Explore: Righteous romance

• The Explore the Bible lesson for May 18 focuses on Song of Songs 1:7-8, 15–2:2, 15; 4:9-12.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for May 18 focuses on Song of Songs 1:7-8, 15–2:2, 15; 4:9-12.

Willard Harley wrote a book some years ago, still in print, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage. The thesis of his book is each spouse in a marriage has fundamental needs. If each spouse will learn those needs and work toward fulfilling them, the marriage will be protected from being vulnerable to adulterous relationships.

The opposite also is true. No matter how long two people have been married, if they neglect the fundamental needs of their spouse, that spouse eventually will seek to get those needs met in another relationship. It’s a bracing truth but one to be ignored only at the risk of great peril to the marriage.

Damage too great to repair

Most marriage counselors will confess, far too often, by the time people in troubled marriages come to them for help, the damage already done is too great to repair. People in mature relationships will work hard to protect their marriages from ever reaching that point.

Those celebrating marital love as described in the Song of Solomon are demonstrating the first of those crucial steps. Two people who love each other not only appreciate the finer points of physical and emotional beauty in the other, they find ways of expressing them to one another.

The tragedy for our culture is that, in ways subtle and not-so-subtle, we are sold a bill of goods that defines love as purely a sexual transaction fueled by emotion and hormones. The second tragedy is we rarely discuss biblically sexual love in the graphic terms even the Bible itself dares to do.

A great challenge for any adult Sunday school class would be to have these words read out loud. There is no need for embarrassment or shame in discussing these matters publicly if the Bible itself is our guide.

Meeting each other’s needs

Each marriage has its own unique personality. Each spouse has his or her own needs. When we stand at the marriage altar, we commit ourselves to love and cherish, honor and respect.

It’s vital to remember those vows are not the end of the challenge to find a mate. They are simply the starting line in a race we’ll spend the rest of our lives running. Marriages are not a sprint; marriages are a marathon.

Each step we take in our marriages should be measured in terms of what our spouse’s greatest needs might be. Meeting those practical needs, however, is only part of the challenge.

Reading the Song of Solomon is a powerful reminder that, as much as we need anything in a marriage, we need to be admired, cherished and shown profound physical affection.

Listen and share

One couple I knew made a commitment that, at the end of each day, they spent the first 30 minutes together over a cup of coffee. They would discuss how each other’s day had gone, listen to one another and share whatever feelings they were experiencing.

Even as they grew older, the affection they shared stayed as new as the day they were married. Their love stayed young because they were intentional about keeping it that way.

People who live in troubled marriages would do well to study the Song of Solomon. People who live in happy marriages would do well to do the same.

What it takes to maintain a happy, sexually fulfilling marriage isn’t found in the movies or in the latest steamy novels in the gray shades of meaning. They are explicating a relationship described in the book God inspired for the people God meant to enjoy sex and joy in married life.

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