We find in Genesis 2:22, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” From this verse, we realize, at least in part, God’s plan for male/female relationships, namely that God designed man and woman to come together, both physically and spiritually as one unit. Throughout Scripture, we find God’s unfolding and perfect design for how this comes about. Perhaps no better place to look in Scripture for grasping matters of attraction, purity, and the process of moving towards that place of covenant marriage is the Song of Solomon. Pastor and author Matt Chandler in his book The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex & Redemption provides a solid foundation for understanding God’s desires in these areas as opposed to the go your own way approach found in society.
As one who is currently in the middle of an in-depth study of the Song of Solomon, I must admit I was excited to find someone tackling this often neglected book of Scripture. Now it must be stated the underlying purpose of Chandler’s book is not to provide the reader with a verse by verse commentary on the Song of Solomon. If you are looking for that type of book, this most definitely is not it. If you are looking for a commentary on the Song of Solomon, there are many quality options available. Chandler’s book is focused on helping the reader understand how God desires male/female relationships to operate all the way from that time why a person of the opposite sex “catches your eye”, through that time of getting to know one another, to that point when you realize God has brought you together for something of a more permanent nature, finally reaching that point of covenant marriage.
There was much of this book I thoroughly enjoyed and admittedly a few recurring elements that I had a hard time finding agreement with. Let me start with the overwhelming positives first, specifically the urgency by which Chandler stresses the need for purity throughout the relationship process. If there is one theme that weaves its way throughout the Song of Solomon, it is a yearning to be in the arms of your beloved with the accompanying understanding not to awaken love, in this case the physical pleasures of covenant marriage, before its proper time. That particular phrase is repeated throughout the Song of Solomon and Chandler drives that important point home in his chapters on attraction, dating, and courtship.
An important aspect of maintaining that level of purity is the need for accountability. I appreciated that Chandler noted the necessity of treating members of the opposite sex as brothers and sisters in Christ. His personal example of watching out for his own sister when boys came calling her for a date was poignant and reminded me of my own approach with my sister. His comments on the foolishness of “movie night” and the idea that two people who are attracted to one another and full of that churning within themselves can sit on a couch together alone in a house and keep their hands off one another is of course the height of absurdity. Chandler advises the reader that while the desire for physical intimacy is God-given, what is also ordained by God is the need for those desires “to be held in check until marriage.” Thus, when getting together with that one you are madly in love with, do so with the approach of accountability and ensuring the situation does not have room for undue temptations.
I also fully appreciated Chandler’s discussion of how marriage is a covenant and not a contract. He aptly notes “In a covenant, we don’t barter around services. We’re not trying to get under a tax shelter. We’re entering into a relationship in such a way that we give ourselves to one another. Vows aren’t contractual. They’re covenantal.” This is a very important point for those thinking about entering marriage and for that matter even those who have been married for a long period of time to constantly remember. Marriage and relationships are serious business.
The one aspect of this book that I found difficult was Chandler’s interaction in points with the Song of Solomon. At times, his analysis and application were a bit off. An example of this is his comments on Song of Solomon 3:1-4. Chandler suggests the Shulammite woman literally wandered the streets looking for her beloved and kept searching until she physically located him. When she found him, she brought him home to see momma. The point of interacting with this passage was intended to drive home the importance of parental involvement in the dating/courtship process and to that end, I wholeheartedly agree with the need for parents to play a tremendous part. However, the idea that the Shulammite woman was speaking of actually wandering the streets in the middle of the night in search of her man is truly something foreign to the context of the passage and according to a majority of scholars, would simply have not happened in that culture. The good news is such a slight foible does not damage the underlying message he is getting across but it must be pointed out as part of an honest review.
With that said, this is still a book I do highly recommend for both singles and married couples. In a day and age where godly relationships are shunned in favor of sexual promiscuity, Chandler provides a biblically based approach to how God desires male/female interaction to take place. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.