Here are some excerpts from week 5 of ‘The Adventure’ (The Work of Staying in Love). Song of Solomon 5:2-6:13. Listen to the full message audio here.
Our marriages should be marked by a continual growth. That our relationship, and how we interact with one another as husband and wife, should continually be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, and the Word of God.
A Christ-centered marriage doesn’t remove the fact that there are two imperfect people living under the same roof, and trying to build a life together. You will have conflict. You will disagree about things.
A marriage’s goal is not necessarily to avoid the conflicts, but rather work through them all, 100% of them, in a way that says I love you, and I love our marriage more than I love to be right or have it done my way.
Here is a question to ask your spouse today, or to those who are dating or engaged. Is there a subject or topic of conversation that you are hesitant or afraid to bring up because of how I will react? Now the very nature of that question would keep some people from answering it, because again they are afraid of how you will react. So ask this question, and then simply listen. Be open to their words, and before you defend, or deflect, or turn it around on them, simply listen.
When he is turned away, he does not shove his way in. He will not use force to try and woo her heart. He is going to choose love over anger. He is going to choose to reflect Christ instead of his own pride. He is going to have self-control over his emotions, and choose to not react in that moment with harsh words.
Here are some ways we can be selfish when it comes to this conflict of one YES vote and one NO vote in regards to intimacy.
We simply deny the other person’s request. And this isn’t just a wife’s problem. It could be a husband or a wife. But the ‘no’ can be very direct, or can be subtle.
We can also avoid ever initiating sex, and just assume the other person will do that, or it is their ‘job.’ When we put it just on the other person to initiate, we are hurting the marriage and decreasing the potential joy in intimacy. When you don’t initiate, then you’re causing in the other person to wonder “Ok, do they really want to be with me? Or are they simply fulfilling an obligation?” Begrudging demonstrations of love and affection are not hot, attractive, or appealing.
Another way we are prone to be selfish. Say yes, but remain passive aggressive. Don’t engage much, just kind of make your body available, but not your heart, or soul, or who you really are.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. You should not deprive one another except for mutual consent. This is about being selfless, about serving your spouse.
Read Philippians 2:3-4. Sometimes, the way to love your spouse, and to serve them, to consider their interests before your own is to understand the circumstances and not ask to make love and by doing so, you are serving them.
1 Corinthians 7 is not a trump card. Or some truth to beat the other person over the head with. It is not encouraging you to force anything. That is wrong, not tender, or Christlike, and it is not what we see in Solomon’s example. It is also wrong, to somehow neglect or act like these verses do not appear in the Bible or speak to the scenario of one yes, and one no.
So if it is not going to fly tonight, then set a soon to be rain date, agree upon it, put it on the calendar and don’t let any foxes in the vineyard get in the way.
We honor God by demonstrating self-control outside of marriage. And when a husband and wife are regularly intimate with one another it helps protect our hearts from wanting to chase after anything that is not from God. It helps us flee temptation and lust. Because those pursuits are false and empty, and when we are together, we are reminded in a very obvious way, yes, this is fulfilling, this is how God has designed it, and I don’t want to ruin that by a sinful pursuit. This sin left me feeling empty and guilty. This gift given by God, this one left me feeling satisfied and unashamed.
The goal is to reflect Jesus, be selfless, love the other person more than yourself, consider their interests and not just your own, and serve your husband and wife.
Back to the story of conflict…
Her heart was moved by his love for her. His tender love toward her, made her tender toward him. I have offended my wife before with my attitudes, actions, or words. And you know the most powerful of moments? When I’m aware of my sin toward her, and yet she has shown me grace. Yes truth…she is not just skirting the sin, but also showing grace. When a husband and wife do that for one another it is one the biggest intimacy builders.
It is easy to get bitter about being wronged. Because sin is easy. The narrow road, the difficult path is to choose righteousness and to show Jesus to the other.
Solomon wasn’t free and clear on this conflict, was he? He was not blameless. First of all, he doesn’t come to bed with his wife at the same time. And now he drops love on the door latch, she opens it, but now he has left.
And this is what so many men are prone to do. Leave physically in the midst of conflict. To head down to the bar, to go for a drive, to take the keys and go somewhere. Other men may not leave physically, but they leave emotionally. They disengage from working through the conflict.
And now she is going to talk about how her man stands apart and how she loves him, and is going to recount the ways. Sometimes when you come face to face with your own sin, you’re suddenly reminded how good God has been to you through your spouse.
And this conflict is not just the woman’s. It is Solomon’s as well. For conflict to be resolved, everyone has to own their part, and be humble about how they have wronged the other and how they have contributed to this conflict. At the end of the day, isn’t much of our conflict between a husband and wife rooted in our own pride and selfishness.
And now Solomon speaks and is going to reassure her in his love. He is not going to point his finger, or heap upon her burning coals of condemnation. But he is going to pursue humility as well because he again, was not blameless in this scenario.
Solomon is not just forgiving and showing grace because he wants something in return. There is no price tag to this free gift of grace. She doesn’t have to work for it. Because in light of the Gospel, we are given grace as a result of God’s goodness and love. Not because we somehow earned or worked our way into it.
Why does Solomon recount the honeymoon? Because he wants her to know that his love for her is as strong as it was on the honeymoon. There is no record of wrong being kept, no history of sins in their marriage. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Solomon is saying I could go elsewhere, but I will not. You are my dove. You are my perfect one. You are set apart. You are my definition of beauty.
He has come to take her for a weekend away and full reconciliation and restoration has taken place in their lives. The conflict is over, and what you see left in its wake is love, intimacy, and affection, not resentment, bitterness, anger, or hurt.
God will lovingly take you through conflict in your marriage so that your intimacy with one another will grow. And it will only grow, if we are open to it, and pursue humility and selflessness.
Even in the mess, our God is at work. He uses even the darkest of times so that our hearts would be turned toward Him fully. And if we are married, that our hearts would also be turned toward our spouse.
Practically speaking, here are “10 Nevers” from Pastor Matt Chandler that I thought were good as it relates to conflict and how to disagree in a way that shows you love Jesus and love the other person.
1) Never speak rashly to your mate. Careless words hurt and can’t be taken back.
2) Never touch your mate in anger. There is no place for rage in a marriage.
3) Never embarrass your mate publically. You are called to love and respect your spouse at all times.
4) Never argue in front of your kids. And if you do right now, stop and ask their forgiveness today.
5) Never mention the in-laws in a fight. You have left and cleft. You are your own household unit now.
6) Never get historical. Love keeps no records of wrong.
7) Never try to win. This is not about your pride. You want the marriage to win as a result, not your own pride.
8) Never raise your voice or call names that demean or condescend. Yelling and name calling didn’t work on the grade school playground. They don’t work in marriage.
9) Never use sex to win an argument or manipulate. It is not a tool in your belt, it is a gift from God.
10) Never let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:26.
In the Gospel, through Jesus, we are reconciled back to God. To reconcile means that you are no longer separated, but returned to the original state. We are called to reconcile as a husband and wife, in light of the Gospel.
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Are you holding something against your spouse? Is there unresolved conflict? When there is conflict do you handle it in a way that shows you love Jesus and love her or him, more than you love yourself? What needs to change in how you walk through conflict? You are not charged with the responsibility of changing your mate. You are charged by God to obey Him, and allow His Spirit to change your own heart.