Wander Away to Her

A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her. Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life, and ten minutes’ casual chat with her is more precious than all the favors that all the other women in the world could grant. He is, as they say, “in love.” (Meditations in a Toolshed, C.S. Lewis)

Can you recall the enchantment? The intoxication of young love? Its gravity, its force, its demands? Perhaps we squint to remember what we thought we could never forget — the bottomless conversations, the nervous smiles, the rewatching in the mind moments just past. We may smile to ourselves, that was a lifetime ago. “Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life” — doesn’t that capture it?

But that was then. The spell wears off. The kids come. You’ve spent days and weeks and years together. You’ve seen her without the composure and the makeup; she’s seen you without the confidence and the strength. You’ve searched out this island called marriage; there is less to explore now. In love still, just a different kind. More realistic, we tell ourselves. The description above undergoes a revision.

A young man marries that girl. The world returns to normal a few years after. He seems to have remembered that thing that pestered him, and ten minutes’ casual chat with her seems next to impossible with young children. He is, as they say, “settled down.”

Much has been gained; something has been lost. You wish, at times, you could return to that first meeting, that first date, that first time telling her, “I love you.” The romance is still honeyed — when you make time for it. She is still beautiful, when you remember to really look at her.

She sleeps next to you now but seems, on some days, farther than ever. She is yours, but come to think of it, you miss her. You’ve grown: better friends, perhaps, better partners in the family enterprise, but are you better lovers? Has the poetry, requiring so much time and attention, turned into abbreviated text messages and generic emojis?

What a different vision for godly marriages the father of Proverbs hands to his sons:

Let your fountain be blessed,
     and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
     be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18–19)

Husbands, “be intoxicated always in her love.” What a command. Literally, “be led astray” continually in her love. Be swept up. Lose track of time. Forget about your phone. Wander. Inebriate yourself with the dark-red of marital love.

Your wife, as the father crowns her, is a lovely deer and graceful doe. Do we need reminding? As familiarity threatens to blind us, as fights and frets and changing figures would cool us, the king bids his son memorize the lover’s irrepressible song, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart” (Song of Solomon 4:9 KJV). She, not the adulterous woman, must be his addiction.

Led Astray to Her

We need this command, don’t we? We are so prone to be led astray by lesser things; we whose passions can somehow weaken with possession; we who dull with acquaintance and brighten at novelty. We need a father to tell us on our wedding day (and then again at our ten-year anniversary), My son, be led astray continually to her — away from the tyranny of good pursuits or worldly ambitions — be intoxicated always in marital love.

Has your pool of passions stilled? Many of us remember being implored before marriage, “[do] not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7). Natural sprinters we proved to be. Desires galloped prior to marriage — when Satan tempted and we ached while apart — but now that time pleases and heaven smiles down, how our love slouches and our once unsleeping passions can hardly keep awake past nine.

In a blur of married and modern life, are we still awake to our beloved? Do we only see the mother of our children? Will we never pause to really see her who is beside us on this grand adventure?

The wise father knows that our hearts, unwatched, grow blind to beauty. We think life unextraordinary — as we live on a planet spinning constantly, flung into a corner of the cosmos, revolving violently around a massive flaming ball — yet we yawn and call it Tuesday. But what is more wondrous still, we live with an immortal soul — in Christ, a coheir of the universe, a redeemed one, indwelt by the God who made everything. A Christian wife. The Alphabet of good husbanding begins with seeing her through faith’s eyes. That is why I suggest, we need to cultivate the habit of seeing her as the Scriptures teach us to see her.

Look at Her

The husband of the Song of Songs, drunk on anticipation and admiration, observes her as an artist bent over a portrait or as Adam waking to behold Eve,

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
     O noble daughter!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
     the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl
     that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat,
     encircled with lilies.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
     twins of a gazelle.
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,
     which looks toward Damascus.
Your head crowns you like Carmel,
     and your flowing locks are like purple;
     a king is held captive in the tresses. (Song of Solomon 7:1–5)

Now here, distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive. Charge not forth, good men, to describe your wife in this exact manner. But do learn from the husband’s focus, his alertness, his ever-attentive eye that surveys his bride in quiet wonder. Husband, what does your wife’s neck look like? Her smile in the morning? Her gentle spirit? Her strong convictions? Speak of them, perhaps sparingly, but notice them constantly. And when you do, thank God, the Artist, for what he is painting.

Keep Looking at Her

Does this sustained, admiring stare depend on the beloved’s appearance? Kept curves, bright teeth, ungrayed hair? Notice that the father teaches that the eye of the beloved does not recoil when it observes new wrinkles on skin, new wear and tear from everyday life. Look again at his charge,

Let your fountain be blessed,
     and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
     be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18–19)

“Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” How old is she now? Youth is somewhere in the rearview; the wedding day a distant memory. Decades have passed, perhaps. “Always” is your delight and duty. There she is. You gaze over your morning coffee at her — what do you see? The wife of your youth, the wife of your reminiscences, the wife of your now and former days.

The world, so crude and boastful, would tell you that she, with chronic knee pain and doctors’ visits, is past her prime, perhaps even disposable. With its diseased and rasping voice, it points to the youthful employee, the pornographic magazine at the checkout counter, the woman running past in painted-on attire — behold, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. She will thrill you with the chase, satisfy you with fresher springs.

No, no, no, foolhardy flesh. I have my lovely deer, my graceful doe. She, no longer a youth, is better: the wife of my youth. We keep a most blessed fountain. Her breasts have not stopped filling me at all times with delight. No, no, no, O dark and devilish temptation, you have no mastery here. My God, by his grace, has given me himself and more; he has gifted me her. And though our stay in this body be brief, though our figures droop and drag and waste away, she is even more beautiful now (more Christlike than ever before), a companion no harem of illicit pleasure could rival. Be gone, all others, be gone! I am swept away — intoxicated — always in her love.

King Caught in the Tresses

Consider how closely Christ looks at his bride. How particular is he to pore over that beauty which he himself bestows upon her (and at what cost)?

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)

His life, his crucifixion, his being “marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14), all so that he would watch her walk down the aisle toward him — “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” before him. His eyes, keener than eagles’, survey her.

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
     your eyes are doves. . . .
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
     there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 1:154:7)

And then he, the perfect Groom, will call her from this cursed world,

Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
     and come away. (Song of Solomon 2:10)

What Marriage Whispers

Marital intimacy, though not the Aphrodite culture would make her, is a precious gift. The father, while not merely pointing us to the marriage bed alone, is here bidding old lovers to drink deeply of the uncorked vintage of God’s design.

Marital sex, a lordly and bright sunlight, should itself bow. I believe we learn something of intimacy’s proper place from (of numerous other passages) a text that has always struck me as something of an oddity. Concerning the marriage bed, Paul writes,

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Contra many skeptical notions, intimacy, in normal circumstances, should be enjoyed and regular. Our lack of self-control and Satan’s sure temptations ground this dictate. The soak under the silver waterfall serves more than delight and unity; it serves holiness. Regular “coming together” builds a gleeful rampart against the schemes of the enemy.

But this was not the oddity. The oddity to me concerned what the couple might decide (together) to lay it aside for. “[Don’t] deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” It struck me as odd that the apostle considered prayer the alternative and the superior.

What does prayer as a planned interruption to the marriage bed suggest? It tells me that sex is a good and necessary gift for married couples from a good and gracious God, but not an ultimate gift. Sex was made for man, but not man for sex. Greater pleasures perch on higher branches. One might halt the lesser intimacy, might intentionally fast from the feast, for the higher and the greater — prayer. The prayer closet — the place of intimacy with God — holds higher rank.

Swept Away

Marital intimacy — with all its high glories and some crawling challenges (here left undiscussed) — samples wine from a coming orchard. Wine within this covenant challis is ultimately about blood-bought union with a covenant-keeping God. The mountain peaks, the ocean deeps, the untamed thrill, the transfigured moments of pleasure and beauty in a healthy married life exist for him (Colossians 1:16). Our union with him is not of one flesh as with a wife, but greater, of one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). Considering Ephesians 5:31–32, John Piper clarifies,

Leaving parents and holding fast to a wife, forming a new one-flesh union, is meant from the beginning to display this new covenant — Christ leaving his Father and taking the church as his bride, at the cost of his life, and holding fast to her in a one-spirit union forever. (This Momentary Marriage, 30)

Marital union sketches union with Christ.

So, husbands, look at her, keep looking at her, awaken slumbering summer, foment tidy sheets, cast down enthroned shams — and forgo this intimacy, at times, to pray. Be intoxicated always in her love, be led astray, and in that affection be swept away to a higher love, the love of Christ. Let her voice and her love remind you of what you’ve been trying to remember all your life.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their son and two daughters.

Source: Wander Away to Her | Desiring God

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