The Book of Romance, Part 1
About the Guest
On the broadcast today, Tommy Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church, encourages couples not to get lazy when romancing their husbands or wives. Tune in to hear Tommy explain 10 points that are critical to keeping romance alive.
Tom NelsonTom Nelson has been the pastor of Denton Bible Church, in Denton, Texas since 1977. Each year, Tom speaks to over 20,000 Song of Solomon Conference attendees and countless others via radio. In addition to the Song of Solomon materials, he is author of three books: The Book of Romance, The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible, and The Problem of Life with God. Tom has been married to Teresa Nelson for more than 30 years, and they have two grown sons, Ben and Joh...more
On the broadcast today, Tommy Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church, encourages couples not to get lazy when romancing their husbands or wives.
The Book of Romance, Part 1
Tommy: To married people, the biggest challenge is these married people that settle into the habits that become grooves that become ruts that become graves, and they sit and fantasize about what it could be; about what could happen; what might happen, but they can't ever break forth, and it challenges them that they are to be tender, sensitive, loving, godly – they are to do, as disciplines, what they did as instinctive.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 29th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Maybe you've never thought about romance as a discipline. It's time for us to do our exercises.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
Dennis: Did you hear about the survey they did in Dallas?
Bob: The survey in Dallas?
Dennis: Yeah, of single people in Dallas?
Bob: No, I didn't.
Dennis: They did a survey to ask who the author of the Song of Solomon was in Dallas, Texas, and did you know that about 75 percent of the singles in Dallas didn't say that Solomon was the author.
Bob: Yeah, they should have gotten that because it's the Song of Solomon.
Dennis: Song of Solomon, that's right, but they didn't guess that. Do you know what they said?
Dennis: Tommy Nelson.
Bob: Tommy had written the whole thing.
Dennis: Tommy Nelson had written the Song of Solomon. Now, Tommy, who do you think singles in Dallas, Texas, would have said that?
Tommy: Probably, there's about 4,000 of them listening to it at that time. That's the closest I can come.
Dennis: Well, a lot of our listeners have appreciated your ministry here on the broadcast as over the past – well, I guess, two or three Valentines', Bob, we have played your series you gave before 4,000 singles in Dallas, and that has to be a hoot …
Tommy: … yes …
Dennis: … to have that many singles gather together to look into that book.
Tommy: And I've met them all over the country. People will approach me and say "I heard you on FamilyLife, and thanks so much for the Song of Solomon." I never realized how far-reaching this ministry went until people came to from all over the country. Thank you.
Dennis: Well, some of them went on military bases.
Tommy: Campus Crusade picked this up and put it with their military ministry, and they put it all over the country, and I got letters from, oh, fellows in Turkey, fellows in Kuwait, that they had shown it on submarines, they had shown it on the tarmac out in Kuwait. The military picked up the Song of Solomon probably more than any single group anyplace. That was where they were hurting the most.
Bob: Well, and I saw the number of soldiers going AWOL, too.
Tommy: It will inspire you.
Dennis: Well, to those listeners who don't know who Tommy Nelson is, and who do think Solomon was the truth author of the Song of Solomon, Tommy Nelson is the senior pastor at Denton Bible Church. He is a gifted Bible teacher as those 4,000 singles can tell you as well as the people who go to his church. He speaks at FCA conferences, Campus Crusade conferences. You love college students.
Tommy: I do. I love college students. They're the tomorrow, and Campus Crusade honors discipline, evangelism, ministry, and that's the kind of kid that's attracted to them, and …
Dennis: … and you mentioned a key word that I want to talk about today – attraction.
Tommy: Attraction, let's speak of attraction.
Dennis: Let's talk about attraction. What's wrong with our system of how we're attracted to one another?
Tommy: Well, we're attracted, we're just attracted to the wrong things, basically.
Dennis: Such as?
Tommy: The most surface would be looks and then after looks and body, you go to the ability to charm, i.e., the personality you present.
Bob: Do you remember the first attraction you had for your wife?
Tommy: You know, I do. My wife, when I saw her at a Campus Crusade meeting, I saw that she was pretty, but I was not attracted to her. All that I began to notice is that she was what you call the "go-to" girl of Campus Crusade. They went to her whenever they had anything that needed to be done, had to be done, had to be done right, they went to this country girl from East Texas, and she knew how to work, and she knew how to work with people, and she was faithful.
She was shy. Whenever she began to share off of her heart, she'd start crying, but she was a servant. When she would show up at Campus Crusade meetings, all these girls would pile out of her car. She was kind of the taxi for all of them, and I said, "Boy, what a quality girl." But she grew on me after a while. Those things that last, I saw, "Boy, they're really there in this girl."
Bob: Now, is that because you were wise enough at that time to know to look past the surface or was it just the sovereign work of God to protect you from yourself.
Tommy: I think it was the sovereign work of God to protect me from myself. I didn't have sense enough, I was that young a Christian.
Dennis: You know, you say in your book, which is called "The Book of Romance," not the Song of Solomon, by the way, you didn't author that. You say that when you met her, you began to gather firewood.
Tommy: Right. The best analogy I can show of building a relationship is if you build a campfire, and you use lighter fluid, all right, it goes up immediately, it's huge, it's glorious, it's wonderful, but it doesn't last because it's surface. What you have to do is you've got to get a fire going where you have these big, deep coals, these big embers, and once those embers are going, they self-sustain, and you can pile everything on them, and it will keep going.
Well, that's kind of the way – if you build a relationship on nothing but the glibness of personality and looks and someone's body or figure, those things disappear. They come and go, and especially if it gets into immorality.
What you have to build it upon are those things that are going to last, like character, faithfulness, trustworthiness, true admiration – those things, once they're in place, now, you can pile 60 years on top of them, and they'll last.
Dennis: You've taught this Bible study. It's called the "Metro Bible Study?"
Tommy: Metro Bible Study in Dallas, Texas.
Dennis: Thousands of singles attending.
Dennis: These singles today talk about a foundation that's the wrong foundation. A lot of them don't have the foggiest idea of how to build that relationship, do they?
Tommy: No, they don't, and the longer that I'm out there, the more I see that the – well, what you would call the "median," I guess, is moving backward as far as a basic knowledge of God, right, wrong, morals – it is – and this is with the guys that are my generation, a little bit younger, singles, college kids, they really, God love them, they don't have a clue.
Bob: Tommy, before you taught this material to singles, you taught it in your church, right?
Tommy: Yes, I did. I taught it on a lark one time just for fun. I had always studied the Song of Solomon and used it in my own personal marriage. I'm just a simple believer in the fact that it means what it says.
The Song of Solomon, obviously, is a narrative about Solomon and his girlfriend who became his wife and his lover. However, the book's primary purpose is not illustrative, it is instructive. Because we have this thing in life that is called – and I'm doing a little preaching here, getting off your deal there, Bob – but it's called sexuality, marriage, romance – those are not minor issues. If you miss on those, you die, a culture dies.
Bob: If you miss on romance, culture dies?
Tommy: Oh, yeah. Just like – well, Christians are as bad in romance as unbelievers are in morality, because you can take – the area of building a relationship on immorality, bad dating principles, and then once you get into marriage, the inability to discipline yourself unto romance – and that's what romance is – it's the discipline of politeness that breeds romance, and if you can't do that, they don't just cause little problems in your life.
And so I really am not – I don't think God made us like this and then just kind of tossed us this grenade, you know, that's called marriage and sexuality and said, "Do it as best you can. Figure it out as you go along with it." I think that He's given us a guide, and He has. As a matter of fact, it's the most simplistic, to me, of books. Any idiot can read it and figure this thing out. It's not a deep, deep kind of a book. There's no big theological problems with it. It's very easy. So I just ran my marriage with it and blessed myself, and a guy said, "I dare you to teach it." Had a six-week break, and I did it, and the church went from 700 to upwards of 1,000 then to 1,400 within a few weeks. We all but doubled our church.
Dennis: By teaching the Song of Solomon?
Tommy: By teaching the Song of Solomon. The word got out on it that we actually had – that there was someone teaching from the Bible, that there was something the Bible had to say about love, sex, marriage, and romance. We had a college service that had 300 kids, and by the time we finished it – we counted them. We had 711 kids in a building that held 300, and we had to go buy cushions to put them out on the floor to get kids to come up and sit on the cushions so that we could fit them in there, because they found out there actually was – just – the very proposition that there was a word from God on the area of sexuality in marriage because they had seen their culture, they had seen their marriage, their parents' marriages, they had watched it explode all around them, and the very idea that there was a word from God, they had to find out if it was true.
Dennis: An authoritative word about sex, romance, and marriage. In fact, what you've been alluding to here has been the historical interpretation in some areas of the church in the Christian community that this is an allegorical book referring to Christ in the church and not the sexual nature of the marriage relationship. And, Tommy, I know where that myth came from, I do.
Dennis: I figured it out. There was a monk in the 14th century who had been holed up for several years and came across the Song of Solomon, and he started reading it, and he said, "Man, if this is teaching what I think it is, I've got to get out of here." And so in order to stay in the order and stay in the monastery, he made it an allegory between Christ and the church and did away with the whole deal.
Bob: It was either that or run off and get married. He had no other options.
Dennis: He was saying, "If this really teaches this, I'm in trouble here in this monastery."
Bob: In fact, I've heard – you may have heard this as well – that Jewish boys were not allowed to read this book?
Tommy: Because it is a passionate book, yeah, because it would excite them too much.
Bob: Until after their bar mitzvah, this was verboten, huh?
Bob: So you teach it to young singles in Dallas. Isn't that like throwing kerosene on a fire?
Tommy: I don't think so, because I'll tell you why – the book is two things – it is incredibly holy, and it is incredibly passionate. Singles would come to me, and their only complain was no one can be this pure because there's a phrase that's mentioned three times – oh, no, four times in the book – don't arouse or awaken love until it pleases.
So – and Solomon, on the honeymoon night, looks at the virginity of his wife, and he says, "You are a garden sealed up" – that she was off limits to him until his honeymoon, and she invites him into the aromaticness of her body, like a garden that he had cultivated.
Well, singles say it's too pure. Couples come to me and say it's unrealistic. No married couple can be that erotic. That's what they'll say, because when you take them through – I think it's about chapter 7 of the book – it's marital love, not honeymoon love but marital love. The sex act in the book, once the couple has been married, is more intense than it was on the honeymoon night.
Now, we do just the opposite. You know, we tend to have these passionate honeymoons, and then we cool off, and in the book it just gets more passionate, and couples will come to me and say, "The Bible simply is too unreasonable in its expectations of passions and sexuality." How many times have you heard that criticism against the Bible?
Dennis: Yeah, really, at the end of the book, the Shulamite woman has asked him to go to the vineyard, out in the woods, and it's not for some horticultural experience.
Tommy: That's a good answer to your statement there, Bob. No, it really isn't throwing kerosene. If it does anything, it quenches the illicit drives, and it excites normative ones.
Bob: Well, one of the questions I've wanted to ask you is about this Shulamite woman – is she number one of Solomon's wives? Is she number 452? Where does she fit in the scheme of things?
Tommy: Well, you're talking right now about the leading question I have when people come to me on the Song of Solomon – why does this guy get to write? It was such an obvious problem with all of his wives and concubines. And Solomon, in the book, says, "There are maids without number," and this and that, and he did have wives. And, of course, it led to his fall.
This probably is his marriage that is a marriage that is solely upon love. It's not one that is done for trade purposes like a lot of marriages were.
Bob: Explain what you mean about trade purposes and why he may have wound up with as many wives as he did?
Tommy: Well, a lot of times, kings would have – just like they would in medieval times – they would have union with another man's daughter so that he could build an alliance, a trade alliance, i.e., Solomon with Egypt. And so there's an old statement about striking a straight lick with a crooked stick, and that's just what God is able to do with all of us that are sitting around these microphones, you know, that – I share with people that I teach that my marriage is a long way from perfect.
Dennis: You know, we've talked to single people about remaining pure. We've talked about married people – about getting out of ruts. There really is hope for a marriage that's listening to today's broadcast …
Tommy: … oh, yes …
Dennis: … that they can get in a book like this; begin to communicate heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul and, yes, passionately, body-to-body. This book teaches that there is a whole relationship that Christians can experience in a marriage, doesn't it?
Tommy: Yes. This book embodies and shows, as biblical, what we all used to dream about until we got married and so disillusioned. That whenever we got married, we thought about passionate honeymoons and long, wonderful, deep romantic marriages. That's why we got married. None of us went into marriage with the idea let's hurry up and get this honeymoon over so we can get stale really quick. None of us thought that.
And yet we're treated with the fact that somehow that's the norm. You're supposed to get married and have passion. What was the old Nancy Sinatra song? "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout. We've been talking about Jackson ever since the fire went out," and that's kind of the way that we are.
In this book, it looks at conflict – you have two chapters on – they have a fight, and it shows that it's normative, and it shows you how to work through it. And then it shows you about passion in marriage, and you find out that "You mean this is the biblical ideal? You're not supposed to settle into this old shoe on an old foot kind of relationship?"
No, you don't. As a matter of fact, these are the great places of people that listen that are the most challenged. Single people are challenged about purity, and as I taught this, I would have to stop periodically and kind of back up and assure them that God is a God of love, forgiveness, and restoration, and He was in the business of carpentry, of making new things.
Because those girls, they would look at me, and you could see their eyes fill up with tears. You could see guys get that blank look, that 1,000-yard stare where they were looking at the video of their past, that kind of ignorant look – you know how guys get? And they were just hurting. And so I would back up to the singles and let them know that God is the God that produces carpenters' sons; that He changes things.
But to married people, the biggest challenge is these married people that settle into the habits that become grooves that become ruts that become graves, and they sit and fantasize about what it could be, about what could happen, what might happen, but they can't ever break forth, and it challenges them that they are to be tender, sensitive, loving, godly. They are to do as disciplines what they did as instinctive, in other words, early in their marriage. It challenges them and, a lot of times, you get the two great killers of passion, which are laziness and sin.
That you have sin that has occurred; you don't communicate about it, and you have these big barbs that have gone into you, and you've learned to accommodate them. As long as you don't move a certain way, the barb won't hurt, and so you have these couples that are idle, learning to coexist around the pain of his anger, his insensitivity, her verbal hostile reactions, her withdrawal, her passive aggression. You've seen a million of them, and we learn to coexist with those big stilettos in each other and not move so they won't hurt, and we just stay silent about it. And that's sin.
And then the other great killer is just laziness; that when we were courting we did things out of just pure manipulativeness and selfishness – I knew I couldn't get her unless I pulled out the chair and told her she was beautiful and smelled great, and she couldn't get me unless she laughed at my jokes and told me I was handsome and had big arms, you know, whatever women do.
And what happens is, all the things that were instinctive, once you get in a marriage, they can't be instinctive anymore.
Dennis: Well, you stop building the fire. You stop adding the wood to the fire, and you can't keep a fire going in the rain.
Tommy: No. It takes discipline. Romance is a discipline of stopping, of turning toward that person, putting down what I'm doing, and listening, which is one of the most passionate things a human can do, is listen to another one. It creates affairs. That's the way you start an affair – somebody listens to you.
Bob: I want to know what it's been like for your wife since you started gaining some notoriety on this subject.
Tommy: You know, I'll tell you a couple of things on this – she is a – just a very down-to-earth, East Texas farm girl that grew up having to help with picking the peas and planting and herding cattle. Everybody wants to see my wife after they've read this book or heard the video – they want to see my wife.
Luckily, at the end of the video, the last night, she came with me, she wasn't even there on the video. Well, she came the last night, and they put the camera on her, and, of course, she is lovely, even if she's not my wife, she's a beautiful woman, and everybody could finally see her. But everyplace I go, people say do you have a picture of my wife.
And so my wife one time came to me, and she was going to give me a picture of Kim Basinger and say, "I want you to show them," because they all think my wife's supposed to be this incredibly voluptuous kind of woman, and she is a great woman, yea, a fine woman to me. But she is, nevertheless, a woman approaching 50 who has had a couple of kids, and she's a real down-to-earth – I've said in the book, I think, I said for presents I give her gift certificates to Ace Hardware. Her favorite show is those Bob Vila shows that nobody ever watches, but she watches them on how to do all that stuff.
Bob: Gets inspired, huh?
Tommy: She does.
Dennis: I'll tell you what's a great gift – this book is a great gift. This would make a great gift for a husband to give his wife or a wife to give her husband or to give each other, because one of the problems with romance is, yes, we can be lazy; yes, we're definitely selfish and sinful, but also a part of it, Tommy, is we've never been trained in romance. We did it instinctively before we got married, but we don't know how to pursue romance over the lifetime of a marriage with all its valleys, with all its mountaintops and all the woods in between – we don't know how to go through that journey and follow that trail, and we need men like you who have been over some of those rocky crags that the dove was hiding in, in the book …
Tommy: Yes, he had to draw her out.
Dennis: Yeah, had to draw her out of that cave. And this is a wonderful book, and I just think couples ought to get this and make romance an everyday part …
Bob: … a discipline that is a part of the fabric of their relationship. You know, actually, looking through this, not just couples but couples-to-be. I mean, a lot of what is in the Song of Solomon is preparatory for marriage, and whether a couple has been married for years or whether they're on the cusp of being married, what you've taken from the Song of Solomon and put into this book is wise, biblical counsel.
And we've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. In fact, as our listeners might imagine, in our FamilyLife Resource Center you will find a lot of resources about romance and passion in marriage. It's one of the subjects that couples write to us about regularly, asking us for biblical counsel on how to keep romance and passion an integral part of your marriage relationship.
And if you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, you click the red button that says "Go" that is right in the middle of the screen, that will take you to a page that not only has information about Tommy's book, but it's got a whole variety of resources that deal with issues related to intimacy and romance and passion in marriage.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. You click the red button that says "Go," and you can order resources from our website, or you can call us, if you'd like, at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Ask about "The Book of Romance," by Tommy Nelson. The Song of Solomon series that he has done is also available on CD, and there is information about that on our website or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY, someone can pass the information about that along to you as well.
There is one other resource that I want to make mention of, because many of our listeners have been contacting us this month and have requested a copy of the getaway guide for couples called "Getting Away to Get it Together." It's a book that is designed to walk you through projects you can do together as a couple as you get away for a weekend and think about your marriage, about your relationship, your family, where you're going, your priorities, your goals, issues you may need to address, and I think a lot of us can think, "Boy, we could use a weekend like that, but I just wouldn't know what to do."
This book walks you through exactly what to do, and, as I mentioned, we've been sending it to many of our listeners this month as a thank you gift to anyone who can help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today during the month of January. So if you can make a donation either online at FamilyLife.com, or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY – you can request a copy of this book, and we're happy to send it out to you.
Just ask for the getaway book when you call, or if you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box, type the word "away" into the keycode box, and we'll know that you want to have this getaway book sent out to you as well. Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry. We're listener-supported, and we appreciate those of you who partner with us to make this daily broadcast possible.
Well, tomorrow Tommy Nelson is going to be back with us. We're going to continue to talk about love and marriage and romance and passion and the Bible and God and how all of that fits together. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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