When you think of intimacy, what comes to mind? A romantic date? Warm conversation? Candlelight dinner? Spending time together? Sex?
Not long ago, I defined “intimacy” as the physical part of our relationship. That definition has expanded.
Through the years our relationship became less selfish, richer and less physical. Now, don’t misunderstand, the physical aspect of our relationship is still important and fulfilling. Somehow the physical element of intimacy now takes a backseat to a new, more meaningful, intimacy experience.
Over the last several years, our marriage has evolved in to a deeper partnership, with increased trust, confidence and security. Our communications and conflict resolution skills have improved. We selflessly serve each other, always looking for creative ways to express our love and foster romance.
Our relationship has expanded beyond simple physical intimacy into a deep spiritual intimacy.
To be honest, this new level of closeness caught me by surprise. Not long ago Sheri and I made spiritual decisions and commitments that, to us, seemed unrelated to our marriage. An upshot of our now changed lives is a stronger, more vibrant marriage - Spiritual Intimacy. It was a package deal.
Essentially, spiritual intimacy in marriage is about partnering with God; Harnessing His love, strength and leadership and utilizing that power in your marriage.
Initiating Spiritual Intimacy
Remember, spiritual intimacy doesn’t just “happen; we made specific decisions and commitments that made us accessible to what God wanted to do in our marriage.
Where to Start: Partnering With God
For the first half of our marriage Sheri and I were far from God. Sure we were “good” people, we attended church occasionally, we prayed, but we really didn’t know God.
Trying to be a good person is important, but what God really wants is to have a personal relationship with you. You do that by making a decision. You simply tell Him you have messed up and need Jesus Christ to be your personal savior. You decide to turn from your sin, as best you can, and ask Jesus to be your leader and friend. Simply talk to God; pray to Him.
Experiencing that defining moment will launch you in to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your life will change. Your marriage will change.
To achieve spiritual intimacy in your marriage, it’s vital that you both are on the same page spiritually. That means you and your partner both need to “do business” with God - you both need to submit to Him and follow him.
Imagine a triangle. Optimally, in a Christian marriage relationship, God is at the top and you and your partner are at opposite ends on the bottom. As the two of you grow spiritually, you will move upwards together toward God, up the triangle.
If you and your spouse believe different things or are on opposite spiritual growth patterns, you will not only grow apart relationally, but your growth will stall spiritually.
Engaging in a personal relationship with God is the first and most important step in initiating spiritual intimacy. Next, you need to increase your accessibility to God. You need to position yourself in activities that will facilitate God-caused change in your marriage.
One of the most intimate activities you can share as a couple is prayer. When you talk to God together, sharing your most private thoughts, prayer becomes a team effort and you bond spiritually. Collaborative prayer unites the marriage partners into a unified voice, powerfully merging your marriage dreams, concerns and requests.
Sheri and I have found that when we pray together, it’s easier to recognize answered prayer. Praying together leads to communication throughout the day and causes anticipation about how God will respond.
Prayer is about listening too. Somehow combined prayer creates a heightened sensitivity to God’s activity in our marriage. We are in sync with God’s leadings in our lives. At first, praying together isn’t a comfortable thing to do. For most of us, prayer is a very private activity. Disclosing your most personal thoughts to another person - even your spouse - is not easy. Here are some suggestions:
Until both of you feel comfortable praying, one of you might want to take the lead.
Decide in advance what you need to pray about. Remember the “ACTS” model: Adoration (worship), Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Requests). Of course you don’t need to hit on all of these. This is just a guide.
As a guide, try writing out your prayers first.
To grow to your full “intimacy potential”, you need to avail yourself to other like-minded people. Your first step toward community should be church involvement. Not just church attendance - you need to participate and connect with a local church.
A church will facilitate teaching, engage you in worship and provide a place where you can play an active role in a community of Christians. If you want to experience spiritual intimacy in your marriage, you both must connect with community.
Additionally, your church may provide marriage enrichment offerings: Retreats, workshops, training and counseling. Take advantage of these resources. Are you looking for a church?
Trial and error is not the most effective means of achieving spiritual intimacy; yet that’s the approach many couples take. The most direct route to spiritual intimacy is to engage in close relationships with other Christians and learn by example.
A mentoring relationship, in the context of a small group or a one-on-one connection, will minimize missteps and provide a sounding board and safety net as you move forward. This is community on a deeper level.
These relationships will support you. If you’ve been married a while, you know that “stuff happens: Unemployment, financial difficulty, sickness, marriage problems & even death. When life goes south, you need to be surrounded by quality people.
Sometimes meaningful relationships just “happen”, but most often these connections don’t occur by chance - you need to take initiative.
The first place to look might be around your church or small group. Ask yourself: Who’s marriage do I respect? Do I know a couple who’s “been there”? Who’s marriage would serve an example to ours?
Take this quest seriously. Connecting in a mentoring relationship is the fast track to spiritual intimacy.
The benefits of spiritual intimacy in our marriage are substantial. Our relationship is secure and strong; we have confidence about the future; our marriage has grown beyond simple human intimacy to a closeness only God could orchestrate.
Even a “good” marriage doesn’t compare to a quality, God-centered marriage. Take the risk: Discover spiritual intimacy in your marriage.
Jim Mueller is the founder of Growthtrac, and he and his wife Sheri are Marriage Mentors