Re-Thinking Spiritual Intimacy In Our Marriages (Part 1)

As we laid in bed together, lights out, it had become later than I realized.  Even though we were both exhausted from a long day, I wanted to lead us in finishing the day with prayer.

But every time I wanted to say something, something held me back.  Frustrated with myself, we eventually just drifted off to sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, I felt a little smaller than the night before.

If you’re married, or in a serious relationship, I bet you understand.  You want to be spiritually intimate, but it’s hard.  Really hard.

Some of you may not experience much struggle here.  You have no problem praying or reading the bible with your spouse.  And yet, you may still not feel entirely connected, either.

What’s going on?

Some things – like sin in its various forms – are obvious, but I suspect it’s partly in the way we’ve defined ‘spiritual intimacy’, too.  When we think about it more deeply, we get a bigger picture that I think will both encourage and challenge you.

close-up of husband & wife hold hands (black & white photo)

Photo credit: mescon via Foter.com / CC BY

What Is ‘Spiritual Intimacy’, Anyway?

How would you define spiritual intimacy?  (Before you read on, take a moment and think about it.)

If you’re anything like me, you probably thought of reading the bible and praying together. Maybe you included worshiping, or engaging in other devotional practices with your spouse, too.

And you’d be right.  In marriage of course we’re called – together – to talk to, and hear from, the God who made us one (Genesis 2:24).

Some of you may suspect that spiritual intimacy is bigger than that.  That this area is more than just doing a few, specific things with your husband or wife.   And again, you’d be right.

And yet, it’s hard to imagine what that ‘more’ might be in real life.

In general, I’d say that most of us live with a working definition of spiritual intimacy in marriage as doing some kind of devotional act with our spouse.  Even if we sense there’s more to it, it feels pretty fuzzy, so we don’t get around to filling it in, let alone acting on it.

That’s understandable, but doesn’t help us get to where God wants us to go.

Re-thinking Our Intimacy With God

Let me explain why we can’t afford to narrowly define spiritual intimacy in marriage as merely joint bible reading, prayer or other devotional practices.

Think about your own relationship with the Lord for a moment.  Apart from your spouse.  Would you be okay with simply reading the bible, praying and singing as the sum total of your walk with God?  Would you say those are the only times you’re connecting with him?

Don’t get me wrong.  Each of those practices are biblical and essential cornerstones of our relationship with God.  He’s said so (Joshua 1:8; Jeremiah 29:12; Revelation 14:3).

And there is a special kind of connection that comes with hearing from God clearly and directly through his word.  Or, talking to him as we pray.  It’s not hard to see that those things offer a more direct intimacy than, for example, taking out the trash, studying for an exam, or playing on the floor with your kids.

Still, we all know how easy it is to just go through the motions during our devotional times.  And feel good about ourselves because we’ve done our what good Christians are supposed to do.  Or, to follow the formula without really connecting.

But what if we aren’t spending consistent time in devotional practices?  Then we can feel like a total failure.  An unworthy, second-class Christian.  As if the time we spend in devotions is the only thing God cares about.

While connecting with God through bible reading, prayer or singing are important, every moment of life can be a moment where we’re heading toward more intimacy with him.  (Or not.)

Because God has created me in his image, and placed me in the world he created, every moment is lived in his presence. And can lead me closer to him, whether I recognize it or not.

Trusting him when I’m late to a meeting and feeling anxious.  Welcoming refugees because God has welcomed me and given me refuge from his wrath and others’ injustice.  Forgiving someone because God has showered his grace upon me in Christ.

I would argue that God cares as much about each of these moments as he does about my devotional time. And, that they both reflect my intimacy with him and play a role in further shaping it.

So, while our individual times of worship and devotion may be especially helpful in creating spiritual intimacy, our closeness to God involves so much more.

That’s incredibly hopeful, because so many times my devotional times are flat.  Or, filled with distraction.  Or, shorter than I want them to be.  Even when I get it wrong – which is often – God wants to be close to me in a million other ways throughout my day.

This post got a little long on me.  So, next time I’ll continue with what this bigger, richer view of spiritual intimacy with God means for spiritual intimacy with our spouses.

Even if you feel totally stuck in this area, or, that you’re doing all the ‘right’, outward things but stale, there’s a world of hope for us in Christ.  God wants to encourage us in this tender, difficult area!

How do you define spiritual intimacy with God?  How would having a broader view encourage you?