Where I grew up, if a guy revealed that he was interested in anything vaguely poetic, he would be beaten up. Poetry was, by definition, effeminate and revolting. Real guys played sports. We talked about sports, and we read sports -- not poetry, and definitely not Shakespeare.
Just a few years ago, in fact, out of arrogance and deep ignorance I said in passing from the pulpit, "Shakespeare was a bum."
One horrified literature teacher in our church very kindly offered to enlighten me. A little while later I spent an evening with a group of friends, including that teacher, watching a video of Henry IV. As I watched, I came to understand something: It was really me who was the bum. Here was highly poetic speech, which I had once scorned, but it was incredibly powerful stuff, and not effeminate in the least.
Solomon, too, was definitely masculine. Far from scorning carefully composed words, I should accept the lesson of Solomon's Song and learn how to use them. Poetic language is a gift from God that can help me promote godly romance with my wife!
So let's try to bring this home a little. How many times in the past week or month have you spoken to your wife in ways that she found to be romantically and perhaps erotically arousing?
Now, what would hold you back from doing this on a regular basis? What are the issues in your own heart that would prevent you?
Let's try a few on for size. Maybe one of them will fit you.
"I'm not sure it really matters to her."
Wrong. Remember: Thanks be to God, our wives aren't wired like men. The spoken word can be as alluring, provocative, and enticing to your wife as any visual stimulation you experience with her.
"I don't think I can come up with anything creative."
It might not be the easiest thing you've ever done. But if you will humble yourself and ask him for it, God is eager to give you that simple but effective phrase to say to your wife. The first such phrase will begin to break down the barriers of pride and self-absorption that hinder you. The second phrase will be easier. Then you're on your way.
"It just seems silly."
But it doesn't have to. Discover what's genuine and works for you and your wife. Again, don't let the poetry aspect turn you off. What sort of language appeals to both of you and comes naturally?
God wants you, a Christian husband, to carefully compose words that communicate your appreciation, affections, and passions for your wife, and he will help you do it in a way that is meaningful to her. It doesn't have to rhyme. It doesn't even have to be beautiful. It just has to connect in a way that affects her uniquely.
After I taught this material in our church, one man showed me a line he had written: "Honey, to me, you are like freshly shucked corn in a trough surrounded by hungry hogs."
Now, this didn't quite fit my cultural background, but I was immediately able to encourage him. "If your wife is romanced by this, fantastic! If this speaks her language and encourages her and helps her understand your passion for her, then Solomon would be very pleased with you."
The point is, guys, you don't need to be a Shakespeare or a Solomon. You don't need to imitate some specific style. But you should definitely follow the example given to us in the Song -- by carefull composing words of a romantic and erotically suggestive nature that will express your love for your wife. As you do this, you and she will be drawn into a deeper and more satisfying relationship.
What changes, even somthing small, can you make this week to begin cultivating and expressing your passion for your wife?
Now, some of you may be more comfortable, creative, and effective when you communicate in written form. By all means, do so! But however you do it, I think you'll find that after a little practice with carefully composed words, they wil begin to come more easily. As you build the habit of delighting your wife with your words, the phrases will become more spontaneous.
Recently Carolyn and I were in a mall while on vacation. We intentionally seperated for a while, and as the time drew near for us to meet up again, I began searching the crowds for her. Finally, I caught sight of her. She approached and I embraced her. I said, "Love, I just want you to know that whenever I'm searching for you in a crowd, you are the only one who appears to me in color. The rest of the world is black-and-white to me."
These spontaneous words didn't come from any unique gifting in me. I think they were inspired by my study of the Song of Solomon. Words like these are far more effective than "Hey, uh...you look nice." So believe me, God is eager to help you grow in this area. That's why there's hope for every husband. Even those who call Shakespeare a bum.
From Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God by C. J. Mahaney, © 2004, pps. 66-69. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.gnpcb.org.
C.J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission to establish and support local churches. After 27 years of pastoring Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, C.J. handed the senior pastor role to Joshua Harris on September 18, 2004, allowing C.J. to devote his full attention to Sovereign Grace. He serves on the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and on the board of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
C.J.'s books include Humility: True Greatness; Living the Cross-Centered Life; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. He is the editor of Worldliness and Why Small Groups?, and has coauthored other books in Sovereign Grace Ministries' Pursuit of Godliness series. C.J. also writes regularly at the Sovereign Grace Blog.
C.J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters and one son. They make their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.