When the Real Meets the Ideal
Last Sunday Brad did an outstanding job addressing the line in Songs 2:7: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Brad mentioned that the phrase is repeated three times, something that suggests its significance. The next reference to that phrase is in Songs 3:5 with the final reference being found in the final chapter, Songs 8:4.
The reference in chapter 3 is interesting. The context for that verse is as follows:
In this section of the Song, the woman shares what it was like to desire her, now, husband during that season of singleness. This is an interesting section. It appears to be a dream although some take the passage literally.
There are problems with the literal view. If it is literal, verse 4 has the now married woman still living with her mother; and taking her husband into her mother’s bed for a night of passion. Living with the family of the bride and using the parental bed for intimacy are out of line with cultural norms. Second, if single, verse 5, which is a charge to single girls to retain their virginity, would make no sense. So in my view this passage is not literal but, probably, a dream. She’s dreaming. In fact, she's having a nightmare.
What’s interesting about this section is that it stands alone in Scripture as one of the few recorded dreams that is not prophetic. That’s not to say that it’s just a dream because it is clearly apologetic. The dream is told for two reasons.
First, to acknowledge the power of the desire for intimacy. The desire for sexual intimacy is like a raging, unstoppable fire (see Songs 8:6-7). In her book, Wedding Night: A Christian Guide to Intimacy for Newlyweds, Rebekkah Jordan writes, “It is important to understand that in the months, and especially weeks before your wedding day, your sexual desires will inevitably become heightened. Resisting this temptation can be incredibly difficult, but you should remain strong in your faith, and maintain your decision to save intimacy for your sanctioned union, through the wedding ceremony.”
Rebekkah Jordan’s words reflect the apologetic intentions of the author in Songs 3 and preface the second reason for sharing the dream in the poem.
Second, the dream urges single women to resist intimacy until it’s the right time with the right person.
So the text is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare because the desire for intimacy is strong. The text begins by saying, “All night long.” That’s not the best translation because it is literally ‘in the nights’ or ‘night after night’ or even ‘by night.’ The point is that this is a reoccurring event that happens by night, night after night as the wedding day draws near.
The dream represents the mental anguish a woman goes through as she prepares to become a wife. She longs for the intimacy and security it will bring her. Yet, as much as she wants it, she commits to wait for it. She won’t awaken intimacy before it is time and charges the young women listening to her to make the same commitment.
On Sunday, we take the penultimate step in our journey through God’s manual on the topic of human love. So far in the series the couple have married, enjoyed the celebration, and made their way to the bridal chamber. Now comes the crowning moment. Here comes what Tim and Beverly LaHaye called, “The Act of Marriage.”
Songs 5:2-8 is when the couple consummate their relationship. The passage is the most explicit passage in the entire poem but fortunately for us parents it is couched in euphemisms! On Sunday I am going to unpack this passage’s rather shocking end. Clearly, the moment didn’t go as the woman had hoped. The end of their act of marriage leads us to the realization that the real nightmare of the book is not the intense passion of a single woman yearning for sexual and emotional intimacy with her soon to-be-life-mate. No. The real nightmare is that of a married woman who (night after night) lays in her bed yearning to be connected with a life-mate who’s not really present. Of course, the opposite can be true but this was written for girls, remember!
There are some profound implications in this text for how we express and continue to experience eros without shame. I can’t help but wonder how many people grace the seats of our congregation living the reality this young woman expresses. Like the dream of chapter 3, this experience is told as an apologetic. It’s been shared for us to learn from. It was C.J. Mahaney, in his book, “Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God” who said, “What we love, we want to learn about. And what we love to study, we come to love even more.” There is much to learn from this poem and we learn in order to love our spouses even more!
Parents will need to know that, due to the nature of this section of the poem, I will briefly use biological terms that are implied in the language of the text. I’ll do this to extract the meaning. Now, this shouldn’t be off-putting to parents because these are biological terms that our children study in human biology classes. The parental guidance notice is in effect this week but more for the application and the implications than the terms. There will be nothing in the application that will embarrass but I will point out that joy and beauty of sexual intimacy is clearly more than a physical thing.
Looking forward to the weekend.