The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sick in Love

"I am sick with love." 
Song of Solomon 2:5

Lovesickness is prominent in music, books, and movies. However, those mediums usually fail to grasp what it really means to be "sick with love." The Bible, however, gets it right. It is a fascinating book that takes the careful reader by surprise. The Bible offers, The Song of Solomon (SOS), which is certainly surprising. It is surprising, in part, because even Christians, often fail to see, taste, touch, grasp, and ponder the generosity of God. Therefore, when they encounter the lavish generosity of God in the Bible, they are surprised.

God is generous to his children in all things, including marriage. Ephesians chapter five makes it clear that marriage is a portrait of the gospel. Therefore, when reading Solomon's Song it is essential to keep the big picture of marriage in view; Marriage is about Christ and His church. In Solomon's portrayal of the deep, happy, sweet, unselfish, and even giddy love between a man and his wife we should see a snapshot of the treasury of God's generosity to us in Christ.

So, why are we surprised to read of unashamed expressions of marital love in the Bible? The truth is we should be surprised not to find uninhibited displays of romantic/erotic love. Perhaps, we need to saturate ourselves more in the sweet waters of God's goodness.

Our problem with the numerous sexual expressions in SOS is partly the result of a faulty theology of sexuality. Often embedded deep within the recesses of our hearts is the idea that intimacy, even in marriage, is a sort of "guilty pleasure." Sex is perceived to be naughty and dark, even between a husband and his wife.

Marital sex that is rooted in the gospel and driven by the Scripture is not dirty. It is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Marital sex is enjoyed by employing all of our senses with our most sanctified imagination. God is glorified when we receive his gifts and enjoy them for His glory and our good, even our pleasure. God is glorified when we are "sick with love" in a SOS sort-of-way. 

Lovesickness is a good thing. Yes, there is a Nicholas Sparks' love sickness that misses the mark and that is totally unsustainable. It is a worldly kind of "love" that is dreamy, ungrounded, and unstable. It is  lustful "love" that does not require marriage. It is fleshly and wandering. It is celebrated vicariously through books, magazines, the Internet, and the theatre, but it is woefully lacking. It is lacking because, at heart, it is self-centered. Godly marital intimacy, like the gospel that drives it, is first of all directed outwards. The husband seeks to bring pleasure to his wife and the wife to her husband. And both husband and wife find delight in the pleasures of the other. When a wife works in the marriage bed for the joy of her husband, the result is that she experiences greater pleasure than if she focused on her own isolated happiness.

Biblical lovesickness is grounded in Scripture and therefore saturated in the generosity and creativity of God as displayed in the gospel. Biblical lovesickness requires one to swim in the deep waters of God's grace. It requires knowing that God gives to his children not only what they need but also what they do not need. God is generous like that.

When we get wrapped up in eating, drinking, work, and sex for the sensations that such gifts give to us, then we cannot enjoy them, as we ought. When we understand that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed by working for the rapturous delight of our spouse, to the glory of God, then God will keep us "occupied with joy." (Ecclesiastes 5:20) 

The husband, who views sex from a SOS perspective, would never do anything to purposefully bring pain to his wife. No! He is totally focused on her pleasure. When he focuses on her pleasure, lovesickness is cultivated. And the result will be a heartsickness over anything that deviates from the ultimate well being of their marriage. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Victorian Marriage

Susannah Thompson first saw Charles Spurgeon when he preached in London at the New Park Street Church (NPSC), December of 1853. She was not impressed. She did not care for his appearance or his style of preaching. He came across as an overly dramatic country preacher and she was a more refined city girl. Her estimation of Charles would change.

Charles became the pastor of NPSC and he later discovered that Susannah was concerned about her spiritual life. He sent her a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. This book had profoundly influenced him (he would read it some 100 times before he died) and he saw it as an appropriate gift to give to a struggling soul. He inscribed the book: "Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage. From C.H. Spurgeon." At that point his only interest in Susannah was pastoral. She wrote, "He gently led me by his preaching and by his conversation, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the cross of Christ for the peace and pardon that my soul was longing for."

Their friendship deepened and on June 10, 1854, at the opening of the Crystal Palace, Charles and Susannah sat together. Until this point he had given her no indication of his feelings about her. However, that night everything changed. He pointed out to Susannah a poem, in a book by Martin Tupper, on praying for one's spouse. Charles asked Susannah if she prayed for her future husband. Spurgeon's intentions were now clear. The left their seats and took a walk around the Palace. Susannah wrote: "During that walk on that memorable day in June, I believe God Himself united our hearts in indissoluble bonds of true affection, and though we knew it not, gave us to each other forever."  Just two months later (August, 2, 1854), Charles asked Susannah to marry him. She was overcome with thanksgiving and retreated to an upper room at her grandfather's home. She wrote, "I knelt before God, and praised and thanked him with happy tears, for his great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man." It was obvious by their "loving looks, and tender tones, and clasping hands" that they were in love.

In Susannah's diary she recorded: "August 2, 1854: It is impossible to write down all that occurred this morning. I can only adore in silence the mercy of my God, and praise Him for all His benefits." Charles and Susannah Spurgeon were married at NPSC on January 8, 1856.

Though Susannah had some early challenges, related to her husband's popularity and the demands of his calling, she determined never to be an obstacle to him in his work. She writes: "It was ever the settled purpose of my married life that I should never hinder him from fulfilling his engagements, never plead my own ill-health as a reason why he should remain at home with me." Charles wrote to her, "I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship." Susannah was a true helper for Charles and brought great encouragement to him when he struggled with doubt and depression. Often on Sunday evenings she would minister to him by reading the poems of George Herbert. She was a true helper and friend to Charles.

Though Susannah had originally been unimpressed with Charles, the Lord would knit their hearts together. Their love story is one rich in affection, deepened by affliction, and faithful to the end. It was their commitment to Scripture, faith in God, and devotion to prayer that cemented their bond together. Their letters to one another reveal the depth of their love. Charles wrote to Susannah, "I beseech you, blend your hearty prayer with mine, that two of us may be agreed and thus will you promote the usefulness and holiness and happiness of one whom you love." Charles carried many burdens and yet he had the prayers of a godly wife and her shoulder to weep upon.

In our culture where marriage has been redefined, sexual deviation is celebrated at the theatre, and people rush to the courthouse to file for divorce, the marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon is an example, worthy of imitation.

Quotes above are from:

C.H. Spurgeon, Susannah Spurgeon, and Joseph Harraod, C.H. Spurgeon's Augtobiography: Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, 4 vols, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899-1900).