Category Archives: Marriage and Family Counsel

Rise Up, My Love (253): Ever Wondered What Mandrakes Are?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “The mandrakes give a smell.” What in the world are mandrakes? They are only mentioned six times in Scripture: once in this verse and five times in Genesis 30:14-16, where Rachel bargains with her sister Leah, exchanging the privilege of sleeping with their husband Jacob for the mandrakes that Leah’s son Reuben found in the field. Why all the fuss about mandrakes, and what are they?

For a starter, it’s inconceivable to me that a woman would exchange a night of physical intimacy with her husband for anything! I believe God intended marital expression to be sacred and beyond price, as intimated in chapter 8: “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned.” How would you feel if your spouse “hired” you out for a bunch of whatevers?

That preposterous and degrading deal aside (an insight into the petty selfishness of our human nature, since we’ve all fallen prey to the temptation to exchange our souls for some trite pleasure from time to time…), let’s go back to the use of the term “mandrake” in Solomon’s song. The word translated “mandrake” is the Hebrew duda’im. It is consistently translated as “love apple” in the The Interlinear Bible and as something which induces love in Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon (1).

In the final analysis, no one knows for sure what these “love apples” were, but the top two choices for “preferred guess” are either what we commonly call “may apples” today, or the Mandragora. May apples are common throughout temperate regions. In fact, we have colonies of them in our woods. In the spring each plant sprouts into a leafy one-foot umbrella with a single white blossom sheltered underneath, which becomes a yellowish, edible fruit about the size of a nutmeg in late May or June. The flowers have a very mild but pleasing scent, although the children and I have never found it perceptible from the path…only by studied trial. Also, may apples are edible but not especially flavorful, certainly nothing exotic or gourmet like the morel mushrooms that also sprout up in our woods about that time! It’s inconceivable to me that Rachel would have found anything in May apples compellingly attractive enough to tempt her to sell her husband’s affection!

On the other hand, the genus Mandragora has six species still common to the Mediterranean region which were used in antiquity as addictive aphrodisiacs. The Mandragora is a poisonous, perennial member of the potato family (Solanceae) (2).  It has tuberous roots that look almost like clusters of large grapes, and according to the World Book Encyclopedia(3) , these roots were often used as “narcotics, anesthetics, and in so-called love potions.” It is said that these mandrakes had a “very distinct and agreeable odor” and that “among the Arabs it was called both ‘the servant of love’ and the ruffah eshaitain or ‘Satan’s apples’ (4).”

It is conceivable to me that such a potent and powerfully addictive plant could arouse the passionate demands demonstrated in Rachel. In the Song of Solomon, there is no hint of evil or inordinate passion. The verse only mentions, “The mandrakes give a smell,” and perhaps the proper interpretive amplification of this comment might be, “It is the time for sharing love. Can’t you tell? Even the air is filled with the scent of love!” This is a good thing, and love should be everywhere about us. That is the bright and positive side of a good relationship.

On the dark side, perhaps this verse should cause us to reflect for a minute on our desires. Is there anything in our life that drives us…that controls our behavior…or is threatening to do so? Is there anything so powerful in our lives that we would choose to pursue it over pursuing time with our Lord and our spouse? Any person, any pass time, any passion? I find myself from time to time feeling the heavy hand of temptation luring me toward some lust. It can be something as simple but almost universal as the temptation to overeat. It can be the subtle pleasure of spending money on myself for something I want but don’t need. It can be the idle enjoyment of a wasted hour when there was much work to be done. It can be the deadly draw toward fascination with any man who is not my husband. The world, my flesh, and the devil conspire to surround me with temptations and lusts that are as powerfully addictive and attractive as the ancient mandrakes.

I wonder, are we being tempted by any mandrakes in our lives today? Don’t be driven to trade your spouse’s affection for a handful of “mandrakes,” whatever they are. What attractive scent is arousing passion in you? Food? Money? Leisure? Sex? Don’t trade your soul or your spouse’s love for a pot of poisonous (but narcotic) pottage! If there is good, find it, and let it arouse right desires. Eating is good; just don’t overeat. Money is good; just don’t overindulge. Leisure is good; just use it to restore rather than debilitate. Sex is good; just make sure that it’s with your mate! When the scent of mandrakes in your life is arousing you, learn to say, “Rise up, my love, and come away with me! Let me give you my love, and all the good things I’ve prepared for you!” Live for your Lord, and if you’re married, live joyfully with your spouse. (1) Brown, Francis, D.D., D. Litt. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997, 188 (cf. pg. 188,“love-producing…as exciting sexual desire”).
(2) The Encyclopedia Americana.  Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc., 1995, 227.
(3) The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book—Childcraft International, Inc., 1980, 103.
(4) Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.
(Photos from Wikipedia)

Rise Up, My Love (252): Add Some Dazzle to Your Calendar

Song of Solomon 7:12, “There will I give thee my loves.” Let’s take a few minutes to think about one of the best things a wife can do for her husband in a very practical way to show her love for him. It’s the concept of planning “mini honeymoons,” and it’s been one of the most transforming discoveries of my marriage…drawn from the inspiring example of Solomon’s wife. So, what’s a mini honeymoon, and how does it work?

A mini honeymoon is a time set apart for the wife to whisk her husband away from his normal responsibilities so she can focus on loving him. It can be as short as a twenty-four hour period or as long as a long weekend, depending on what will maximize your husband’s pleasure without causing him undo stress over time or financial concerns. The first and most important aspect of the mini honeymoon is the wife’s attitude. She needs to be committed to doing this not for her own pleasure, but for her husband’s, as her gift to him, thinking of what will best meet his needs and delight his heart.

It is a time apart for the husband to “taste and see” that his wife is good…for them to reconnect and bond…for the husband to enjoy his wife—body, soul, and spirit—and to receive love from her. “There will I give thee my loves.” So, there’s nothing in it for the wives? Oh, yes, there certainly is, although I hope that’s not our motive or focus. As wives, we will be richly rewarded over time by the revitalization of our marriage. I have found (and believe it will also be true for you) a new energy and loyalty in my spouse when I consciously take steps to “give him her [my] loves.”   And, the wife can usually begin by picking the special place for the honeymoon retreat, because the good news is that (at least this is true in my marriage, so hopefully it will be true in yours as well) a husband will go happily most anywhere to spend the night with the woman he loves. (You may have to surprise him or talk him into it the first time, but he’ll probably be asking, “When can we do this again??” before you return if it turns out well, because everyone loves being loved!)

So, to start with, pick any lovely place (relatively close to home) where the scenery is refreshing and the dinner will be romantic…some place that will make you both feel relaxed and open…some place where there’s nothing to make your husband think about other people or work-related pressures, and some place that makes you breathe in deeply and sigh with delight. Have you got such a place in mind? If so, start saving up to pay for it. If not, start asking around for suggestions.

My husband doesn’t usually like us to have to drive more than an hour or two; yours may not care, but try to be sensitive to the amount of time transportation will take. You need to be far enough away from home so that you feel “away,” but close enough so that the travel doesn’t rob you of too much time or make the driver tense. Once you’ve picked your place, find a free time in your husband’s schedule. I have often had to consult with a boss or secretary on this one, but I’ve been amazed at how willing people usually are to help out if given enough lead time.

For surprise getaways, I’ve found coworkers more than happy to help, even taking delight in making the schedule look especially difficult for the time when your dear husband is really going to be “sprung” from duty. (That is never my idea…but often theirs!) Once you have the place and the time, start preparing for the occasion. Notice how Solomon’s wife invited him to be a “fruit inspector.”

This will require a big commitment from you, because your husband will be checking out your fruitfulness! Are you bearing the fruits of love in your life? Are your thoughts in order concerning your husband? If he should “taste and see” the thoughts in your mind, will they be like the refreshing bursts of sweetness found in a pomegranate? How about the discipline of getting back into physical shape (preaching to myself on this one particularly!)? If you want him to be crazy about you the way he was when you were first married…how about trying to look something like you did back then? (I didn’t say we can really look like we did twenty or forty years ago…but we can at least try to look pretty by eating wisely, exercising properly, and dressing neatly.)

Is this too scary? Does it sound too hard? Impossible? If money is the biggest issue, find a friend who will watch your kids for a night and just creatively dress up your house. You could make funny little signs with crayons on sheets of white paper. That doesn’t cost much. Remember, it’s not about money; it’s about loving your mate! Or, perhaps you are saying to yourself, “I haven’t got a chance! I’ve gotten fat, and I feel ugly. All my thoughts are unhappy thoughts and I don’t even feel like I love my husband. In fact, why should I want to do anything for him? He’s a jerk.”

Well, if you’re reading this devotional commentary, you must have—at the very least—either some deep love for the Lord or your husband. If love for your husband is lacking, always remember that the burning core of our lives and motivation is our passion for the Lord. Start by doing what you do for the Lord’s sake. He instructs us to love others with a pure and fervent heart (I Peter 1:22)…and that includes loving our husband! This is a way of loving our husband, even if he seems totally unlovable.

Take the burden on your own shoulders of learning how to love. Do everything as if he were the most wonderful man in the world…as if he were Christ. What would you do for Jesus? Love your husband in that way. Prepare for your honeymoon with that much prayerful ingenuity. Take a few props…some pleasant-smelling lotion for a good massage, some bubbles for the bath tub, an appealing new nightgown (okay, so maybe new lounge pants and tee shirt if you’re a Millennial)…whatever you think would make him feel especially loved and desired.

Make a very conscious attempt to “dazzle” and “fascinate” your mate! (By the way, the husband can do all these same things for his wife; remember, at the beginning of the Song, it was the husband doing all the wooing. Wives will forever love being wooed!) Well, maybe you’re an old hand at mini vacations, but if not, I hope I’ve offered enough suggestions to get your mind turning. Let your own creativity and what you know of your husband’s tastes spark your imagination as you prayerfully plan a mini-honeymoon to live out this verse: “There will I give thee my loves.”

The Struggle for A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom is the current retelling of a true story from 70 years ago, although I’d never heard it before. I totally agree with Rotten Tomatoes’ 83% rating and commentary: “Well-acted, solidly crafted, and all-around worthy, A United Kingdom presents an absorbing look at a singular true-life love story.”  If you, like me, weren’t around in 1947, you may not have heard the story before either, but it is a powerful testament to the enduring character of love. Sir  Seretse Khama was the heir to the throne of Botswana (then called Bechuanaland), Africa.  His parents died when he was only three, and Seretse became king at age four, although his uncle served as regent and brought him up like a son, sending him to the best schools, and eventually to Oxford and law school in England, where he became a barrister.     During this time (1947) he fell in love with a British woman, Ruth Williams, whom he married, despite extremely strong opposition from both sides of the family.  Their marriage and subsequent return to Bechuanaland sparked a furor among people on both continents,  because everyone assumed he would marry a woman from his tribe, the Bamangwato people.    A United Kingdom tells the story of the fierce love between Seretse and Ruth,              their unwillingness to bend for tradition or current cultural mores,                  and how they eventually won the hearts of their people. It also exposes the racism that was rampant in the Union of South Africa at that time, and the British weakness in failing to honor their word in order to curry favor with South Africa.  Although the events were compressed in the movie (it seemed like just a few years, when really the struggles lasted about 20 years), A United Kingdom gives a sober look into the economically-driven politics and racial tensions that have existed far too long (and into the present) between the continents and the races…and the fact that true love can (at least sometimes) “conquer all!” In order to protect his country and his marriage, King Khama gave up his right to be king, although he and Ruth returned to Bechuanaland where they eventually organized the Bechuanaland Democratic Party.  The movie is more about their love and early struggles, but I want to share just a little bit about their huge later success. Khama was the leadership and driving force in Bechuanaland’s independence from England, which was finally won in 1966. At that time, Bechuanaland was renamed Botswana. It was the third poorest country in the world, with virtually no infrastructure (7.5 miles of paved roads), and only 22 college graduates (worse, only 100 high school graduates!). Thanks to Khama’s integrity and brilliant leadership, he was elected as their first president and won every election until 1980, when he died suddenly of pancreatic cancer. During his tenure in office, Botswana became the fastest-growing economy in the world! The government negotiated the diamond mining businesses so that they retained 50% of the profits, which they poured into infrastructure, education, and health care. (Of course, if you’ve read The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, you’ll believe that more of that money should have been given to the workers; at least, I do.)   After Khama’s death, Vice President Quett Masire succeeded him in office,     but in 2008, Seretse’s oldest son Ian, was elected president of Botswana.  He and his (one and only) wife, Ruth, worked side by side until his death, and they are buried together in the Royal Cemetery in Serowe, Botswana.  Seretse Khama’s people loved him and compared to Nelson Mandela (although he didn’t receive such international acclaim). A United Kingdom is a beautiful story of love, honor, and courage, and a fitting example for each of us in our quest for following God in his promise to one day provide a united kingdom—not only in Botswana, but for the entire world!

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you
” (Matthew 6:33).

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation,
and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ
” (Revelation 12:10).

(I took most of the photos while watching the movie; others are from Wiki)

Rise Up, My Love (246): Passionate Devotion

Song of Solomon 7:11 “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field: let us lodge in the villages.” As we discovered earlier, “my beloved” is the wife’s favorite term of endearment for her husband. After reflecting on her position in her beloved, the wife now invites her husband to go forth into the fields and villages.

In chapter 2, it was the husband who invited: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Now it is the wife who initiates. She no longer has to wait for an invitation to understand what he needs and desires. His love has produced in her such overwhelming devotion that she has become sensitive to his needs and has learned to anticipate his desires.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8). He had taught her, and now she knew him so well that all she had to do was look into his eyes to see what he wanted. Oh, to become a wife who understands and anticipates the needs of my husband so well! Oh, to see so clearly the countenance of my beloved Christ…to be able to see reflected in his eyes the desires of his heart!

There are many wonderful aspects of this courageous suggestion that should be considered. Notice first that intimate, personal love is the great motivation that has aroused the bride to action…a love that recognizes the person of Christ: “My beloved.” The beloved one is not an imaginary hero. This is no Super Man drawn with pen and ink on a comic strip. He is no teen idol adored from the distant corners of darkened auditoriums or admired from airbrushed photographs. He is not even an inspirational leader broadcasted live on worldwide TV or internet and quoted widely in global newspapers.

This person was a real, living man she knew with great intimacy…someone with whom she could walk and talk; someone upon whose shoulder she could lean; someone who loved her and had taken her for his own, forever. This is the love of Christ for us. If you have never looked into his eyes and felt his arms around you, open your spiritual heart and allow yourself to know him in this way! Christ is alive. He is a real person who can be spiritually discerned and known. Take upon yourself the challenge that God gave King Solomon in I Chronicles 28:9: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

What a command, and what an awesome responsibility! But, I believe by faith we can grasp this promise for ourselves even today. To do so, we must learn to understand and abide in his love. It is this passionate love that will cause us to say, “Come, my beloved, let us go forth.” This is the explosive love, the “dynamite” power that Paul spoke of in Romans 1:16 when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power (dynamite) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” This is the “perfect love” that “casts out fear” (I John 4:18)—fear of anything that man might do to harm us—fear of ever being separated from our beloved again.

It is a passion so hot that it will melt our hearts into his and weld us together in true unity of purpose. We need never fear separation, because we will always want to be at his side, and he has promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Notice also that true love cannot be rushed or forced. The husband invited but never forced. He waited until his bride was ready. When she was not willing, he left until she sought him out. But, when she found him, he received her immediately to himself, not rebuking her, but rather encouraging her with lavish praise (chapter 5). His amazing love reaped great rewards, because it generated passionate and permanent devotion in his wife.

Finally, we see that it is this type of love—intimate, passionate, carefully nurtured but freely developed—which leads the bride to go afield for her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.” Husbands: If you want a wife who fully supports you in your work…try loving her with this type of love and see how the Lord blesses! (Obviously, not all women will respond with such enthusiasm, but God still wants us to imitate him: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” [Romans 2:4].)

“Let us!” The bride is now eager to leave the comforts of home to further her husband’s interests because she senses the stirring within his heart to go afield, and she wants nothing more than to be with him no matter where he goes. She will not be going alone; she will be going with him! My mother used to always say, “Home is where the heart is.” The bride’s heart was with her husband-king, and so home had become wherever his heart was…be it the palace or the villages. She no longer cares if she sleeps behind the curtains of Solomon or in the tents of Kedar… so long as she sleeps with her beloved!

I wonder, is it the burning passion of our hearts to go afield with Christ? Am I prepared to leave home for the discomfort of sleeping in the “villages?” Are you? If you are, then why not invite the Lord to take you, just as the bride enjoined her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages…”

Rise Up, My Love (244): What’s Hidden Under Your Palate?

Song of Solomon 7:9 “…that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” What in the world (or in heaven!) does this mean? The verb translated “goeth down” is the Hebrew halak, also rendered “flowing, going, or walking” in other passages (Carr, 163). The Hebrew word translated “sweetly” is meshar, more literally translated as “evenness; equity; smoothness; uprightness; righteously.”* It is the same Hebrew word used in 1:4, “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”   I believe there is a key in this repetition from an earlier theme, but let’s come back to it in a few moments. What the KJV renders “cause…to speak” is the Hebrew dabab, and is unknown in Hebrew apart from this use, although the Akkadian dababu “plot; plan” and the Arabic dabub, “talebearer” may be cognates according to Carr (163).** Other translations use such alternate terms as “gliding” or “flowing gently” (although why…I don’t know!). The last two Hebrew words in the passage are sipte (literally rendered “lips”) and yesenim (“sleeping ones”). Perhaps one of the more accurate alternate translation for this portion of the phrase is: “stirring the lips of sleepers”.*** (Gordis, 97).   This seems consistent with both the literal meaning of the Hebrew words and the KJV but does not shed much additional light on what the text means. So, put it all together, and what do we have? First, the subject is “the roof of thy mouth,” i.e. the wife’s palate. Everyone knows what the literal roof of the mouth is, so physically there’s no mystery. It seems most likely that King Solomon was indeed commenting on how much he loved french-kissing his wife (although the pleasure didn’t yet have such a name, since there were no “French” in those days!)   The rest of the verse is still somewhat of a puzzle in the physical realm, although the best explanation I found was this: “…one thing emerges as certain: Shulamith’s kisses have an intoxicating effect on Solomon. However, there were no ill side effects, and Solomon could enjoy this ‘wine’ continually.”* (Patterson, 109).

Spiritually, I would hazard a guess that the palate refers to the highest subject of the wife’s speech…and I can think of no loftier subject than the praises of her Lord and God, which “flow sweetly…uprightly.” Expanding a little on the thoughts of Henry van Dyke, what is a more noble delight than taking the colors and forms of our life’s experience and weaving them into a beautiful garment to clothe our thoughts of God? So, the taste of his wife’s praises are like the “best wine,” i.e. his greatest joy. Perhaps it is the husband’s use of this imagery that reminds the bride of her earlier exclamation: “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (1:4). His love is even more wonderful than her greatest earthly joy, and all those who are “upright” (true believers?) love him too.

Gary Smalley, in his wonderful series, Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, points out that men need to feel “adequate.” Let’s add that to our list of “A” words: assure him that he’s more than adequate! Adulate him, even as our Lord loves adulation and praise! Could it have been such a thought that caused her to join him at this point and add, “for my beloved!” Her praises are all for him! There is no one else—there is nothing else—that causes her lips to overflow with such joyous speech. Her praises flow “sweetly” and “smoothly,” in righteousness and uprightness. There is nothing rough or sullied or impure about the praises or the one being praised; all is holy and beautiful…as is our Lord!    “Causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” After a month of asking everyone wise friend I knew, even “men in high places”…although no one spontaneously interpreted the passage the same way I did, no one refuted my interpretation either. Could it be that the “sleeping ones” are those who are “sleeping” in sin, i.e. the unbelievers, or at the least those who because of sin have become insensible to spiritual things?  It is the bride who is speaking. She is speaking in praise of her bridegroom husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. She is extolling his wonders. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the highest thoughts of her heart—her adulation of her wonderful savior and king—will be so irresistibly sweet that it will arouse those who have been stupefied into lethargy by their sinful lives to speak…to “plot,” to “plan” to “tell tales”…to ask questions…to be aroused into dissatisfaction with their existential lives and search for this marvelous love and lover? Oh, Lord, may our speech be as sweet to you! May our praises cause even the lips of those who are sleeping yet in their sins to speak of you and search for you!

(All photos taken a few days ago at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.)

*Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 108-109.

** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 163.

*** R. Gordis, The Song of Songs and Lamentations, (KTAV, 1974), 97.

Chicago Baby

“We’ve left our house in Spokane and are moving to a department (apartment) in Chicago,”  Amélie confided soberly. Moving is NO FUN! I was just Amélie’s age (5) when our family moved from Indiana to Michigan, and I was heart broken, particularly because I wasn’t sure how I’d find my way back home so I could marry my boyfriend (also 5) when we grew up. It was the summer of 1956, and “Que Sera, Sera” was playing on radios everywhere! “Whatever will be will be.”  Somehow, I found the words comforting and remember singing them to myself as I explored our new home in East Lansing. Little people feel things with every bit as much passion as adults! In an effort to soothe the kids, Jon gave us all a little slide show of their home and friends from Spokane, and I think it might have helped Amélie in her efforts to process everything, but poor little Sophie (3) burst into gales of inconsolable tears. Jon and Linda have been doing everything they can to ease the way, but there’s no doubt about it: Moving is tremendously unsettling! Yes, it’s fun to spend some time with Nana and Grandpa, and yes, it will be fun to spend some time in Germany and visit with Gerlinde’s family, but leaving all their friends and moving from their lovely home out west into Chicago—one of America’s biggest (and scariest) cities—is paramount to panic!  Are you facing a move? I think it’s good to get in touch with our feelings during transitions, but I also think it’s important to track our thoughts. We shouldn’t just listen to ourselves, we should talk to ourselves too…speaking truths into our lives to give us courage, such as Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God loves us. He is doing a good work in us to make us more like Himself! Rather than being fearful about the future, let’s ask God for the grace to claim Isaiah 26:3,  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  P.S.—I am so thankful for my courageous daughter-in-law, who is a beautiful example of Sarah from the Bible (and her mother Sarah, who left her homeland and followed her husband to the mission field in Tanzania). “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (I Peter 3:6).

“When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera, Sera.” (—Composed by Jay Livingston)

Rise Up, My Love (243): Wedding Vows

Song of Solomon 7:9 “For my beloved.” Yes, all that we are and have is for our beloved. In this physical world we give such allegiance to our beloved spouse, but in a deeper sense—in a way that encompasses both the physical and the spiritual—we give all that we are and have to our beloved bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ…for time and for all eternity.

Tell me, have you kept your wedding vows? Do you remember them? Perhaps you wrote your own and had them all memorized…can you still repeat them? It would be a good exercise to keep a written copy somewhere special—maybe in your family Bible—and repeat them every year on your anniversary. My husband and I used the aged formula that we had heard so oft repeated from our earliest childhood memories of weddings… “and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him/her so long as ye both shall live…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.”

Our first, ever continuing obligation is to forsake all others. It is also God’s first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Just as every wife wants her husband to have eyes for only her (and visa-versa), so God wants us to only have eyes for Him! Do you ever allow your eyes to stray when a pretty woman or a handsome man walks by? You will break your beloved’s heart and trust.

In our country, we aren’t typically tempted to worship literal, handmade image-idols from other nations. You don’t hear of many people converting to Buddhism or Shintoism. Do you know why? Because the god that appeals to Americans is the “almighty” dollar. Money and leisure have become national gods, and Americans who don’t worship Jesus typically chase materialistic pleasures. So, don’t be tempted to relax and say, “Well, at least I’ve forsaken all other gods! I don’t have eyes for anyone but God.” The real test is not, “Do you keep figurines on an idol shelf?” but, “Do you find yourself tempted to make decisions based on material gain or selfish pleasure rather than on your perception of its being God’s will…being right and for His pleasure?”

“To have and to hold.” Yes, Jesus, above all else, I am yours to have and to hold. Isn’t it strange that during the easy times of life many hearts are tempted to wander, but during the hard times, we are more likely to seek the comfort and support of a companion? Why is that? “For better or worse.” When things are “better,” it should be simple to remain faithful, but how easily people grow careless with each other and become intent on pursuing idle pleasures that distract rather than bind them together. When things are “better,” how easily people forget God and go their own way!

How much like sheep, who wander off on the sunny days until they have stumbled and fallen…and then bleat pitifully in their helpless pain and fear as the night falls! When it’s “for better,” humans tend to grow selfish and not want to be “bothered.” When it’s “for worse…” well, if it’s our problem, we want help and compassion…now!! But, if it’s our spouse’s problem…do we rush to his aid…and then endure patiently as needed? Our ability not only to “endure” but to take joy in being able to show love for our spouse through sacrifice is a rare and noble quality indeed.

“‘Joy is a duty’—so with golden lore
The Hebrew rabbis taught in days of yore.
And happy human hearts heard in their speech
Almost the highest wisdom man can reach.
But one bright peak still rises far above,
And there the Master stands whose name is Love,
Saying to those whom weary tasks employ:
‘Life is divine when Duty is a joy.’”
—Henry van Dyke

What a comfort it is as we grow older “to have and to hold” a life mate. I often used to tell my children that getting married is like putting money in a bank. Our oldest, shrewd financial steward that he is, tucked away $20,000 from his first year’s salary for his retirement, knowing that if all continues for the next fifty years as it has for the past fifty (which it probably won’t), that small (but significant) investment will grow into an ample retirement pension. Now, a twenty-five year old young man could think of many ways to spend 20K, but he will be very happy for his sacrifice in years to come.

Likewise, young adults may find it very difficult…even painfully sacrificial… to pour their time, energy, and money into developing a strong marriage and rearing a family. How much easier it would be to just “do their own thing.” But, all the sacrifices we make in our youth pay tremendous spiritual, emotional, and even physical benefits as we age.

Although it was simply by faith that my husband and I invested in a large family (based on believing Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward”), there is nothing on this earth that brings us more genuine pleasure now than our family. If you asked my husband, “Was it hard?”, I’m sure he would say, “Harder than I could have ever imagined when I asked Kathi to marry me!” When I asked him if it was worth it, he said, “Next to getting saved, it’s been the greatest joy of my life.” To which I would add a hearty “Amen!”

“For my beloved.” Yes, keep all you have and are for your beloved, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death” parts you! And for our beloved, let us keep all we are and have for him until death brings us to his arms forever!