I was mad. My husband came home from the gym later than I had expected. He was, from my perspective, clearly in the wrong. So I said my “good night”, rolled over with a certain thump of anger, pulled the covers up over my head and closed my eyes. I hoped to wake up in the morning to his admission of wrong. I would then forgive him and we would go about our day in unity. Tomorrow.
Instead, I lay there stewing in my anger, the fortified wall of bitterness growing stronger by the moment.
Marriage is hard. Conflict is a very real part of it, and if we don’t deal with it in healthy ways, according to God’s design, the foundations of our unity can be drastically shaken.
Two imperfect humans form a forever union that displays a picture of God’s relationship with His Church. But the pictures are blurry, smudged and often just plain broken because we don’t deal with conflict the way God prescribed.
We find that prescription in the story Solomon tells in the verses of today’s reading.
The Shulammite is upset with him, so she locks herself in the bedroom. He tries to get her to open up, but she won’t. Not until it’s too late, and he’s already gone.
Then dismay sets in and she needs to find him. She longs for him. Her friends ask what’s so great about him, and in so doing, they help her remember the truth about her love for her husband. I imagine her anger made her temporarily forget.
When they finally find each other again, Solomon and the Shulammite reconcile and their love grows deeper.
It’s a beautiful story of love growing stronger. Because we will argue with our spouses. We will disagree at some point, and we will want to lock ourselves up and not deal with the disappointment.
But when we remember the beginning, when we recall the truth of the person with whom we are unified forever, our love grows stronger and we find the willingness to reconcile with our mate. We want to kiss and make up.
Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes not. But marriages that honor God’s design find strength in the midst of their conflict. They don’t avoid it. They don’t seek it out. They simply deal with it when it happens, and they come out on the other side of it looking more like Jesus than they did before.
God’s way is always best, even when it comes to conflict.