Category Archives: Marriage and Family Counsel

Sacred Fire (inspired by A.J. Sherrill)

Last night, Alan and I celebrated our 46th anniversary! Such a joy!! This morning, as I was reflecting back over our marriage, it occurred to me that when I prepared my last blog (on how Christ can heal us), I hadn’t really made any particular connection to the every day struggles we all face, but I listened to two messages Sunday night that were so good, and so appropriate, that I want to share the gist of them with you. Throughout the course of my life, the two hardest conscious struggles (probably more significant unconscious challenges) relate to self control in what I eat and what I think about. I’ve always felt very “normal” (if such a thing exists), so my guess is that these almost come as standard weaknesses on most human models coming off the assembly line. Can you identify?

A.J. Sherrill (a local pastor) taught a two-part series called “The Soul of Sexuality.” I’ll put links at the end and highly recommend them as healthy soul food to help you manage your appetites (maybe not as much for food, however).  In turn, A. J. gives much of the credit for his teaching to Richard Rohr, a little monk from Albuquerque, with whom he spent a week some years ago, trying to understand life. You may think a monk wouldn’t be the best resource for understanding how to cope with our innate sex drive, but think again. Any monk who has actually been able to keep his vow of celibacy has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out how to handle his own drives.

Even as a married woman, dealing with our sexual impulses is challenging! I remember when I was mid-forties, asking my spiritual mentor (who was about 80), when men stopped making passes at women. She nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Oh, maybe sometime between 75 and 80.” I was shocked and felt doomed! Would I never be free from unwanted male advances? Men I love, just like I love women. But, men challenging my commitment to my marriage, I do not appreciate. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun. Worst case scenario, it can actually be tempting, which was terrifying when I was 40 and my husband was way too busy to pay attention to me.

So, I used to complain to the Lord, “Why did you make us sexual beings, anyway? Why couldn’t you have made us without sexual passion???” One of the most helpful resources I found was Living with Your Passions, by Erwin W. Lutzer. (It came out in 1983 but is still available on Amazon.) After reading Lutzer’s book, I came to a somewhat grumbly surrender to the thought that God must have known what he was doing and determined to learn how to live a moral life despite my immoral heart, but I wasn’t thrilled about the challenge.

After studying the Song of Solomon for ten years, I decided that God intends our chief love to be spiritual, and that as we’re drawn into a love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we find joy and strength that surpasses human love . . . an energy and beauty that causes those around to marvel: “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13: the dance between our soul and the Trinity [my interpretation]).

A.J. took it a step further, and I love what he had to say. The “why” of sexuality is about “beauty, mystery, and meaning . . . Your sexuality is an echo of a larger cosmic mystery unfolding, which is the story of Christ and the Church.” “God is not a stoic force; he’s a passionate lover.” (I’m putting everything in quotation marks but they may not be perfect; I was typing as fast as I could!) God is Israel’s husband (Isaiah 34; Jeremiah 31) and in the New Testament, we learn that we, the Church, are the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5). From John 7 and 15, we can infer that our marriage to Christ is designed to flow into the stream of life and bear spiritual children and spiritual fruit. In John 14 we are offered the Kiddushim—the covenant of love—and now we’re just waiting for the Huppah, when Jesus comes back to receive his bride (us!).

“Information in the head is not the same as intimacy in the heart. We were made for intimacy.” “Ya had” means to throw out your hands. Let go! Let God dwell in us so much that through us He will produce fruit! Hebrews 12—throw off all false lovers and fix our eyes on our true lover, Jesus. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating our love covenant with Christ. He wants us to understand how much we’re loved and feast with him. He has never forgotten us or forsaken us, even though we have failed him and had other lovers and idols. Come and feast with him. Let him heal you!

The first message dealt with vertical love; the second message with horizontal.  A.J. offered three scripts for how sex is handled in our culture: Erotic play, Intimate connection, and Covenental Promise. He offered some excellent quotes thinking through the value and power of sexual energy (a couple of which I’ll write out for  you below), and he ended with an invitation to reach a “higher altitude” for viewing. “Sexuality is the best instrument for learning self-control There are times when offering yourself is a gift and when withholding yourself is a gift.” If you’re in a relationship right now, he suggested that you “Talk with your partner about what you want without finger pointing, but by offering your longings, not your complaints. Complaints create emotional distance, but longings are redemptive. You’ve trusted God with your soul. Will you trust him with your body?”

“A healthy sexuality is the single most powerful vehicle there is to lead us to  selflessness and joy, just as unhealthy sexuality helps constellate selfishness and unhappiness as does nothing else . . . Sex is responsible for most of the ecstasies that occur on the planet, but is also responsible for lots of murders and suicides. It is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life.” —Ronald Rolheiser

“The fire of sex is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or it takes it away. Despite our culture’s protests, it is not casual and can never be casual.” —Rolheiser

So, in light of Jesus healing the lame man—and offering to heal us too!— if you’re restless or unhappy with your sex life (or lack thereof), this is a great time to let Jesus heal your wounded heart! Consider watching the two messages (which together are shorter than a movie!):

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-1

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-2

I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Some Timely Tips for Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of  your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.

However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).

Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.

Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.

From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!

Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job!  🙂

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

The Commands of Christ (15): Go Call Thy Husband

Do you have a husband? If not, then maybe this command is not for you . . . or maybe it is, because the Samaritan woman to whom Jesus was speaking didn’t really have a husband either. But, she had a significant other in her life, and Jesus was concerned about both of them. In fact, Jesus is concerned about all of us—regardless of gender, marital status, or even present lifestyle. The woman at the well was coy. She was practiced at the art of deception, even using the letter of the law to her advantage. When Jesus told her to go call her husband and come back with him, she responded, “I have no husband.”This was technically true, but it didn’t fool Jesus. He knew the woman wasn’t really free and single, as she might have hoped to appear. She could have competed with almost anybody in Hollywood for number of marriages attempted and failed:  “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17-18). Busted! If she’d had any hope of alluring Jesus into becoming her seventh man, she realized it wasn’t going to work.However, Jesus had a better type of love to offer, but he wasn’t going to offer it to her without demanding that she share the good news with others. Faith isn’t meant for our own healing alone; God always tells us to go and call those closest to us so they can share in the love of Christ with us!Herein lies the  splendor and severity of Jesus’ command! His holy, healing love—better than any earthly love—isn’t meant to be hidden within our hearts and minds. To be genuine, it must be proclaimed to those nearest and dearest to us. Jesus calls to everyone, regardless of their spiritual condition, but he calls us to come into the light, to walk in the light, and to obey his commands. Then, and only then, can we have true fellowship with him, and with one another!This meant that, in order for the Samaritan woman to find the secret of living water to satisfy her longing soul, she would have to involve her significant other, and together, they would have to come to Jesus. Was she ready to do that?

If you are living in sexual intimacy with someone who is not your spouse, are you ready to come together to Christ and do whatever He asks you to do? I pray that you will. The commands of God aren’t given to restrict us or make us miserable. They are given to teach us how to live in holiness, which will bring true love, joy, and peace to us, to the glory to God. Don’t be afraid of “the best!” It’s better than whatever lesser option we may be clinging to!

Text for this meditation: John 4:16-18. “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”

Other verses to ponder:If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret(Ephesians 5:1-12, ESV).

Tommy Walker: Pursuing the Way of Peace

When you’re in L.A., there are many outstanding churches you might want to visit on a Sunday morning, but when we were there last week with our oldest son’s family, Alan’s first choice was to visit Christian Assembly, where Tommy Walker is the worship leader. Over the course of his career, Tommy has composed 85+ songs, recorded 25 albums, and has 247 recordings listed on Song Select. His works include many songs that our family band played over the years, such as He Knows My Name, That’s Why We Praise Him, Joy, Joy, Joy, and Sweet, Sweet Presence of Jesus.
Tommy is an outstanding musician and has worked with national leaders like Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, and Promise Keepers, but what Alan loves best is not Tommy’s great giftedness, but his amazing humility. Although he’s been offered deals by recording companies and publishers, he has intentionally pursued a more quiet path with his wife Robin, continuing his ministry as the worship leader at the same church for twenty-eight years, where his four children have grown up. His ambition is to glorify God, not himself, and that won’t catapult you into Hollywood fame and fortune. However, I believe Tommy Walker is spiritually rich, and he’s definitely famous in the eyes of those of us who’ve been blessed by his ministry!
       By the way, the message (by Pastor Tom Hughs) was also excellent. He’s working through a series called Anxious for Nothing http://cachurch.com/sermons/october-20-21-weekend-services/ and last week offered this advice for keeping CALM in the midst of crisis:
C: Celebrate God’s goodness and blessings
A: Ask God for help
L: Leave your concerns with God
M: Meditate on God and his Word
      Are you anxious today? If you’ve got a few minutes, please allow yourself to be calmed by Tommy Walker singing “When I Don’t Know What to Do.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMXEwwhF6pg

“Lord I surrender all
To Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

Bridge

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me”

“Strong Christians are not strong people, they just know where to run.” —Tommy Walker

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

P.S.—I didn’t think of this when I first wrote the article, but studying Tommy Walker’s life makes me believe he has had to resist Satan’s temptations to “bow down and worship” him. (See Meditating on the Commands of Christ 2). I’ve never had to give up fame or fortune (because I’ve never had either), but Tommy seems to have avoided a lot of the common traps that ruin the lives of many gifted people!

Let It Be

As I write this morning, a tree service is removing six gorgeous, healthy maple trees from the front of our home. The whirring and whining of saws and chippers is grating.  The towering trees were here long before my family arrived twenty-five years ago, and to my way of thinking, they provide shade, privacy, and beauty. However, my husband sees them as a maintenance challenge and potential threat to the safety of the new addition he’s having built on our home,             so he overruled my protests and condemned the trees to death.  😦 It’s autumn, and leaves are falling, but I also noticed flecks of white drifting down on the balcony. I thought they were sympathetic snowflakes, but worse: they are tiny specks of the trees’ flesh and bones, silent reminders of the slaughter.  Sigh. I couldn’t help but notice a quiet prodding to practice the first lesson I learned from studying the commands of Jesus: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” John obeyed Jesus, and I must “suffer” the mystery of losing these beloved trees. This is a very small loss compared to what many people are enduring today . . . and to what I’m sure I will endure as I continue to live in a world where death is the inevitable end of life on this planet. Nevertheless, I am feeling sad and struggling to “suffer it to be so now” with grace and patience.

The consolation to me is in knowing that “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” That is the good news! In bearing up patiently under what we cannot change, we are participating in the fulfillment of righteousness. I always use the King James Version (KJV) first, but I also read other translations in trying to understand passages of scripture, and I noticed that both the ESV (English Standard Version) and NIV (New International Version) translate Matthew 3:15 as “Let it be so now.” I was never a Beatles fan, but somewhere in the back of my brain I can hear the words “let it be” echoing solemnly beneath the grinding sound of trees becoming “Timber.” If Mother Mary shared those words of wisdom with the Beatles, she heard them first from Jesus!

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Amen. (—Reinhold Niebuhr)

 

Wedding Joys: The Soloist Who’s No Longer Solo!

Susan and Cindi have been two of my closest friends and prayer partners for the past 20 years, and through the years, we’ve watched with joy as our kids have grown up. Sarah (pictured above) was also in our Wednesday night Bible study group from the time she was a child and participated faithfully in our “Second Sunday” music ministry.
One by one many of our kids (now in their 20’s and 30’s) have married and started families of their own, but for some totally mysterious reason, Sarah never found her special someone, even though she was bright, lovely, and extremely gifted. I have a dear friend who was a bridesmaid multiple times before she became a bride (at age 42), so Susan, Cindi, and I continued to pray and hope for the right spouse! However, until recently, Sarah had been the pianist and soloist at ??? nearly a hundred weddings . . . but still living solo. 😦All that changed recently, and I was the happy videographer for the event! Because my two youngest are also still single, as well as many young adults who read this blog, I asked Sarah and Kyle if I could share a little bit of their journey for the encouragement of those of us who are still hoping, looking, waiting, and praying (for ourselves or our loved ones).

Here is what Sarah shared:   “Before Kyle and I met…

I had prayed and hoped for years that I would find a godly man to marry, but it wasn’t happening. I tried online dating many times and went on a few dates, but it always ended as a closed door, including some dangerous situations. It became somewhat of an addiction. I battled major insecurity, especially being in my 30’s and not yet pursued. Every time I was feeling that insecurity or loneliness, I would pop on a dating site, even if it was just to talk with a man. But it was only leaving me empty. There was a man from Chicago I dated for a couple months but I did not have peace. I said good bye to him on my 32nd birthday and it was the best thing I could’ve done even though I truly thought I would be single the rest of my life. There was a strange feeling of contentment and acceptance though. Surrender. If God wasn’t opening the door for me with all these men online, then I didn’t want to make it happen on my own and wind up in an awful situation. In all this I was in a BSF [Bible Study Fellowship] group that really was healing and challenging and drawing me closer to Jesus. BSF was not at Impact though [Sarah’s church], and after a year’s study, I went back to a life group with Impact so that I didn’t get disconnected there. That’s where Kyle came two months later.”

Meanwhile, this is what was happening in Kyle’s life: “Before Sarah and I met…

I was in a previous relationship with another woman. We were engaged to be married, but that soon would end due to the toxic/unhealthy relationship it was turning out to be. It was evident that God was not FIRST in my life let alone in my relationship with this woman. I believe He was attempting to grab my attention and save me from the hurt and pain I was spiraling toward. Through God’s grace, reckless love, and fierce pursuit for my life and soul, through my parents and other loved ones – I finally obtained the courage to do what I knew would be extremely hard and painful, yet the BEST thing I could. I had to part ways with her and choose God. So I did. 

I parted ways with her, and re-surrendered my life and future to God, placing Him first in my life, and seeking out His BEST for my life, regardless of what that looked like. I knew that no matter what, it would be much better than the struggles and hurt I was experiencing in that present moment. Following the break up, I had parted ways and even left Impact Church where I had been attending for a solid 3 years just to avoid seeing her. I continued going to church elsewhere but soon realized that my home was there at Impact, and something was missing in my life. I knew that is where I had formed roots, connections, friendships, and could access community at its core. I had to come back, WANTED to come back. So I did. 

I went back to Impact and Lifegroups, hungry for God and what He had in store for me there. Even though I was considered a familiar face to most of the Lifegroup members I was a new face to some. This included Sarah Main. We ended up going around the room introducing ourselves one particular day of Lifegroup to allow for everyone to become acquainted. We were told to state our name and what we did for an occupation. When it was my turn, I stated my name, “Kyle Stoltzfus…” followed by, “I am an automotive technician at M-43 Auto.” Sarah (a bit sarcastic, yet sincerely wondering…) then asked, “Can you fix a coolant leak?” I replied, “Yes, I can.”

I looked at her vehicle briefly after our Lifegroup meeting that day and suggested that she get it taken care of soon as there were other issues to address in addition to the coolant leak. She called my shop, made an appointment and notified me. I knew right away that the scheduled time was too far out given her issues, so I offered my personal assistance. We made a time sooner than the shop appointment and that evening, what could have, and probably should have, taken me only 30 minutes ended up turning into a 2 and a half hour time. We just talked, and talked, and talked, walking away both thinking, I have an interest to know more, and I like talking with the other. So conversation continued, which led to dating, which led to engagement, which led to our marriage, and where we are now…and ALL BY GOD’S GRACE AND WONDROUS LOVE FOR US.” Isn’t that a beautiful love story? At the reception, Kyle’s best friend shared that when he asked Kyle what he loved best about Sarah, Kyle said,” Sarah is the most godly young woman I know, and she always challenges me by her example to be more like Christ.” One of the unusual “hurdles” to overcome was the fact that Sarah is eight years older than Kyle. In this process, she learned that one of her great-grandmothers was eight years older than her grandfather (which had never occurred to her before)! So . . . she had to wait a while for Kyle to grow up! 🙂However, I don’t think you could ever tell there’s an age difference if you didn’t know, and look how beautifully “matched” they are…right down to the reddish glow of their hair! (Those are natural curls and natural color in Sarah’s hair.) Sarah has had a little time to think about her wedding, and she wanted to share:“A couple additional thoughts…

*Both of us came to a place of surrender before we met.
*Neither of us came to life group to ‘Find someone.’

“I have found that just because now that I have a man and am now married, the insecurity doesn’t just go away. That truly only is healed in Jesus, the only Shepherd and Father of my heart. My ultimate husband who was the one taking care of me those years of waiting. No person can fulfill the deepest heart needs. Only Christ. His way is best even when it doesn’t seem like it!”

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14)

(All photos from Kyle and Sarah’s wedding, naturally, although the confetti, truck, and kiss-in-the-field shots are not mine, just used by permission.)

 

Rise Up, My Love (306): Of Spices, Mountains, and Endings

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.” The bride desires for her husband to be like a young stag and make haste…to what location? “The mountains of spices.” This is the last picture painted for us…the last “snapshot” in the bride’s album…the last poetic rose in the bride’s bouquet…the last lilting melody in this song of all songs.

What are the mountains of spices? We are! I blush to consider that we should be given such a beautiful name, but we must remember that the Song of Solomon was a love song written by Solomon (and our greater than Solomon) for his bride, and “mountains of spices” is the name God chose for his bride to use in describing herself at the end of this book, so let’s consider all that it means and aspire to fulfill this high calling.  The words “mountains” and “spices” are used multiple times earlier in the Song, and these references give the clues we need to understand what the bride is saying. First, let’s consider what the spices represent. From 4:12—16 we learn that the bride is like a protected garden, designed by the master gardener, watered by the Word, filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and whose aroma wafts out like heavenly spices. In 5:1 we find the husband enjoying his garden wife and taking pleasure in the spicy fruits found in her.

In Song of Solomon 5:13 we hear the wife likening her beloved’s beard to a soft bed of spices. Oh, to be able to look into the face of God and with the touch of faith feel the very presence of the fragrant Holy Spirit upon him. The lush physical and spiritual imagery intertwines beautifully to portray the exquisite delights of both physical and spiritual communion. The spices are physically the scents and textures of the wife’s body, but spiritually the spices are the tangible evidences of the Holy Spirit’s fruit developed in our lives, fruits which the Son relishes and which also feeds the souls of others (see 5:1). So, the “spices” are the fruits of the Spirit.

What are the “mountains”? Twice earlier, the word “mountain” has appeared in reference to something other than the bride, and twice earlier the term appears in reference to the bride. In 2:8 the husband comes leaping over the mountains to join his wife and calls her out to enjoy, explore, and reign over his kingdom with him. In 4:8 the king invites his wife to climb to the top of the mountains with him and gain a heavenly perspective. In the first instance, the mountains are huge obstacles which the husband overcomes with ease in order to reach out to his beloved; in the second instance, the husband invites his wife to conquer great things with him so that she will share his passionate vision.  What is a mountain? It is something massive, grand, impressive. Mt. Everest is so big it can reach through the clouds and kiss heaven’s feet. Mountains are spectacular: they fill people with awe and a sense of wonder. Mountains are a force to reckon with…to be conquered by or to conquer. Mountains are immovable apart from the work of God in response to faith. Mountains are majestic. Mountains should humble us and cause us to praise this one whose massive hand is so large that the whole world could fit inside, and Mt. Everest wouldn’t even look as big as a hangnail. What a mighty God we serve!!

Yet, this infinitely great Creator calls us his “mountain of myrrh” in Song 4:6, and the bride invites her beloved to enjoy her as “a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” in Song 2:17. In this last poetic picture, we see the wife calling her husband to come unto her and enjoy her…no longer upon the mountains of “Bether” (separation), but upon the mountains of spices. She has grown from a garden into a mountain…a mountain of spiritual delights.  Oh, beloved, are we mountains of spiritual delights? Massive. Immovable. Majestic. Abounding. Able to feed the soul of our mate? Notice that the bride, after a timeless length of time, still refers to her husband as a “young stag.” Dear wife, is your passion for your husband as fresh and fervent as it was at the marriage altar? In your heart, is your love still young? Does our longing for our Savior still burn as hotly as it did at first? Though we may have found our true loves (if we have indeed found both a spouse here on earth and our bridegroom in heaven), we must ever seek them still! “Let her be as the loving hind and the pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love” (Proverbs 5:19). As we close the study of this greatest of all love songs, may this picture linger like a sunset in our hearts. May we be like mountains of spices where our beloved spouse can graze with abandon and be always ravished with our love! Amen!

Source List:

Berry, George Ricker, Ph.D. The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977.

Brown, Francis, D.D., D. Litt. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997.

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

Chapman, Gary D. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1995.

Cowman, L.B. Streams in the Desert. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.

Criswell, W.A., ed. Criswell Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979.

Davidson, Francis. The New Bible Commentary. Great Britain: Billing and Sons Ltd., Guildford and Esher, 1953.

Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary of the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950.

Gaebelein, Frank E. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. V. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1991.

Glickman, Craig S. A Song for Lovers. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1976.

Gordis, R. The Song of Songs and Lamentations. KTAV, 1974.

Green, Jay P., ed. The Interlinear Hebrew-Aramaic Old Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985.

Grolier Inc. The Encyclopedia Americana. . Danbury: Grolier Inc., 1995.

Guyon, Jeanne. The Song of the Bride. Auburn: The Seed Sowers, 1990

Harley, Willard F., Jr. His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage. Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse/Revell Audio, 1995.

Henry. Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. McLean: MacDonald Publishing Co., 1706. (Can’t find current date)

Hirshberg, Arabic Etymologies. VT 11, 1961.

Hocking, David and Carole. Romantic Lovers: The Intimate Marriage. Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, OR. 1986.

Ironside, Harry A. Addresses on The Song of Solomon. Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1973.

Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997.

MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992.

McPhee, L.M. The Romance of the Ages. Grand Rapids: Gospel Folio Press, 1939.

Murphy, Roland. Toward a Commentary on the Song of Songs. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39, 1977, pp. 441.

Nee, Watchman. Song of Songs. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 1965.

Origen. The Song of Songs Commentary and Homilies. Translated and annotated by R.P. Lawson. Vol. 26 of Ancient Christian Writers, edited by Johannes Quasten, S.T.D. and Joseph C. Plumpe, Ph.D. Westminister, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1957.

Patterson, Paige. Song of Solomon. Chicago: Moody, 1986. Phillips, John. Exploring The Song of Solomon. Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1987.

Richmond, Gary. A View from the Zoo. Waco, Texas: Word Book Publisher, 1987.

Smalley, Gary. Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, Seminar, 1993

Spence, H.D.M., and Joseph S. Exell. The Pulpit Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Morning and Evening. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Most Holy Place. Pasadena: Pilgrim Pub., 1974.

Taylor, J. Hudson. Union and Communion. Edinburgh: R. and R. Clark, Limited, 1929.

Tenney, Merrill C., ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1977.

The American Heritage Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.

The Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc., 1995.

The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book—Childcraft International, Inc., 1980.

Torrey, R.A. The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. New Kensington: Witaker House, 1996.

Trent, John. Love for All Seasons. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.

Truth and Praise, Inc. Hymns of Worship and Remembrance. Belle Chasse, LA: Truth and Praise Inc., 1950.

Webster, Noah. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: College Edition. Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1966.

Wilson, William. Old Testament Word Studies. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978.

Young, Robert, LL.D. Analytical Concordance to the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972.

Zlotowitz, Meir, and Scherman, Nosson. Shir HaShirim. New York: Mesorah, 1977.  

“This dwarfish age is not likely to esteem this book [The Song of Solomon] as it ought to be esteemed; only those who have lived near to Jesus, have drunk out of his cup, have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood, only those who know the fullness of the word ‘communion,’ can sit down to this book with delight and pleasure; and to such men these words are as wafers made with honey, manna, angels’ food: every sentence is like gold, and every word is like much fine gold.” —Joseph Iron, quoted by Spurgeon in, The Most Holy Place, p. 295.

Afterword: I would be happy to hear your response and welcome any insights or comments! Thank you, and God bless you as you continue to pursue our heavenly bridegroom!