In the New York Times, Mandy Len Catron wrote about how complete strangers fell in love during a social experiment where they answered 36 questions and then stared into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes. In “To Fall in Love, Do this,” Catron shares how she decided to attend one of the sessions herself with an acquaintance who she “didn’t know particularly well.” The result? She fell in love and married him. Catron’s article led to a viral TED Talk, explaining how her initial skepticism about whether or not romantic love could be fabricated, turned into belief in the power of manufactured or developed love.
Why does Catron’s personal discovery attract so much attention? Should it surprise us that intense listening and prolonged eye-contact increase romantic feelings? It’s easy to forget that there are reasons behind the “magic” of love.
In marriage counseling, the couples who struggle most are often those who expect the most. Expecting unconditional love, without providing reasons to be loved, contradicts creation. This contradiction can promote disillusionment and dissatisfaction – emotional conditions the enemy uses to damage the delight God longs to give us.
The couples who struggle most are often those who expect the most.
Part of the wisdom of the Song of Songs shows up in the reasons the husband and wife provide each other. These “reasons” grow the vineyard of their love and promote the dances and delights they regularly enjoy as a married couple. It is clear from the songs they sing that their romance is far deeper than unconditional love – they love for reasons.
An Example from the Song of Songs
My own vineyard, I have neglected
Song of Songs 1:6
Solomon’s bride begins their marriage struggling with self-perception, reminding us in the painful beauty of her song, that the consequences of our rebellion against God still break our hearts and blind us to the beauty God sees. Her lyrics “my own vineyard I have neglected” culminate in the last chapter when she sings, “my own vineyard is mine to give.” What causes her to move away from seeing herself as broken to seeing herself as a blessing? What changes her song?
Love does. As the human representative of wisdom, Solomon, the wise husband, doesn’t preach, he doesn’t interrupt her song or rewrite the melody, instead he changes the solo of her sadness into a duet. He enters her world, the feelings of her heart, and sings a harmony that fills her with hope.
He expresses to her what he (and by poetic extension, God the Father) feels so deeply about her. Solomon lays down his life, sacrificing time and energy to write an song that brilliantly responds to her discouragement. He sings about her beauty, comparing her to the beautiful million-dollar mare he purchased from Egypt’s pharaoh (1:9). He lays down his life again, sacrificing part of their income and his time to involve others in the making of jewelry for her (1:11 ). These offerings, brought to the altar of marriage, change the story of the ugly duckling into the song of the swan.
The realities of life in our online, social media culture make these sacrifices rare. We either forget to or are unwilling to make them – and that’s a major difference between a marriage that feels like a song and relationships that feel like a broken melody in a minor keys. Solomon and his wife knew that we love for reasons – that love can and should be developed and grown!
Taking the time to write something romantic and healing for each other and spending time and money involving someone else in the making of a gift can heal the hurt and warm the cold communication climate breathed-out by the darkness around us.
Solomon’s efforts to develop love foreshadow Paul’s instructions to husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
Although none of our sacrifices compare to the sacrifice of the Son of God, they do promote similar emotional and spiritual connections and closeness. Jesus’ words, “the reason the father loves me is that I lay down my life . . .” remind us that when unconditional love strolls hand in hand with grown love, we enjoy the deeper intimacies the Creator of love intended.