Every time I tried to tell you, the words just came out wrong; so I’ll have to say I love you in a song. – Jim Croce
Love is hard to put into words. We often find it difficult to express the emotions that at one moment excite and the next enervate us. It is, perhaps, part of the sadness that diminished us at the end of our stay in the Garden – we find it hard to say what our hearts feel. Rich and I often hear couples express this, a kind of emptiness that comes when we can’t communicate the warm and mysterious emotions that surprise us in marriage.
Often the communication methods outlined in romance articles and books seem just as mysterious, like some sacral masonic right. We can’t figure them out so we give up – not realizing that giving up forecasts our friendship – as we yield the relational ground that makes marriage magical.
Maybe the songwriters, like Croce, have it right. Maybe we can’t continue simply saying the words “I love you” hoping that they keep, as Glickman put it, sprinkling “stardust on our dreams.” If we want a marriage that promotes depth and stimulates delight, maybe we have to say “I love you in a song.”
Solomon seems to suggest this. Even the title of his inspired work, The Song of Songs, deciphers some of the mystery of communicating with the one we love. His ancient wisdom still works for contemporary couples – for any friends who pattern their conversations after the dramatic dialogue enjoyed by Wisdom’s husband and wife.
Why a Song?
“I tell her I love her every morning before we head to work. It’s part of our routine. How could she think I don’t love her?” Doug sat in my office glancing at the books on my shelf, looking everywhere but at me. Often this lack of eye-contact means an individual is hiding something, so I asked.
“I know you buy her gifts and bring her flowers at times, as well, but your body language says you might know part of the answer to your own question. What is it?”
He labored a bit, but eventually responded, “I’d have to say I feel like there’s something missing in how I communicate my feelings.” How many times the walls in our offices have absorbed those words. Rich and I have found that the marital coldness that brings people like Doug into our offices affects all of us – no matter how much we might think we know what our spouse needs. That’s why God’s wisdom, as it appears in the Song of Songs, is so helpful. It removes much of the guesswork.
One clear distinction that makes song-language significant for promoting depth and stimulating delight is that it contrasts with the factual, scientific language so welded to the structures of Western cultures. Plato said that music “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life . . . .” Paying attention to relationships must have taught him this insight. The “soul,” “wings,” and “flight” he writes about create the kinds of sentence-melodies Solomon and his wife use with each other. These sentences flavor the stale prose we hear around us. They minister freshness to our souls and energize our bodies.
Preaching to the Choir?
In much the same way we learn the lyrics, rhythms and harmonies of a song on the radio, we can learn to use the song-language God employs in the book. Each aria in the Song of Songs carries its own communication insight into our marriages.
For instance, the first aria immediately warms us.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine. – Song of Songs 1:2
Even though we are reading this without the poetic beauty of its original language, the ambiance melts through the centuries into our own. But what is the wisdom in this dramatic dialogue between the lovers?
If you’re a husband reading this, you’ve likely figured it out. If you’re a wife reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, just what he needs, something else to fan his ego!” (OK, maybe you’re not thinking this, but let’s look at it together anyway.)
Solomon’s wife is wise enough to know that every human being needs to be loved out loud. In this marriage context, she first luxuriates in her longing to be kissed and then expresses that desire publicly. The embarrassment that might discourage some lovers who are less aware of the impact of original sin is exchanged for the excitement in knowing that public professions of love minister to the human soul and warm some of the coldness propagated in Eden. Relational research also supports this ancient wisdom, as studies indicate that men and women consistently express this longing to be deeply loved.
Rascal Flatts’ song, “Love you Out Loud” expresses this same sentiment. As Wisdom so eloquently points out, husbands and wives experience deeper delight and see more stardust when they learn to sing like this – when they love each other publicly.
The damage done to most of us by the cold communities we live in, the tyranny of a busy life, the time-scavengers in our social connectedness and by sin, can be healed by love – by a love that sacrifices comfort and reputation in order to cherish someone out loud.
Learning a New Song
That is only one insight from the second verse of what many claim is the greatest song ever sung. Along with loving each other out loud, Rich and I would like to encourage you to begin reading the rest of the Song of Songs together as a couple. Learn the magic in its melodies, harmonize with its authenticity, and, when the time is right, let its rhythms lead you to the “happily ever after” dance in the last line of its final aria,
Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains. – Song of Songs 8:14.
Remember, too, that Disney did not invent the music for “happily ever after.” The reason those songs and stories dance so universally and deeply in the hearts of our young is that they resonate with part of the real story – our story. The story of a people who, by the grace of God, make it to the real “happily ever after.” The story of a people who are allowed to experience, through marriage, some of this Heaven on earth. The story of people like you and me who find valuable insights in the word of God – insights like “I have to say I love you in a song.”
Dr. Rich Rollins and Dr. Marty Trammell spend their days ministering to broken relationships through teaching, writing and pastoral ministry. They are the co-authors of Redeeming Relationships and Spiritual Fitness and co-direct redeemingrelationships.com. They enjoy outdoor concerts, camping, reading and traveling with their wives and best friends, LouAnna and Linda.