People sometimes say, “in our family we seldom talked about sex.” I would say that, but it might give the impression that we did, on rare occasions, actually talk about it—which would be misleading. Although my older brother claims to have had one such discussion with my parents, I’ve never able to verify that, so his claim remains in dispute.
About the closest I ever came to such a conversation was by accident. In my story of the colonel and his wife, I mentioned that I remembered her visit to our home in part because we discussed their seven children. I’ll tell you why I remember that so well.
The colonel’s wife, my father and mother, and I sat around the dining room table as they reminisced about the past and got caught up on the present. As they talked, I gathered that she had quite a few children, which surprised me. In my teenage mind, she didn’t seem like a mother because she was still very attractive.
After I had listened for quite some time, I wanted to let her know I could speak; and since I had discerned that she had several children, I decided to ask about that.
“So, you have how many children?”
“Seven in all,” she replied.
“Wow! I’ll bet that’s a lot of work,” I responded, trying to show that in my seasoned maturity I understood the responsibilities of parenting.
She didn’t seem overwhelmed by my insight; she gave an expression and shrug that said, “I suppose so.”
Seeing I had failed to make much of an impression, I pressed on. “Gee, that’s a lot of kids. How in the world did you have seven of them?”
With a look of amusement in her eyes, she said, “Well, neither of us could stand to wear pajamas, so we slept together naked every night. And I’ll tell you,” she continued emphatically, “if you do that, kids are going to happen.” Then she smiled—not at me, but staring ahead as if fondly remembering one of those nights.
Whoa! My jaw dropped. Immediately I had a vision of her, naked with her husband every night. The fear that she could look inside my mind and see that image froze me in embarrassment. I closed my mouth and forced a smile, but I probably looked like I had seen a ghost.
Without moving my head, I looked sideways to my mother for help, but she just looked away, repositioning a plate on the table, while my father sat pleasantly poker-faced, as if this were not the first time a man and woman naked in bed had been mentioned in our house—naked every night, in fact, for twenty years!
Incredible! What was still only a fascinating mystery to me, she had been experiencing for years.
Her casual, even cheerful appreciation of lifelong sexual intimacy shocked me, although I’m incapable of telling you all the reasons why. The truth is that such sexual intimacy is sometimes frightening, not only for adolescents but also for adults, because of the vulnerability and love required to experience it.
The brief comments from the colonel’s wife are often the most we are told of the passion that burns in private when lovers are alone. But in the Song of Songs we have a rare look at the experience of passionate love from the heart—a possibility for Solomon because he had chosen to exchange the safety of selfish pleasure for the vulnerability that can bring lasting love. A reality for both him and Shulamith because their appreciation for each other had grown even deeper through loving forgiveness.
Solomon’s Song of Love, pp. 121-122.