A Worthy Contribution
I must confess that when I picked up Matt Chandler’s latest offering, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption, I was a bit skeptical. Do we really need another book on the topic of marriage? Indeed, Chandler himself brings this to light writing in the introduction, “Amazon.com listed for sale 151,000 books on marriage; 27,000 books on dating; almost 12,000 books on attraction; and more than 190,000 books on sex.” Well, the number can tick up to 151,001 with Chandler’s worthy contribution.
Using the Song of Solomon, Chandler walks through the book in a way that blends styles from a commentary, devotional, and traditional book on dating and marriage. Surprisingly, what one is left with is an imminently readable, biblically faithful, and practical work to encourage both singles and married couples. Chandler thoughtfully allows the Song of Solomon to provide a structural framework to write and dialogue about the entire life span of a relationship from initial attraction to the final moments of one’s life.
I found this format to be one of the most unique and engaging aspects of the book. Far from rehashing older debates like dating vs. courtship, Chandler shows how the Song of Solomon shows the two are not necessarily in opposition to one another but how they dovetail together. The wisdom in the initial chapters on Attraction, Dating, and Courtship are must-reads for anyone considering marriage.
Tact and Balance
In the middle section of the book where Chandler has the opportunity to discuss marriage and sexual intimacy, he does so with great tact and balance. I’ve found that books on the topic of sex and marriage run the gamut—either Puritanical and prudish or overly explicit and unnecessarily erotic. Chandler allows Scripture to speak and breathe into this issue in a most refreshing way. Far from covering up the lovely and passionate language of Song of Solomon, he highlights and extols the beauty of a vibrant sexual relationship in marriage.
In the final part of the book, Chandler works the final chapters of Song of Solomon to address topics that I never knew the book covered. Indeed, Chandler writes that 20% of the book covers relational conflict. Who would have thought the book we commonly think of as a book on sex actually addresses the ins-and-outs of marital conflict? These final chapters, Fighting Fair, Logs on the Fire, and I’m Not Going Anywhere contain a wealth of practical information. As a counselor, I can envision working through the material in these chapters in marriage counseling.
I Could Not Put It Down
Throughout the book, Matt’s honesty and anecdotes bring what could have been an ordinary book on marriage to new heights. One feels a kinship with Matt and Lauren as he recounts his own courtship of Lauren, his ups and downs in serving her as a husband, and his hopes and dreams for their future. Never bordering on the sentimental, Chandler does an excellent job of using his life to point to Christ and the fruit of a relationship where the gospel is central.
The book’s engaging nature and Chandler’s solid exposition of an often ignored book kept me engrossed in one sitting. I could not put it down. I look forward to not only prayerfully using much of the material in my counseling, but also and perhaps more importantly in my own marriage and life.