My church is going through a message series on love, marriage and sex. I was asked again to contribute to our church’s devotions website and assigned some pretty challenging verses in Song of Solomon. Since I don’t have to be a scholar in order to write this, I did exactly what I was told to do, which is write whatever God had laid on my heart. Unfortunately, I am given a 300 word parameter on the subject. Keeping my devotional to 300 words is more than half of my challenge. I thought and prayed quite a bit about the matter. I began to write.
When I wrote it I was at the heels of finishing up (for the second time) one of my favorite novels: The Shadow of the Wind. In this book there is no such thing as describing anything with a single word.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, its author, describes an unused pen as “the best pair of gloves ever given to someone with no hands”, he depicts a rain cloud as a bruise in the sky, and a storm as a reef of clods and lightning racing across the sky from the sea. When I read, “A stream of black water converged in the center of the narrow street and made its way, like a funeral procession, toward the heart of the Raval quarter” to simply state that I had a peach tree in my backyard was impossible.
Fortunately, this here is my space and I get to be the boss of my words and write as many as I please. And you, my dear reader, get to read the entire 525 word devotional that, after 3 more tries, got condensed to its final polished and edited version that you can read here.
The peach tree was the largest fruit tree in our bountiful back yard. For my best friend Marcela and me, it was a jungle gym with monkey bars as well as a sanctuary and a castle whose boughs were our thrones. It was the bearer of our preteen giggles and the keeper of our cherished secrets. On its branches lay the sweet fruit that would soon become a banquet for our lazy summer afternoons. On one early summer afternoon, when our brows were seating and our stomachs were growling and we could no longer wait for summertime to take its course, we decided it was time to reach toward the closest peach our friendly tree we could offer us. We knew good and well that perhaps our choice would not be the wisest (or the tastiest). Somewhere deep within our beings we understood that we were deceiving ourselves into thinking that it would actually taste as good as what we thought we deserved on this hot, enticing summer day. We were, after all, hot and we were hungry. We wanted it NOW. So we took it.
My dear friend Marcela didn’t even make it down our tree before our green prize found its way back up her esophagus. I, on the other hand, was doomed to hours of intestinal discomfort. Both of us were left with the sour taste in our mouths. Even to this day, if I think about it, I can still savor its bitterness. If only we had waited for our tree to unlock its mouth-watering sweetness in its due time.
Fortunately, I can recall a considerably more satisfying peach from another time and another place. This peach was so sweet and juicy, I had to eat it outside and bent over. I managed to get it all over my hands, my face and all the way down my chin. I had never tasted something so good and succulent in my entire life.
As we explore together the topic of love and sex in the next few weeks and recall its lessons in the years to come, remember this story. Remember that sex, when experienced before its due time (outside of marriage), will leave a lingering bitter taste in your soul and an ache in your heart that will be impossible to forget. Remember that waiting will yield the purest and sweetest joy that you will continue to enjoy for years to come.
Please know, however, that if your mouth is already bitter and your heart is full of ache and regret, there is another story that should be remembered, the story of the father and mother of the man that pinned these verses: David and Bathsheba. Know that you can move forward, let Christ release any bitterness and ache that may have been left behind. Don’t forget that grace sweeps in and frees us all. He blots out our transgressions, washes away our iniquity and cleanses us from sin (Psalm 51 1-2); he restores in us the joy of our salvation (v. 12). The beautiful sweetness of redemption leaves no room for shame; the aftertaste is that of pure succulent joy.