Have you ever walked in a garden under a pale moonlight? It’s counterintuitive, but at night, a garden truly glows. Everything is bathed in the moon’s gentle light. Visitors can breathe in the sweet fragrance of roses and lavenders, an intoxicating aroma.
During the day, the gardener tends to the plot, and the garden becomes hard-working and industrious. But at night, the garden invites the gardener to lay down the stresses of the day and rest in the pleasure of the fruits of his labor.
Our God is a giver. In Scripture, we encounter His gifts of both literal and metaphorical gardens. In the beginning, He created a world full of blessings. Then, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over creation and entrusted them to rule as He would. God also gave mankind the gifts of food and His Sabbath rest. Tucked away in the midst of all those blessings was another gift, a command to be fruitful and multiply while subduing the Earth.
In Genesis 2, we learn of the creation of the first man, Adam, and how God entrusted him with two gardens. The literal garden of Eden was given as part of Adam’s domain to cultivate, because it is where Heaven met Earth. The second and metaphorical garden, Eve, was given to Adam because God saw Adam needed a companion and helper in order to fulfill his purpose.
In the union of Adam and Eve, we find the design for pure delight and pleasure within marriage:
“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked, but felt no shame.”
Wrapped up in the sacred space of marriage, both husband and wife were truly free and truly satisfied.
Song of Solomon builds upon the foundation laid in Genesis, giving us a detailed look at God’s plan for pleasure and delight within the boundaries of marriage. Chapter 4 recounts the culmination of the wedding ceremony; here, we find the groom describing his bride as an abundant garden.
Within the garden metaphor, our Creator begins to unlock the mystery of Godly marriage. A good gardener tends carefully to his garden, looking forward to a fruitful harvest. He protects it from pests and disease and rot. The gardener removes troublesome weeds, ensuring a nutrient-rich environment. Finally, his gentle hand encourages flowers and fruit-producing trees to grow. Such a prized and prioritized garden will not only produce an abundant harvest, but will be a great beauty to behold.
In the same way, a husband is to tenderly care for, encourage, and protect his wife, helping her to flourish. Proverbs 31 describes a wife who is industrious and productive under the care of a good gardener.
Within the partnership of Godly marriage, both husband and wife, gardener and garden, delight in the pleasures of a fruitful harvest. In the safety and innocence of lifelong commitment, spouses find every physical sense captivated and exhilarated:
“You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes;
With one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful your caresses are, my sister, my bride.
Your caresses are much better than wine,
And the fragrance of your perfume, than any balsam.
Your lips drip sweetness like the honeycomb, my bride.
Honey and milk are under your tongue.”
(Song of Solomon 4:9-11, emphasis mine)
As with a garden, cultivating joy and pleasure within marriage requires time and intention. After the battles of the day have been fought, and the responsibilities of the day are laid to rest after bedtime prayers, husband and wife must intentionally turn their hearts, minds, and bodies to one another. Just as a vigilant gardener tends to every corner of his garden, we must make space to nurture our emotional, relational, spiritual, and physical connections.
But this sweet image of man and wife delighting in the fragrance and abundance of their nighttime garden is incomplete. Spouses will never find full delight, full satisfaction, full completion, solely in their mates . . . because husband and wife are human, and imperfect, and sinful.
Only when we have first found fullness of delight in God (our perfect, holy, lacking-in-nothing and possessing-all-we-need God) can we turn our attention from the scarcity in our spouse to overflowing gratitude for all the ways God blesses us through him.
And so, sisters, in the gardens of our marriages, let us first pursue and delight in our Master Gardener. Then, let’s enjoy the blessing of love and take delight in our spouses all the days of our lives.
“Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun.”
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