My (Marty’s) mother kept a poem by an unknown author on her fridge,
Life is sweet because of friends we have made,
and the things which, in common, we share.
We want to live on not because of ourselves,
but because of the people who care.
It’s giving and doing for somebody else,
in all that life’s splendor depends,
and the joys of this life when you’ve summed them all up,
are found in the making of friends.
The poem’s line, “it’s giving and doing for somebody else,” introduces the kind of help we need to keep our marriages strong. We need people who live beyond their own interests, people who “give” and “do” to help us experience every gift marriage offers.
The friends in God’s love song, the Song of Solomon, show us qualities we should look for in the couples around us, qualities that will help us do more than “get by with a little help from our friends.”
Friends who celebrate our happiness
We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. —1:4b
These friends, who act as a type of “chorus” in the Song of Solomon, express the importance of having friends who encourage and celebrate our happiness. We have found that even with all the marriage-help literature and the advice of counselors and therapists, it’s often the “praise” of encouraging friends that most warms the cold morning moments in our marriages. Like cozy slippers on a tiled floor or the smooth steam of hot cocoa rising against the frost, friends who celebrate our marriage warm our insides, reminding us, in the unscheduled moments, of how the delights in married love are the most intoxicating.
Marty and I (Rich) have found that these friends are the ones who avoid pity parties and turning instances into issues. These friends use phrases like “it looks like you had a great time,” “you guys are so good together” and “you certainly married the right person” – phrases like, “ain’t it nice to know, you’ve got a friend?”
In a world full of jealous and hurt people who would rather see our marriages fail, it’s sometimes difficult to find friends who “delight” in our love, who truly want us to experience a relationship more “intoxicating than wine” (Song of Solomon 1:2 and 4:10).
Friends who inspire our love
The friends in the Song of Solomon sing to the couple,
Who is this who shines like the dawn,
as fair as the moon,
as bright as the sun,
as majestic as the stars in procession? —6:10
These lyrics remind us to find friends who understand the value in using larger-than-life comparisons and compliments – compliments that move us away from earth toward Heaven. We need friends who inspire the way we value each other, friends who remind us of what we have in our marriages – of the out-of-this-world beauty in our spouse’s internal and physical charms. Spending too much time with couples who treat marriage as a deserved, but dull devotion will diminish the delight we experience. Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Relational Intelligence (RI) studies in the Communication and Marriage journals regularly document the damage shaped by under-valued relationships. These studies and the bible’s Song of Solomon demonstrate and illustrate the wisdom in William Penn’s words, “they who love beyond this world, cannot be separated by it.” We need to find friends in our family and local church who inspire our love.
Friends who point us toward Heaven
As important as these relationships are, there is that other friendship – where the honored personage of Heaven, the Creator of us all, waits for his slippers and cocoa – where wonder and love fellowship together at the table – where God waits, not because he’s cold or thirsty, but because he loves the only you, the only me, He made. That individualized love contributed to what he said to His disciples over two thousand years ago, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). We must remember that His friendship, alone, makes every other relationship meaningful.
However, this same creator and “friend” said to Adam as they walked in the garden, “it isn’t good for man to be alone.” So, to remedy the isolation humans were created to feel, even when they were walking with God, He made marriage and every connection its friendship offers. Because of this boundless relational gift, it was Adam who first sang to Eve, “you’ve got a friend in me.”
God’s lyrics encourage us to search for people who remind us of the good gifts in even imperfect marriages – people who encourage us to find friends who work toward securing our best. Rich and I have learned during our combined 60+ years of counseling that every friendship patterned after the “giving and doing for somebody else” example of Jesus can help couples enjoy the cinematic beauty illustrated in the Song’s closing lyric – the emotional and physical wonders of life on “the spice-laden mountains” (Song of Solomon 8:14).