Tag Archives: Intimacy

Meditations on Song of Solomon

In the 11 years I’ve been writing my blog and posting my chapter-a-day meditations, I’ve not spent a ton of time worrying about whether posts are popular. I haven’t actively tried to either please or cater to a particular audience. That’s never really been the point for me. I simply post what’s on my heart and mind each weekday morning and scatter it like seed along my humble little path here in the blogosphere.

I have, however, casually noticed that my daily meditations on the Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs), have seemed to  maintain a certain level of popularity (I use that word very loosely in the context of my subscribers and page views) that is unusual for my typical posts. It totally makes sense to me. Song of Songs is the one poetic book in all of God’s Message that focuses on man, woman, relationship, love, romance, and sex. We are ever trying to understand the mystery, aren’t we?

So, for what it’s worth, here is a compilation of my meditations from Song of Solomon, originally posted in October of 2013. Cheers!

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 1
A Hint of Paradise

God, the artist, created us male and female. He created us naked. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Love, intimacy and sex between husband and wife was part of the original ideal….

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 2
With Nobody Else but Me

Be mindful and wary of misplaced and competing affections and appetites.

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 3
Meeting the Parents

Today, I am pondering this dance of courtship that men and women have been doing since the beginning of civilization.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 4
Sensually Good

Jesus said he came to give us abundant life. This includes a healthy appreciation for the breadth of senses God gave us to properly experience the full range of creation in its sensual glory.

Song of Solomon Chapter 5
The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 6
Browsing Among the Lilies

God created us male and female. He created us as sexual beings with hormones and sexual desires. He created a natural order in which people grow, develop, desire one another and have sexual relations through which new life is created. He called it “good.”

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 7
A Case for Delayed Gratification

In contrast to where our culture seems to be heading, I hear in Song of Solomon the wisdom, art, and beauty of love that takes time, effort, and creativity to develop. I am reminded that delayed gratification makes the climactic sensual feast deeper, more meaningful and ultimately more pleasurable.

Song of Solomon Chapter 8
Signed, Sealed, Delivered

God’s Message has scant descriptors of marriage. It does not prescribe a particular method or ceremony for marriage, but seems to allow room for cultures and history to develop a veritable plethora of customs around the marriage ceremony. What God’s Message does simply say is that a man and woman leave their respective parents, unite themselves, and become “one flesh.”


Tom Vander Well has been writing his blog, Wayfarer, since 2006. He lives in Pella, Iowa with his wife Wendy.

Posts about Sex, Marriage, & Intimacy

On Remember When Wednesdays I typically look back at older posts across my ten years of blogging and re-post them for newer readers of my blog. Of late, I’ve been taking the opportunity to create a few topical lists of my chapter-a-day posts.

They say that “sex sells,” so I’ll be really interested how the stats on this post fare 😉 For today’s Remember When Wednesday, I’ve put together a list of my posts that reference sex (in a very broad, topical sense of the word).

The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy (Song of Songs 5)
Sexual Healing
I’m “Unclean.” If You Know What I Mean (wink, wink)
Of Twisties and Pantry Lights
Burning Down the House
A Hint of Paradise (Song of Songs 1)
With Nobody Else But Me (Song of Songs 2)
Meeting the Parents (Song of Songs 3)
Sensually Good (Song of Songs 4)
Browsing Among the Lilies (Song of Songs 6)
A Case for Delayed Gratification (Song of Songs 7)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Song of Songs 8)
We’re All Suckers for a Love Story
A Raving Fan of the Fairer Sex
Enjoy the Dance
Five Things That Irritate You About the Opposite Sex
Captivated
Profanity, Obscenity and Swearing
God’s X-Rated Word Pictures
Appetites and Maturity
Delicacies and Darkness
Chapter-a-Day Song of Songs 2
Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 18
Chapter-a-Day Song of Solomon 7
Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 9
Chapter-a-Day Ephesians 5

 

The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Hard to believe, but I have been blogging for nearly 10 years and have written over 3200 blog posts in that time. On Remember When Wednesdays I repost something I wrote from yesteryear for newer readers. It’s always interesting to me the posts that, as I put it, “get legs” and seem to perpetually drive traffic on my blog.

For today’s Remember When Wednesday, I’m reposting The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy. It is one of my chapter-a-day posts from the Song of Solomon which seems to have resonated with readers. It was originally published in September of 2013. Enjoy…

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
Song of Solomon 5:4 (NLT)

One of the things that I love about the Song of Solomon is the way the relational give and take develops between the young man and the young woman in the duet. Like all relationships, there is a progression of the relationship from the beginning of the song to the end. There is the initial infatuation with one another as they look upon one another and are impressed with what they see. Then there is the growing desire for one another as they seek to be in one another’s presence. In today’s chapter we feel the growing desire and anticipation of sexual intimacy.

The young woman is having another dream, and this time she hears the young man attempting to unlatch the door of her bedroom. Her heart is thrilled (and, I suspect, other parts of her as well). When she gets up to let him in, she finds him gone. Disappointed, she runs through the streets in a frantic search for him. The night watchmen find her and beat her up. You can see in the dream the anticipation of intimacy, the disappointment that it has not happened, and the intense feelings of personal pain and injury that she has not been able to consummate her love.

I have learned over time that sexual intimacy in marriage is best built with anticipation, just like the progression in Solomon’s song. While sex occasionally occurs at the spur of the moment, motivated by a surprisingly sudden surge of hormones, the truth is that there is typically a subtle song and dance that happens between me and Wendy. A glance and casual touch at the breakfast table hints at the possibility that this day may come to a passionate end. Hints are dropped by the wearing of things that the other has commented pleases his or her eye. A dab of cologne on a day that none is typically warranted. There is the casual touch in public that lingers a moment longer than usual. The mind is engaged. The eyes are engaged. The sense of smell is stimulated. The ears hear coded messages: “I shaved my legs today.”

Playful thoughts flitter in and out of each other’s minds during the day. Anticipation builds. A regular evening dinner takes on new layers of sensual meaning as each become aware of what I mentioned in yesterday’s post: There is a connection between senses. The feeding of one appetite will invariably lead to another. The main course tastes so good. The wine seems downright decadent, and savoring the dessert feels almost sinful.

One of the things that Solomon’s song subtly conveys to me is that the climactic, sexually intimate event of the day does not typically just happen. It happens when husband and wife learn and know one another’s subtle, sensory dance. It is me learning how to slowly feed multiple senses of my wife during the day in the ways she best responds. It is my wife learning just how to tease the deliberate build up of anticipation that will lead to a successful, intimate feast after dinner that night. There is an art to the intimacy between husband and wife that takes on the unique characteristics of the two artists involved in creating the intimate moment.

In contrast, I find that popular media (especially pornography) likes to portray sex like it’s most awesome when easily cranked out like one of those ultra high-speed photocopiers at Kinko’s (yes, pun intended): Get it fast. Get it often. Get it easy. Everyone gets a copy. Sure, you get the picture – but it’s monochrome, impersonal, and unoriginal. Each one is just like the one before. It quickly becomes meaningless and lifeless. You crank out more copies hoping for something different in the output picture, but it will never be an original work of art.

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together. As Solomon’s Song suggests, there is a progression. It gets better, deeper, more refined, and even more powerful in ways neither husband nor wife could scarcely imagine, even in the intoxicating infatuation of the early relationship.

Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a work of art.

The Depth’s in the Details

Rembrandt - David and Uriah - WGA19124
Rembrandt – David and Uriah – WGA19124 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…and Uriah the Hittite.
2 Samuel 23:39 (NIV)

This past weekend was our annual time at the lake with our friends Kevin and Becky. We’ve been walking the journey together for many years and our time together at the lake is always, for us, one of the pinnacles of the summer season. When Kev and Beck are here, the conversation just seems to flow non-stop from one subject to another from early morning until deep into the night’s watch.

With all of the conversation we’ve enjoyed through all of the years, you’d think we would run out of things to talk about. The truth of the matter is that the conversation simply gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. Late on Saturday evening, as we sat on the deck under the light of the tiki torches, the four of were led into what I sensed was a God ordained conversation into deeply personal matters. It was a subject we’d touched on multiple times before, but on this evening we dove into details that led to what may very well be a powerfully transformational moment.

I’ve found a parallel experience in reading God’s Message day after day through the years. I can read each day, and even have read through the entirety multiple times, and I keep coming back for more. You’d think it would get old. You’d wonder why I keep reading through it. And yet, it’s a lot like conversation with Kev and Beck: It just gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. And sometimes you hit upon a detail that you’ve read before, but it never really registered.

So it was today that I was reading through what seems to most readers a boring list of strange, ancient names thrown into the appendices of David’s biography. This particular list was a list of men who were David’s elite warriors. These warriors were David’s special ops, his SEALs, his Rangers, and his Green Berets. They were the cream of the warrior crop and their exploits were legendary in their day. And, as I’m reading through the list thanking God that most of these names were lost to antiquity, I land upon the final name in the list: Uriah the Hittite.

Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba.
Uriah the Hittite, the man David tried to deceive to cover up his adultery.
Uriah the Hittite, whom David conspired to murder to avoid public shame.
Uriah the Hittite, whose own general betrayed him on the kings orders.

When I read through the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah has always been a bit of a supporting cast member. You don’t give him a lot of thought. Somehow, the realization that Uriah was part of David’s “Mighty Men,” makes David’s conspiracy all the more damnable. Uriah was not a schmuck. He was well known to David. They’d fought together. Uriah had risked his life for David. He was one of the best. And David was willing to consider his own man as expendable, collateral damage in his cover-up.

Sometimes the real story is in the details. Even as human beings sharing life together, what makes our community and conversation transformational is in the depth and detail of our sharing. Today, I’m thinking about people who appear to plod through life’s journey on broad super highways of bland generalities and surface conversations, zipping by on cruise control but never moving closer to real relationships and transformational conversations. Today, I’m thankful for our good companions on this sojourn who navigate with us the rustic and rutty back roads of soul. It is difficult and slow-going, for sure, but ultimately I’ve found that it leads to places of increasing depth, meaning and intimacy that many, tragically, may never see.

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Sello de lacre en sobre, escudo Heraldico de l...
Sello de lacre en sobre, escudo Heraldico de la Familia Fonseca Padilla, Jalisco; México. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm.
Song of Solomon 8:6a (NLT)

I have in my desk a stick of sealing wax and seal press with the initial “V” on it. I purchased it many years ago and still pull it out from time to time when I am writing a special letter of some kind. It’s a funky little detail that makes a letter or card stand out. You light the wax stick and let the wax drip onto the back of the envelope where the letter is sealed. Once you have a little blob of melted wax built up on the envelope you use the press to squish the wax. When it dries, the initial is embossed in the wax and it creates a special second seal on the letter which the reader must break to open the letter.

Our culture has long forgotten the importance that seals played in ancient times. Kings, officials, and noblemen had their own unique seal which they used to seal letters and documents. It became a public sign of ownership for the person to whom that document belonged. When you saw the seal, you knew who you were messing with. Seals are sometimes known as “sigils” which etymologists trace back to the Hebrew word segula which referred to an item of spiritual effect. In ancient folklore, it was believed that a person poured a part of themselves into the design of their unique seal. An individual’s seal wasn’t just a symbol of a particular person, it was spiritually a part of them.

In light of this understanding of the ancient meaning of seals and sigils, I loved the above verse from the lyrics of Solomon’s song. Sung by the young woman in the duet, she asks Solomon to metaphorically place her as a seal over her heart and upon his arm. There are two layers of meaning here. The heart is the most private chamber of our thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams and intentions. By being placed as a seal over his heart, the young would lay claim to Solomon’s most intimate being. She alone would have access to Solomon’s heart. In Solomon’s day, the arm was often the only part of the man who was publicly seen by others other than his face. The arm is also a symbol of a man’s strength. By being placed as a seal on his arm, the young woman was laying public claim to Solomon and his strength.

God’s Message has scant descriptors of marriage. It does not prescribe a particular method or ceremony for marriage, but seems to allow room for cultures and history to develop a veritable plethora of customs around the marriage ceremony. What God’s Message does simply say is that a man and woman leave their respective parents, unite themselves, and become “one flesh.” When we knit ourselves together in spirit, soul mind and body we place our spouse as a seal over us.

Choose well the person whose seal you place over your heart and life.

A Case for Delayed Gratification

English: King Solomon in Old Age (1Kings 4:29-...I am my lover’s,
    and he claims me as his own.
Come, my love, let us go out to the fields
    and spend the night among the wildflowers.
Let us get up early and go to the vineyards
    to see if the grapevines have budded,
if the blossoms have opened,
    and if the pomegranates have bloomed.
    There I will give you my love.
There the mandrakes give off their fragrance,
    and the finest fruits are at our door,
new delights as well as old,
    which I have saved for you, my lover.
Song of Solomon 7:10-13 (NLT)

In today’s chapter, young King Solomon offers another flattering and erotic shower of compliments on the young woman he is courting. Earlier in the song he complimented her from head to foot. This time he moves from feet to head and you can feel the pent up sexual tension as the images and euphemisms gain a stronger sexual tone. Solomon is hot after this young woman.

The woman picks up the song and we find that she has finally been claimed by Solomon. She will become his wife. Solomon’s words and romantic verses have obviously had the desired effect because no sooner has she been claimed as his bride than she suggests that they proceed to a fertile, outdoor love fest. The chapter ends with the young woman declaring that she has saved herself for him, and for this moment.

There is something beautiful in the build up to this moment. I found it ironic that today is chapter seven. Seven, in biblical numerology, is the number of completion and here in the seventh chapter the completion of the long courtship, the claiming of the bride, and the bride’s invitation to consummate their love. We live in a generation of mobile phones, fast food, ATMs, overnight delivery, video streaming, music streaming, and more information available at your fingertips than has existed in all the libraries in all the world combined. We have been seduced by gratification of our temporal desires 24/7/365. This spills over into our sexual lives in the form of porn, sexting, hooking up, and the death of courtship as we have known it for centuries. My daughter linked this article in a comment to my post last week. I replied that it makes me want to get all the millennial young men in a room and have an intervention.

Do not hear what I am not saying. I do not intend for this to be the rant of an old man against technology and the younger generations. Rather, in contrast to where our culture seems to be heading, I hear in Song of Solomon the wisdom, art, and beauty of love that takes time, effort, and creativity to develop. I am reminded that delayed gratification makes the climactic sensual feast deeper, more meaningful and ultimately more pleasurable.

The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Source: Smithsonian via Flickr
Source: Smithsonian via Flickr

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
Song of Solomon 5:4 (NLT)

One of the things that I love about the Song of Solomon is the way the relational give and take develops between the young man and the young woman in the duet. Like all relationships, there is a progression of the relationship from the beginning of the song to the end. There is the initial infatuation with one another as they look upon one another and are impressed with what they see. Then there is the growing desire for one another as they seek to be in one another’s presence. In today’s chapter we feel the growing desire and anticipation of sexual intimacy.

The young woman is having another dream, and this time she hears the young man attempting to unlatch the door of her bedroom. Her heart is thrilled (and, I suspect, other parts of her as well). When she gets up to let him in, she finds him gone. Disappointed, she runs through the streets in a frantic search for him. The night watchmen find her and beat her up. You can see in the dream the anticipation of intimacy, the disappointment that it has not happened, and the intense feelings of personal pain and injury that she has not been able to consummate her love.

I have learned over time that sexual intimacy in marriage is best built with anticipation, just like the progression in Solomon’s song. While sex occasionally occurs at the spur of the moment, motivated by a surprisingly sudden surge of hormones, the truth is that there is typically a subtle song and dance that happens between me and Wendy. A glance and casual touch at the breakfast table hints at the possibility that this day may come to a passionate end. Hints are dropped by the wearing of things that the other has commented pleases his or her eye. A dab of cologne on a day that none is typically warranted. There is the casual touch in public that lingers a moment longer than usual. The mind is engaged. The eyes are engaged. The sense of smell is stimulated. The ears hear coded messages: “I shaved my legs today.”

Playful thoughts flitter in and out of each other’s minds during the day. Anticipation builds. A regular evening dinner takes on new layers of sensual meaning as each become aware of what I mentioned in yesterday’s post: There is a connection between senses. The feeding of one appetite will invariably lead to another. The main course tastes so good. The wine seems downright decadent, and savoring the dessert feels almost sinful.

One of the things that Solomon’s song subtly conveys to me is that the climactic, sexually intimate event of the day does not typically just happen. It happens when husband and wife learn and know one another’s subtle, sensory dance. It is me learning how to slowly feed multiple senses of my wife during the day in the ways she best responds. It is my wife learning just how to tease the deliberate build up of anticipation that will lead to a successful, intimate feast after dinner that night. There is an art to the intimacy between husband and wife that takes on the unique characteristics of the two artists involved in creating the intimate moment.

In contrast, I find that popular media (especially pornography) likes to portray sex like it’s most awesome when easily cranked out like one of those ultra high speed photocopiers at Kinko’s (yes, pun intended): Get it fast. Get it often. Get it easy. Everyone gets a copy. Sure, you get the picture – but it’s monochrome, impersonal, and unoriginal. Each one is just like the one before. It quickly becomes meaningless and lifeless. You crank out more copies hoping for something different in the output picture, but it will never be an original work of art.

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together. As Solomon’s Song suggests, there is a progression. It gets better, deeper, more refined, and even more powerful in ways neither husband nor wife could scarcely imagine, even in the intoxicating infatuation of the early relationship.

Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a work of art.

A Hint of Paradise

wendy at als

Kiss me and kiss me again,
    for your love is sweeter than wine.
Song of Solomon 1:2 (NLT)

 

I sit in a hotel lobby as I write this. I have a couple of days in client meetings early this week, so Wendy and I left on Saturday morning to tack on a little weekend getaway to my business trip. We’ve had a lot of fun and it’s been one long date since we left on Saturday morning. As I write this post the elevator music in the lobby is playing “Babe” by Styx, the sappy late 70’s early 80’s power ballad that conjures up memories of school dances, teen romances and off the chart infatuations. I laughed to myself as I heard it and thought about it in context of a romantic getaway with my bride. For some strange reason, I thought it would be fun to start Song of Solomon this morning.

The lyrics of Solomon’s ancient, romantic power ballad bills itself as “more wonderful than any other.” The duet (with back up chorus) starts with the young woman saying that her lover’s kisses are “sweeter than wine.” The truth is that love is intoxicating. I feel it this morning. I’ve felt it all weekend. I’m feeling drunk and sappy with love for Wendy who is my wife, my lover, and my friend. And, I’m enjoying it thoroughly, thank you very much.

Conservative theologians like to point out that Song of Solomon is an ancient allegory of the relationship between Jesus (e.g. the king) and the church (e.g. his bride). I get that, but that’s where the stuffy legalists like to leave the conversation. God forbid we actually have a conversation about the healthy sexual relationship between a husband and wife. What a shame. God is an artist and great art communicates truth on a multitude of different levels. Song of Solomon is an incredible set of ancient lyrics full of sappy romance and strong sexual references both overt (e.g. “my lover is a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts”) and subtle.

God, the artist, created us male and female. He created us naked. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Love, intimacy and sex between husband and wife was part of the original ideal and when we are blessed to experience a moment of it here, East of Eden, it is allows us to capture, even for a brief moment, a hint of the original paradise.

 

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 6

English: Watch Movement Français : Mouvement d...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want you to show love,
    not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
    more than I want burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

Intimacy has been a recurring topic in my life conversations of late. How interesting that it relates both to human relationships, namely marriage, but also to our relationship (or lack thereof) with God. Time and time again, God’s message makes a direct parallel between the two. Jesus used the metaphor of marriage to describe our relationship with Him on a continual basis.

Many struggle with intimacy in marriage. Having going through divorce after a 17 year marriage, I know that struggle. Instead of the deep experience of truly knowing and being known, two people spiritually, emotionally, and even physically hide themselves from one another. The relationship becomes contractual and platonic. Sex becomes a physical exercise (“Well, I guess we should”) rather than a spiritual and emotional experience of bodies and souls intertwining and finding oneness.

The same can be true of our relationship with God. Instead of the experience of truly knowing and being known, we spiritually and emotionally hide ourselves from God. The relationship becomes contractual and Lifeless. Relationship becomes rigid religious exercise rather than a spiritual and emotional experience of God and me in intertwining oneness.

I love the way God said it through Hosea the way a spouse would say it to his or her mate: I want your love – not your obligatory duty. I don’t want you to live with me as much as I want you to live within me.

Today, I’m continuing to pursue my relationship with God just as I pursue my relationship with Wendy. I want to relate to each in such a way that I experience it growing organically deeper and more fruitfully life-giving instead of going through rote daily ritual like a cog and a wheel in an inanimate machine.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 26

Laughing couple.
Image via Wikipedia

And today God has reaffirmed that you are dearly held treasure….” Deuteronomy 26:18a (MSG)

When I teach customer service skills to my clients, one of the skills I talk about is the importance of using the customer’s name in your conversation. Names imply relationship, and you want your customers to feel that they are more than just another “customer,” “account,” or “call” you have to deal with that day. They are a person who is known. You communicate that by calling them by name.

The truth of the matter is that as a relationship grows and becomes more intimate we not only use each other’s names but nicknames and pet names emerge that speak to an even deeper level of knowing and being known. The opposite is also true. As a relationship breaks down, people stop using one another’s names and refer to each other with simple pronouns like “they.” Then, derogatory nicknames emerge that communicate our negative perceptions of the person.

In today’s chapter, God tells Israel that they are “dearly held treasure” and it immediately reminded me of my own dearly held treasure: my wife, and my daughters. In fact, “treasure” is a special word between Wendy and me; It has incredible depth of meaning in our relationship. What makes it special I will leave between the two of us, but suffice it to say that when I read that God affirms that His children are “dearly held treasure” I feel something very deeply because of the connotations that “treasure” make with the most intimate human relationship I’ve ever experienced.

Today, I am thankful for dearly held treasure. I am thankful that I can treasure my wife, my children, my family and my friends. I am grateful that God treasures me.

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