Enjoying God more, enjoying sex more

Fresh Pathways to Spiritual Passion
By Julian Hardyman
IVP. 183 pages. £9.99
ISBN 978 1 789 741 735

This book is a lively reflection on the tiny, enigmatic Song of Songs. In 20 brief chapters the author explores the Song. Each chapter concludes with questions for further thoughtful action and a short prayer.

People tend to see Song of Songs through one of two dominant lenses. One lens sees the book as an ancient sex manual. Another lens, with an ancient pedigree, sees the Song as an extended meditation on the intimate relationship between the divine lover and His people. This lens has a variety of tints and filters. Some take a relatively restrained approach that draws links between human love and marriage, and the relationship God’s people have with the divine bridegroom. Others almost allow their imaginations to run typological riot in their interpretation.

The middle way

Hardyman wisely treads a middle way by viewing the Song with bifocal lenses. Jesus, Lover of My Soul sees the Song as a celebration of human love that reveals a deeper experience of love in our relationship with the divine lover. Feedback from the sermon series on which this book is based is scattered throughout the book; these messages clearly hit the spot. I like the way that the author weaves Biblical reflection with the soundtrack of his life, through musical references and honest observations about everyday life. One of the most helpful statements is: ‘People generally think that the main theme of the Song of Songs is sex. As I have studied it, I have realised that the main theme is actually desire.’

Permission to enjoy

The author helps the reader to challenge misdirected and disordered desires. The book includes two chapters on the corrosive nature of porn as one of these intimacy wreckers. Maybe the best thing about this book is that it grants permission to enjoy God and His good gift of sex. It reminded me that I am a person loved by God and helped me to reflect on how to love in a way that is pleasing to God.