relationships, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Lifelong Love

What are you doing to ensure that your marriage not only survives but thrives? Do you have a strategy in place for your next twenty-five years together? The final two chapters of Song of Songs are rich with practices for growing a lifelong marriage.

One of the practices, we will discover, is to bring play time into your relationship. Here’s an example from Song of Songs 7:11-13 (NIV). Here Shulamith is presenting an invitation to Solomon: 

Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
and if the pomegranates are in bloom—
there I will give you my love.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old,
that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

Shulamith is saying, “Let’s get out of the palace. Let’s get away…maybe visit the countryside together.” Clearly, what she has in mind is more than a sight-seeing tour. She wants to smell the fresh spring air – maybe even explore the vineyards. But she also has something else on her mind. She wants to grow intimacy in their relationship.

An interesting side note here. Notice that she says, “the mandrakes send out their fragrance.” In Hebrew, the word for mandrake means love-apple. Mandrakes were considered an aphrodisiac, a love drug. Unquestionably, she’s offering Solomon something more than long walks and sightseeing. Needless to say, before she finishes speaking, Solomon has already packed his bags and is booking flights on Expedia.

To grow lifelong love, you need to intentionally infuse play time into your relationship. This quality time is so much more than sitting on the couch together, watching Neflix, and brushing hands as you reach into that bag of Doritos at the same time. It means setting aside space and time, free from distraction: no kids, no work, and no social-media intravenous drip. Play time is not only important for your relationship, it’s necessary.

So are you planning play time together? Are you getting away on excursions? What about dates – when is the last time you had one of those?

You might think, “I see my spouse all the time…why do I need to date her?” Because setting is everything. If you take a dinner plate from the cupboard and set it on the counter-top, it’s just a plate. But if you take the same plate and you set it on a luxurious tablecloth, surrounded by cutlery, linen, candles, and a wine glass, it changes everything about that plate. It’s the same thing with your marriage. Setting is everything. A different setting changes the focus, the dynamic, and the conversation. Trust me…it will activate different parts of your brain. New parts of your brain will come alive – old parts of your brain will wake-up. Neural synapses will ignite. All because you decided to change your routine.

Dates don’t have to be expensive. Last summer, my wife Karen and I started biking together. We would throw our bikes into the back of my truck and take off on new adventures throughout the city. One day, we went for a long ride in the river valley. On the return trip to the truck, we passed a fruit stand. Normally, we don’t stop at fruit stands because we’re always racing from appointment to appointment. But on this day, we had bikes! I left my wallet in the car, but I did have some pocket-change. After a bit of haggling, we sauntered away with a bag of peaches and spent the next hour in the shade of the trees, laughing, dreaming, and spitting pits. That was a three-dollar date, but it was the best…date…ever.

The bottom line is, if you are going to embrace play, you have to work at it.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

 

relationships, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Messy Love

In every marriage, conflict is inevitable.

Even Solomon and Shulamith, those twitterpated lovebirds, had their differences. You read about this in Song of Songs 5:2-8. Solomon arrives home sometime past midnight. He comes knocking on the door of Shulamith’s room, hoping for a little bit of “something-something.” But she’s in bed. The makeup is off, cucumber mask is on, and flannel pyjamas have been applied. She’s a bit miffed that he’s shown up a few hours later than he should. So she shuts him down. Conflict anyone?

It’s understandable why couples conflict. In a marriage, you have two very different people coming together, with unique personalities, likes, interests, and families (you never just marry a person…you marry their family). And to add misery to the madness, each is hard-wired to be naturally selfish. It’s a problem that goes back to the Garden of Eden.

So if you’re in the early stages of a relationship, don’t be surprised when you experience conflict. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your relationship. If you haven’t had it yet, it’s probably because you still have a superficial knowledge of each other, or you’re blinded by infatuation. Trust me, a day will come when your relationship will come crashing head-first into reality. You might not consider divorce, but homicide might seem like a good option (I kid…I kid).

So if you are facing conflict in your relationship right now, don’t freak out. A good marriage is not something you find but something you work for. You’re going to fight with someone for the rest of your life – it might as well be your beloved.

At the end of the day, the issue is not if you have conflict, it’s what you do with conflict.

Here are two warning signs that you may not be resolving conflict. The first is the absence of conflict, and the second, the permanence of conflict. On the one hand, if you are in a relationship that has an absence of conflict, it could be that you are in the early stages of blind-love bliss, but it could also be that somebody in the relationship is being overly compliant, or walked on. This means you are avoiding conflict, not dealing with it. On the other hand, the permanence of conflict can also be a problem. In this case, the same problem keeps resurfacing. Rather that dealing with it, it gets swept under the rug, and never resolved. When you sweep too much conflict under the rug, it results in a bumpy marriage.

Paul writes in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” God wants us to resolve conflict. You have your part to play in this. You can’t determine what your spouse will do in a conflict, but you can determine what you will do in a conflict. You are responsible for your role in bringing about resolution.

Marriages often fall apart, not because of really stupid decisions or irreconcilable differences. They fall apart because couples don’t know how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. The conflicts persist and the relationship experiences incremental degradation: one bad argument at a time, one hurtful word at a time. The relationship erodes, like a shoreline washed away by the sea.

Expect conflict. But more importantly, resolve conflict.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.