My husband and I have been married for 19.5 years. That .5 is worth noting, based on the shape of our last year.
The truth is, while the lyrics are terrible, Pat Benatar got pretty close—love (in marriage) is a battlefield.
God writes about it in the second chapter of Song of Songs, verse 4:
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
You have to do a little digging to understand the reference that connects the banner to the battlefield. The Hebrew word for banner used in most translations of Song of Songs 2:4 is only ever mentioned in the Bible there and in the Book of Numbers, where we see the banner created to ready the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land of milk and honey. The people of Israel were preparing for battle, and each banner raised among the tribes contained a visual representation of their father’s house, symbolizing the refuge, protection, and provision of God in the warfare to come.
Why is there a military reference in the love story of the Song of Songs? The bride-to-be is inviting the groom to place his banner over her to show her, and all those around her, that he is her protector, provider, and refuge. This sounds so old-fashioned that I cringe a little bit as I write it out. But stay with me—as I study the Bible, as I look into my own life, and as I look around me, I realize just how true this image is. I am not talking about the weak-in-the-knees, I-can’t-do-it-for-myself media-inflamed image of women relying on men for our rescue. We have God for that. Rather, both parties come into a marriage with this question on their heart:
Will you fight for me?
I have God for my salvation. My husband rests in God alone for his eternal life. But with that as our unshaken foundation, we each still want to know that the other will fight when the time comes.
When love is new and as the excitement of it unfolds, I want to know that you will fight to make time for me, to discover the depths of me.
When love commits to a lifetime, he wants to know that it’s not just momentary, but it really is forever. That I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. That the wedding guests and gifts are nice but more than all that on this day, that I have invited God to take His sword and cut what was in me that was so very independent out while mysteriously leaving all the important bits in, so that He may then fashion our two parts into one whole—like a mender sewing two pieces of cloth together. Like an ironsmith, forging the hilt of a sword.
When love is passionate and impetuous, I want to know that forgiveness will reign. When words are hot and heated and hurtful, he wants to know that I’ll fight through the fire to see his heart underneath it.
When love encounters life’s troubles, he wants to know that I will take hold of his hand, aggressively beat away the plagues of sadness and frustration, push through the famine of struggle, and find the resources and the help our marriage and our family need.
When love is weary, I want to know that he isn’t giving up on me. When infertility strikes, or when loss is our reality, when I am covered in breastmilk spit-up and haven’t showered for forty-six hours, I want to know he’s all in. When intimacy is more painful than it should be, when affection looks more like washing the dishes and finding a way to pay the electric bill than pinches on the bottom and stolen kisses, I want to know that he will take the time and energy to help me find the person I lost somewhere inside myself and the couple we misplaced in our exhaustion.
When love is tempted or sabotaged or wrecked by this world and all its yuck and lies and heartache …
When love is filled with the joy and power and purpose and beauty and value of God and all the wonderful things He brings into this life together …
I want to know that my husband will fight for me; for us. He wants to know that I will fight for him; for us.
This is the least-often-mentioned task of marriage, and the most deeply desired, I have noticed. In the realness of daily life together—all the tasks and challenges and work annoyances and kid troubles and ridiculously loud chip-chewing—whether you are male or female, you want to know that your partner is in this for the long haul and willing to do the work, to slay the giants, and to take a shot in the heart for our mutual prize: the story of us.
The battlefield of marriage is gruesome and glorious. But, our champion has outfitted us with the best equipment.
Equipment 1: the Word. Read it.
Equipment 2: a double portion of rations. Accept the invitation to meet God at His Table. Take Communion. Sit with the Body of Christ. Find strength and forgiveness.
Equipment 3: the ultimate ally. When Jesus Christ fought the battle for our souls, He won. The battle is won. What is left, we can handle. We never fight alone.
Today, turn to your spouse—bring some flowers or chocolates or something less traditional and more personal and say these words:
“Bring me my sword!”
Just joking, here are some better words:
“I will fight for you.”