Tag Archives: song of solomon

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: The Labor

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction.

8A Song of Songs 8.1-5                           The Labor

1. O that you were like a brother to me, who nursed at my mother’s breast! If I met you outside, I would kiss you, and no one would despise me.  2. I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother and into the chamber of the one who bore me.  I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranates. 3. O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me! 4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!  5.  Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Under the apple tree I awakened you. There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor.

Advent reminds us that the crowning event for any soul bond is to bring a child into life.  This doesn’t always mean giving birth. 

I have a friend, a great theologian, who thinks that the pain of childbirth refers not to labor but to the pain, which is the drama of the child’s unfolding life.

Sage Wendell Berry puts it well:

“For parents, the only way is hard.  We who give life give pain.  There is no help.  Yet we who give pain give love; by pain we learn the extremity of love.”

Soul bonds that give life can look like anything from bearing a child, adoption, foster care, mentoring.  I wonder what Joseph felt on that winter’s night when Mary brought a child into life yet it was not his?  If ever the importance of adoption was highlighted in Advent.

And there was the virgin pressing out her child among the mud and hay.  What must have run through her complexity of emotions and will that night? Through her growing bond of love with a faithful man, she was brining into life the Great Lover of Humankind who would suffer greatly.  Here was a God who made himself helpless and tender. He placed Himself in the loving arms of humanity.  Will we care for Him in love and give our selves in return? Will we let a silent night transform the fragmented chaos of our bustling life project?  Will we find our way like the Kings, Shepherds, and Angels, and a faithful couple to the unmarked place where the drama of the gods seeks to fulfill our greatest desires?  For it is in that place where our glory and calling can help a million lives find theirs.

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Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: Hot Christian Sex

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

7A  Song of Songs: 7.1-9                     Hot Christian Sex

1.  How graceful are your feet in sandals, O queenly maiden!  your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.  2. Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is like a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.  3.  Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.  4.  Your neck is like an ivory tower.  Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, overlooking Damascus.  5.  Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses.  6. How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden!  7.  You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.  8.   I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches.  O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, 9. and your kisses like best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth.

 

If there were ever a passage to promote Hot Christian Sex, this would be it.  Yet, these Advent reflections remind us that climbing palm trees and enjoying clusters of grapes happens most authentically in the context of Soul Mating. Anything else remains a cheap exploitation. The final reflection in a few days will seal that idea on our hearts.

In our world today, hot sex fuels the economy of objectification.  Adult toys epitomize it.  We are trained from an early age that whether it is plastic or flesh, it has been made to gratify our bodies.  Yet, the human person is so much more.  Hot Christian Sex always realizes that love happens between persons who are deep and complex like an orchard.

Don’t get me wrong.  Our sex life was meant to be like the best wine, but there is a challenging road one needs to travel to get there.  It leads through the transformation of wounded eros.

I sometimes wonder what the holy family must have felt after years in exile.  Finally, in the homeland of their youth, they settle in Nazareth.  After years of hardship and wilderness, they reach a settled life.

Transformed eros always comes after long years.  We all have been marred with images, expectations, and some of us traumatic childhood experiences.  We have been told that our bodies are bad and our sexuality as dark as sin.  Yet, the journey home to the love of our sexuality means years of wilderness.  Can we embrace a life project, which seeks to transform our wounded hearts, or will we run from bed to bed trying to find simple Hot Sex?

Transformed eros means drinking deep in our sexuality while embracing and giving to the intricate souls and bodies of our lovers.  It never means wishing they were somebody else.  And it looks less like the explosion of a supernova and more like enjoying the subtleties of a field of wheat.

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: On Public Praise and Blessing

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

6A Song of Songs 6.1-10                         On Praise and Blessing

1. Where has your beloved gone, O fairest among women?  Which way has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you? 2. My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies.  3. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.  4.  You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.  5. Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me!  Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.  6. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, that have come up from the washing; all of them bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved.  7.  Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 8. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and maidens without number. 9. My dove, my perfect one, the darling of her mother, flawless to her that bore her.  The maidens saw her and called her happy; the queens and concubines also, and the praised her.  10. “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” Advent reminds us that there is power in public praise and blessing.  And there is no better method for enriching the soul bond.

I once heard an aging woman tease her husband in half jest.  He had just remarked: “Love is blind.”  She responded in relief: “I know, I would have been sunk years back if it were not.”  Her self-image was far from, “bursting forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun.”   On another instance, I listened to a young married couple on the fifth day after bearing their first child.  They were awkward in ways.  Yet, as the young mother fumbled her way through caring for the child, the young father leaned over and said in front of friend and family, “You are doing great, honey.”

Somewhere in between these interactions I think we can learn a great deal.  Young love expresses heroic praise. Old love knows that glory fades.  How can we live somewhere in between?  How can young passion be tempered with the wisdom of love, which endures beyond the loss of glory?  And how can old love continue to praise the beloved?

Simeon, that Advent giver of blessing teaches us this way.  He like Anna had a beautiful spirit, filled with wisdom and yet with room for praise. In a crowded courtyard, he spotted this young family and showered blessings upon them.  It seems like a simple thing.  Yet to see glory and call it forth, even when it looks like awkward or aging degeneration, taps into the heart of love and into that which Mary had reflected, “You have lifted up the humble.”  And praise in public settings even when praise may not be deserved especially lifts lovers in confidence: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: The Skill

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

5B       Song of Songs 5.9-16                   His Glory as the Son

9. What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women?  What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?  10. My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.  11. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven.  12. His eyes are like doves beside springs of water, bathed in milk, fitly set.  13.  His cheeks are like beds of spices, yielding fragrance. His lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh.  14. His arms are rounded gold, set with jewels.  His body is ivory work, encrusted with sapphires. 15.  His legs are alabaster columns, set upon bases of gold.  His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars.  16.  His speech is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable.  This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

As years pass, a haunting voice enters into the midst of our bonds, “your love is dull.  Is there not another who might better fulfill your desires?” I suppose this is what might have been said about the baby Jesus come to his day of dedication, “what child is this more than another?”  We try our best to defend our bonds and faith from the voice, yet it creeps in a million ways.  Advent reminds us that to fulfill our greatest desires for love, we must learn the skill of appreciation and beholding beauty veiled among the mundane.

There was once a woman, who beheld the glory of hidden baby. She had waited her whole life to meet Him, her divine soul mate. 84 years, in fact.  She found none on earth.

So she endured her whole life in anticipation.  Though she was not married, she exhibited the Skill.  Day after long day, she looked longingly to heaven for love.  It must have not been easy.  Her fulfillment must have come after long years of struggle and a haunting voice, “your love is dull.  You sit in a temple all day.  You have done it for 84 years.  Is there not another who might make your life more worth living?” When we get convinced that our life is ordinary, we loose the spiritual muscles that help us to really see our beloved.

Yet she waited until the day when her lips could testify to redemption.  It was a redemption that would stretch far beyond the nation.  It would reach into each human heart and each lover’s relationship and pave a way that two should reach that most sublime of states: simultaneously beloved and friend.

And, Anna’s story teaches us married men two most essential lessons: 1. We must not struggle against the voice that tempts our mate’s imagination.  We are after all dull in many ways.  Yet beneath jars of clay rests glory. We are all a man distinguished among tens of thousands.   2.  But we are not the ones that must reveal our glory.  That is another’s job.  For married men, we must not spend life proving ourselves to the world; we must give that job in trust to our women.  If the glory is there (and there it is), she will unveil it in due time for all who would have eyes to see.

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: Wounded Eros

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction.

5A  Song of Songs 5.1-8                          Wounded Eros

1. I come to my garden, my sister, my bride; I gather my myrrh with my spice, I eat my honey comb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk.  Eat friends, drink, and be drunk with love. 2. I slept, but my heart was awake, Listen! my beloved is knocking.  “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.”  3. I had put off my garment; how could I put it on again? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?  4. My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.   5. I arose to open my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt.   6. I opened to my beloved but my beloved had turned and was gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but did not find him; I called him, but he gave no answer.  7. Making their rounds in the city the sentinels found me; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those sentinels of the walls.  8.  I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him this: I am faint with love.

Problems with eros are never problems with eros alone.  The young lovers here still struggle with openness.  And even they, the most sublime of lovers encounter moments where one storms out from the marriage bed. In times like these, we encounter wounded eros.

Frustration and expectations can get the best of us in the most vulnerable places.  And just in the moment when our hearts are ready to open, the hearts of our lovers close.  It is the force of broken love.  And we let our teenagers flirt with these forces.  They awaken to them too early for their little souls to handle.  Their eyes are filled with images of mature love making (sometimes immature).  Their hearts are filled with the fullness of love.  And their eros gets wounded.  Eros is fragile, especially in our young.

There are not many Joseph’s out there who would wait until Mary gave birth to be together.  There are not many adult Joseph’s out there either who would tend their love live with patience and honor as their woman learns to open her garden.

Advent and the most erotic section of the Song reminds us that we are normal when our intimate moments sometimes fall apart.  We encounter our wounded eros there deeply in need of transformation.

Rather than learning new bedroom techniques or worse finding another who would satisfy our deepest sexual longings, we must give our wounded hearts to God for transformation.  For a search for love outside the marriage walls always leaves bruises and worse fatal wounds.  Yet, it is the will of God that we transform, and God uses even our worst moments in the marriage bed to reveal our deepest areas of longing.  In those moments, we must not let ours our others sins distress us.  We must engage our hope and anticipation that the Lord who first brought the two together will finish the good work.

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: The Garden Gate

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

4B: Song of Songs 4.8-16                       The Garden Gate

8. Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon.  Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.  9.  You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  10. How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride! how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!  11. Your lips distill nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. 12. A garden locked is my sister my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.  13. Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, clamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices- a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.  16.  Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted abroad.  Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.

Advent reminds us that for the sake of true love, our hearts must find their way through obstacles to openness.

When Zechariah encountered the angel and its message, he responded with a question: “how can I be sure of this?”  Mary responded with a question and a declaration, “how will this be” and “May it be to me according to your word.”

When it comes to love and love of God, the difference between these two responses stretches like a wide gulf.  The difference is openness.

The bed of many lovers swings between these responses.  In closed suspicion, one lover questions their beloved with reluctance: how can I be sure of this?  The man in our Song describes his lover as a locked garden.  As the pressure mounts in our day for girls to pry open their garden gates, garden locks surely remain a blessing.  But when the marriage day comes, young women must learn to open and young men must prove themselves worthy.  In an age of divorce it is not enough to say, “You married me, or I married you.”  We men must show proof first that we are good gardeners.  Otherwise we will find ourselves as beggars at the locked gate of our mating destiny.

While a man searches to prove his ability that he can enjoy the subtle growth of foliage and the mystery of the flower’s scent, the woman gently allows the Spirit to awaken her and grants that her beloved come to his garden and eat the choicest of fruits: “may it be to me, young man, according to your word.”

The joy of our divine Soul Mate rests in His character.  He is good and faithful.  And when His lover responds with openness, the divine embrace becomes like never ending source of joy and strength in a broken down world.  There in the garden of our souls, we can let the choices of fruits be picked, for unless we give them away we will forget they exist and our glory turns into isolated compost.  We owe it to ourselves to let worthy lovers and the Worthy Beloved eat our best produce in a covenant of love.

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: Criticism and Appreciation

“In the coming weeks, I will post seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

4A: Song of Songs 4.1-7                          Criticism and Appreciation

1. How beautiful you are, my love, how very beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil.  Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.  2. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved.  3. Your lips are like a crimson thread, and your mouth is lovely.  your cheeks are like halves of pomegranate behind your veil. 4. Your neck is like the tower of David, built in courses; on it hang a thousand bucklers, all of them shields of warriors.  5.  Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.  6. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.  7. You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

For some, infatuation burns like mist in the dating years.  For others, it happens after marriage or when a baby comes.  But how can we, in our relationships transform infatuation into realistic appreciation like the magi who gifted the babe mountains of myrrh and hills of frankincense? 

Any truthful spouse or partner would never utter these words: “there is no flaw in you.”  Yet, some have found a way to appreciate their spouse so that the interpretive lens through which they experience their spouse is positive.

We all are sick humans in one way or another.  We need one another not to remind us of our flaws but to call forth the best of what is in us.  We each have a unique life calling placed within our spirits, which unfolds like a growing flower.  How sweet it is when our spouse does that for us.

Rather than criticizing how much one spouse spends cleaning, the other must see how a clean environment helps the other thrive.  Rather than criticizing how little one spouse cleans, the other must see how the other thrives as they enjoy life despite a messy situation.  And both have the responsibility to clean and to lay off one another. When two evoke the best in the other while serving them as well, then appreciation takes command.  Then we get in the place where appreciation leads to passion, where we begin to see just how lovely are eyes, hair, lips, cheeks, necks, breasts.  Then we learn the difficult task of loosing ourselves in one another until the shadows flee and we see in the dawn before us hills of frankincense.