This week Tammy and I are speaking at two different couples’ retreats. It is wonderful just to be together and a privilege to invest in others truth that has been invested in us. Marriage is one of God’s greatest classrooms. In it He teaches us so much about ourselves, about Himself, and about one another.
Recently as I read through the Song of Solomon a particular phrase captured my attention. The bride said of her groom, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16). Of course we know this is a beautiful picture of our heavenly bridegroom, the Lover of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us with an everlasting love and He is a friend to sinners. The most precious thing Christ ever said to His followers was: “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
In these words is also a vital principle for marriage: the foundational relationship is always friendship. The love spoken of between the husband and wife in Song of Solomon was more than romantic emotion or sexual attraction. At its core it is the truest form of friendship.
Tammy and I met when I was a freshman in college. That first semester we were part of the same circle of friends and enjoyed doing things together. To be perfectly honest, I liked another young lady at the time, and she liked another young man. (I know it is hard to believe that she would like anyone besides me, but it is true!)
Over time we began talking to each other more and more. In fact, we talked to one another about our interest in the other people. Soon we decided that we liked each other better than we liked them! Our relationship did not begin romantically – it began as friendship. Now, nearly 25 years later, I am more grateful for her friendship than ever.
Romance ebbs and flows in a relationship. Friendship remains. Is your “beloved” also your “friend”?
- If you are just starting into a relationship, I would like to recommend that you cultivate a deep friendship first. If you cannot trust, share, and sharpen one another, then you should not be married. Your heart can deceive you because it is deceitful! Never allow your emotions to lead your logic and your will. Never allow your feelings to supersede divine confirmations. Never allow your desires to overwhelm good counsel.
- To those who have been married for some time, continually work to deepen your friendship. Your best friend on earth should be the person you have committed to spend your life with. Be the friend you want. This must be worked at every day. There are varying levels of communication among friends. There is conversation, where you share what is on your mind. And then there is communion, when you share what is on your heart. The friendship of marriage should be the deepest on earth, full of heart level communication. You should be able to say, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”
It was a joy to help conduct a wedding ceremony recently for a young lady who worked in my office for years and a young man who grew up in our youth group. As I stood in the altar watching our two friends I was reminded that the wedding lasts only for a day but the marriage is to last a lifetime. The candles go out, the wedding party moves on, the glorious event soon becomes a memory. But love endures and friendship is forever.