My wife loves fire in the fireplace.
For four months out of the year, it is constantly burning. And it better not be a small fire where you flip a switch and a light comes on under the fake wood. She wants to hear the sap sizzling, the wood crackling; there needs to be a legitimate danger of the house burning down.
A few years ago our gas pipe broke so I could no longer light a fire the easy way. Now it takes actual work—I have to gather kindling and light it without catching my face on fire.
There are many nights where I find myself in the dark, freezing cold, traipsing around in an ice storm looking for dry kindling.
A Roaring Inferno Turned to Smolders
I think that relationships are a lot like this. I think that for nearly all of us, the heat and the excitement of things getting started is fairly easy. Because attraction in and of itself produces a zeal and a gladness and an excitement and a kind of nervous energy.
But then over time, the routine of knowing one another and the pace of life take a lot of that heat away. And that fire that was so easy to start in the beginning becomes harder and harder to get going.
Where there was once a roaring inferno, there was creativity, there was discipline, there was pursuit, and now, all of a sudden, under the weight of life, under the stresses of life, the fire has died down somewhat. Maybe it's a nice little glowing fire, and that can be good. You can work with that. But maybe it's kind of smoldering and there's barely any heat left in it.
Building a Fire that Never Goes Out
It's in that season that people begin to say things that are not indicative of having entered a covenantal union. It's then that couples often begin thinking the dying fire is a lost cause. It's not giving off any heat or light, so they assume they should wander off elsewhere to look.
But for the Christian who understands the marriage relationship to be a covenant based on the grace of God in the gospel, we recognize that we do not "fall out of love" with our spouses, because love is not based on how we feel. It's based on the covenant itself, on the promises we made.
But if we're mindful, our fire doesn't have to go out. It may rage or flicker, but it won't go out, so long as we keep tending to it. You just have to keep putting logs on the fire. And maybe you've got to be out in the darkness, wandering around blind in an ice storm to find them, but the work will be worth it.
In Song of Songs, we learn some valuable lessons in throwing logs onto the fire of romance in our marriage.
1. You must pay attention.
One of the real gifts that God has given to us in marriage is this treasure hunt of finding out things in our spouses that nobody else can (or should). What a gift to be given by God to spend decades with someone, Lord willing, in a safe covenant relationship, where you can know these intricate intimacies that no one else knows.
If we want to throw logs on the fire of romance, husbands and wives, here's the first thing you have to do: pay attention. You have this opportunity to see things that no one else is going to get to see. Pay attention, study your spouse, learn them and then you can turn around and use these things you've learned to demonstrate your love for them.
Paying attention to each other, becoming students of each other, is an important way for a married couple to weave romance into the fabric of their relationship.
2. You must get away.
Sometimes you have to take a break from the routine.
Vacations are great. If you have the means to go out of town or get away from the kids to a hotel on a long date, please take advantage of that.
For many, however, finances don't allow a lot of date nights or trips away, so you will have to be more creative about carving out margin in your lives to get away together. You can learn to redeem the time together, no matter how much time you've got.
Try to pull out of all the craziness that's going on in your life and make sure you're focused just on one another in those times. Because if you don't, you increase the likelihood of taking the stresses out on each other.
Do what you can to get away. This is a log on the fire.
3. You must work hard.
That firewood didn't get on my porch by magic. Even though it was dark and freezing cold, I knew my baby wanted a fire in that fireplace, and if I was going to provide it for her, I was going to have to do some work.
I think probably the greatest enemy of keeping the fire burning in our marriages is just plain laziness.
We must constantly guard against the tendency to downshift into tepid relational dynamics. I don't believe that the fires of passion can always be at honeymoon level, but all of us in marriage are called by God to tend the fire. We have to watch it, keep an eye on it. When it gets low, we're all responsible to throw more wood on the fire.
Solomon and his queen are working hard at this marriage. Time has passed, the years have added wrinkles and pounds, but they're still complimenting, still flirting, and still pursuing each other. They're being intentional.
And this can be hard work. Romance is a discipline. You can't be lazy and expect romance to blossom in your marriage.
Excerpt taken from The Mingling of Souls: With references to the Song of Solomon, Matt Chandler helps navigate topics like attraction, courtship, marriage and even arguing for both single and married couples by revealing the process Solomon himself followed. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love. © 2015 Matt Chandler. The Mingling of Souls is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.