15 Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well. 16 Should your springs flow in the streets, streams of water in the public squares? 17 They should be for you alone and not for you to share wth strangers. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and take peasure in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful fawn – let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. 20 Why, my son, would you be infatuated with a forbidden woman or embrace the breasts of a stranger?
In our culture we are conditioned to define ideas like physical beauty and attraction by whoever is popular at the moment or superaltive genetics. Magazines, websites, and television release “hot lists” and “most beautiful people” lists every year so we can be confident that we are up to date with our understanding of what’s supposed to be attractive. Physical beauty is held up on a pedestal in such a way that we will even pretend someone’s life is worth watching on television because they are attractive regardless of how uninteresting their everyday lives may be. With advertising and promotional media leveraging not merely “beautiful people” but in many instances isolating certain body parts to “hook” the consumer’s attention we find that it is easy to begin to do the same thing. How many carefully edited and “doctored” photos from “just right” angles and with “just right” lighting litter the landscape of Facebook and Twitter and other social media profiles?
The old adage “sex sells” is true in its own way, but it now seems to be clear that we aren’t really selling sex, we are selling a truncated vision of how we are supposed to look and how the people we are with are supposed to look (it makes no matter if we are currently with someone else who may or may not “fit” this allegedly superior image of allure). Even the word “sexy” has now been relegated to the ranks of a big business deal or a risky manuever in life and no longer describes iconic 8″x10″ glossy photos of “beautful people”. Comeliness is no longer “sexy”, it’s “hot”. We have, as a culture, moved past our focus on the consumation of a relationship to a bizarre obsession with mere appearance. How many adults are far more concerned with their body mass index than engaging in a relationship, even in the most carnal of terms? We somehow justify spending more hours in the gym and more dollars on supplements and overpriced “protein coctails” than hours in conversation or dollars spent on tokens of affection with and for our spouse. What kind of backward, tidal wave of self-obsession could have brought us from the carnal pastime of looking at illicit images of scantily clad icons to the pretentious pastime of being captivated by a glimpse of our own image?
But Solomon’s wisdom rebuts this temporary thinking with long range vision. Essentially, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 5 to make sure that our definition of beauty is our spouse. We will become terribly dissatisfied and frustrated with our marriage if we allow a society engrossed and rivetted with sex, sensuality, and image obsession to dictate our idea of beauty. What a husband should consider beautiful is the wife that he wakes up next to. Likewise a wife should feel the same about the husband. The catch here is obvious but not talked about often enough. People get old, get loose, get soft, get saggy, and get slow. When we are bombarded week in and week out by the next crop of 25 year olds with perfect features, skin, and muscle tone we begin to live in a time warp where we fail to see the benefits and beauty of growing old with someone. We change together. Only if our standard of beauty is the person we are growing old with will we be able to live in this society with the determination and dedication to love and be loved in marriage as God has designed us to.
Solomon is open and honest with us in Proverbs 5 as he says that if we allow something other than our spouse to be our standard of beauty we will find that our lives will consist of disatisfaction and deep regrets. He says this because the reality of humanity is this: we will chase what we value highest. And the wise sage tries to warn us here that the answer is not learning to say “no” to those things that we truly want and desire, but to learn to rightly define what we want to say “yes” to.
This is great, Kris. I, myself, have struggled my entire life with image issues not so much due to what culture calls beauty, but mostly due to having a poor father figure. It’s something I don’t want my kid to ever experience, and so I’m thankful that her self-image, at least at first, will be shaped appropriately by the wonderful father God has given her. And there will be lots of prayer too. 😉
Have you been reading Driscoll’s new marriage book? Just wondering, b/c he writes about the spouse being the standard of beauty.