, the Kingdom, fueled by such love, fueled by such marriages?
“Love is invincible facing danger and death. Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. The fire of love stops at nothing—it sweeps everything before it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-8).
So, what if we begin to reject the notion that passionate love in marriage is not a crazy, distant dream? What if we claim passionate physical intimacy in marriage as a testament to the kind of intense, fierce, beautiful love God has for us, His daughters and sons?
Can we say this, then?
By my God I am pursued with intensity like this. By my God I am loved with fierce beauty like this. By my God I am given freedom to believe physical intimacy with my spouse can be a glorious, joyful surrendering where I forget myself and let myself be present for what beauty, in this marriage, He brings.
I know more about this Father’s love for me now. And, finally, after years of pain and not believing physical intimacy was something that brought God joy—a celebration of the love that He created between my husband and me, an act of glory that He made—I believe He smiles now, when I trust Him, and, in this act of loving my husband, surrender.
The lovers in the Song forget themselves in one another. A lover’s love for her/himself is not more than it is for her/his lover. They practice sacrificial love. Is there any other kind of love between a husband and a wife, I wonder?
Below are questions I ask myself, as I read Song of Solomon. I wonder if you want to join in, and ask these questions, in regard to your own attitudes towards intimacy with your spouse?
1. Do I demonstrate passionate love to my spouse, with my words, with my actions?
You have made my heart beat fast, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat fast with a single glance of your eyes, with a single strand of your necklace (4:9).
2. Am I open with my speech in declaring my love to my spouse? Do I trust that the Father will give me words to show my love?
My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand . . . This is my beloved and this is my friend (5:10,16).
3. Am I loving my spouse fully if I think of myself more than I think of him/her?
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me (7:10).
4. Am I loving my spouse if I am conditional in how my love is given—if I love based on his/her words of affirmation or service for me?
Love can’t be bought, love can’t be sold—it’s not to be found in the marketplace (8:6-8 MSG).
5. Am I loving my spouse with a full heart if I withhold my love to him/her—this heart the Father has given me to pour out what He pours in?
And when my lover sees me, he knows he’ll soon be satisfied (8:10 MSG).
A man and woman united in marriage are joined flesh, and something is severed—for even something slightly amiss can be a significant tear—when the self is not forgotten for the sake of loving.
Father, let us love with a heart willing to trust itself—knowing we are in your care, knowing we cling to You, knowing that with You we can be brave. Let us trust You in this marriage. Let us trust You as we try to be vulnerable. Let us heed You as we surrender and You keep us safe.
Is this act of forgetting yourself and trusting the Father regarding intimacy with your husband or wife ever been difficult for you, too? Do you have trouble surrendering and feeling freedom and joy here?
You are not alone—in your hesitancy, in your wounding, in your regretting the past. I know there is so much more to say on this topic . . . So, please, if this resonated with you, would you like to share with the community here what is on your heart?
Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, You Are My Girls, and also with her husband about the redemptive mess of marriage at their blog, Holy Entanglement.