Last summer we had a fox problem.
My family knows all too well what the fox says, as its barking would wake us early each morning. Little eyes peered around our curtains, or delicate feet scratched at our glass door. Too many times, the fox would approach us within arm’s reach as we tried to enjoy a picnic lunch. Despite growing up in the foothills of Appalachia and living all around Kentucky, I never had so many experiences with a creature I had always presumed to be elusive.
We haven’t seen the brazen animal for months now. I’ve moved on to anticipating spring’s bees, bunnies, and songbirds verses being on the lookout for little foxes. But before the bees: St. Valentine’s Day. I’m a sucker for all things love…shocking, I know, coming from the gal who just wrote a Christian contemporary romance novel. February finds me soaking in the words of Song of Songs and the beautiful relationship and romance between King Solomon and his beloved.
The Bible’s Song of Songs celebrates the beauty and joys of love and marriage with vivid imagery and poetic language. Amongst metaphors of doves, gazelles, and young stags, I pause at the request in Chapter Two. “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that damage the vineyards; for our vineyards are in bloom!”
The gardener in me appreciates the vineyard comparison. Successful vineyard production, or viticulture, bears tender grapevines grown for table grapes, raisins, juice, or winemaking. It’s an innovative science and study that requires a delicate touch and constant attention, much like a fruitful marriage.
When my brother played matchmaker ten years ago, it could only mean Wade Gaynor was either a living saint or a complete nerd. I assumed it was the latter, but was interested in going to dinner after Wade was drafted by the Detroit Tigers (just being honest). The man with the kindest eyes, deepest dimples, and dirtiest jeans was soon to be the man of all my dreams. Our first date ended with the humble proposal of, “I think we should get married, and we’d be just fine.” I could only nod my giddy, little head. We were married within a year…but no relationship is without its foxes, even when everything is super-romantically “just fine.”
I won’t try to imagine what little foxes the Shulammite bride and wise King Solomon had to deal with, but I know what little critters run wild today. Apathy, weak communication, lack of gratitude, jealousy, improper prioritization, secrets, neglect, or impatience. They start small, like a litter of fuzzy and innocent kits, but then they mature and devastate the vineyard. The foxes dig at the roots, gnaw at the vines, and steal the fruit. Rather, they degrade respect, damage trust, and may even destroy a loving relationship.
Song of Songs is the celebration of God’s love for all His people. When we place our trust in Christ Jesus, faith, hope, and love abound. For those who have experienced pain with marriage, take heart. Christ is our great hope and redeemer.
The forgiveness and grace we receive through Christ Jesus should flow into our relationships, marking the Christian marriage as different. Holy. Grace-filled. Be intentional and catch the little foxes early, before they’re ruining your picnic or damaging your vineyard.
May the grace and love of our Lord bless you and your Valentine.
*As originally written for The Messenger-Inquirer