“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Cor 13:7
If we are honest, we all long to be known.
We were made for intimacy; to know and be known…yet still loved.
It was in the garden that God formed man and woman and they had intimate fellowship with Him and with each other. Yes, and for the man and woman, that included physical intimacy, given to them for one another as God intended for them to “know” each other. It was the two becoming one in every way; body, soul, and spirit. There was no shame, no hidden agendas, no secrets; they were known by each other and by God and they knew – it was delight!
But, as we know, the “lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (I John 2:16) snuck into even the most perfect of situations. Lest we step back and say, “Ah yes, if only I had been there, I would never…” we need to stop and remember.
For there we are right in the middle of it…”the pride of life.” We assume we would have wisdom and discernment and would stand against that old serpent when the reality is, too often we don’t do it today. He came to them as he comes to us, beautiful and crafty and tempting with “Did God really say?” Then, later, he took them as he does us on the “rationalization and/or blame game” track.
Yes, we are called to a resolve to stand against sin; God tells us to do so! But He never says stand alone. Rather, we have power over it in the Spirit of God Himself and with His armor intentionally placed and strategically used in our battle against it; and He has given us each other, most prominently in marriage, to be accountable one to another for our protection and joy!
In the area of sexual temptation, however, He doesn’t say stand in the middle of it at all…He says flee! He knows its power and tells us we aren’t even to consider it, to toy with it. No, we aren’t even to “mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12) nor is there to be “even a hint of sexual immorality” or “coarse joking (Ephesians 3:5).” That’s not prude; that’s protective and delightfully freeing!
It’s one of the most strategic places the enemy strikes in order to “steal and kill and destroy,” knowing that our God has created this beautiful gift for marriage to bring us deep intimacy and oneness with our spouse. God knows that sexual intimacy in marriage is intended to be a precious delight to be guarded at all costs – before and during marriage; the results in failing to do so have far reaching results.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God blessed them with shame! What? Shame was a blessing?
Yes, and when we sin and feel shame, it is a good thing because it tells us we are still tender to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. It is evidence that we are hearing that still small voice that calls sin out for what it is and calls us to return to the heart of God; and, if we have sinned against another – in any way – to come clean and make reconciliation with them.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (and away from sin) and leaves no regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) The fearful place is when we feel no shame or, if we do, yet choose to push it down. Either way, justifying our “pet sins” robs us of intimacy with God and with each other.
They hid in the garden. Then, when God came “looking,” they blamed the serpent and each other but refused to name the real problem – their own hearts. Not that God really didn’t know where they were. Once again, He wanted them to come out, to reveal rather than conceal the wrong they had done. He wanted them to be honest, to own up to their guilt so they could be freed from its power. He wanted to restore intimacy with Himself and with each other and they had to name their sin so they could confess it and turn.
How many times do we hide behind our facades contriving half truths (let’s be honest, lies) and full blown dishonesty with those we love, especially the one with whom we are to be the most transparent, our spouse. We justify our actions in our head; but, for the believer, the Holy Spirit doesn’t allow us to be settled with hiding from God so, if we choose to rationalize our sin, we become restless and either outwardly or inwardly we blame everyone else but ourselves.
God wants to re-establish that confident closeness with Himself and with the one to whom we have pledged our lives, but it has to begin with owning our own failures first before Him and then with our spouse.
And notice, though Eve sinned first (and they both ultimately did so), God called on Adam as the head of the home, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) Of course, women are accountable to God for their own sin and must have their own personal relationships with God through Christ; but, in the home, men are to be leading their wives to the throne of grace; setting the example of honest repentance and restoration rather than hiding their sin and justifying its existence.
We assume that if we are fully known, we will not be fully loved. In so doing, we love our reputation and our self righteousness more than we love the one we promised to “love, honor, and cherish.” The unhindered bond of trust and love can only be enjoyed when we lay ourselves bare before the Lord and then before our spouse.
But we do them and ourselves a disservice when we assume they won’t give grace and will love us less. We show no trust in them and, thus, brick upon brick is layered on the wall of our hearts keeping us from the true intimacy for which we were made. But transparency frees us to forgive and be forgiven; for God to begin to transform a marriage into the beautiful, unhindered delight He always intended!
We are sinners in need of grace, and so we will fail each other; but God never expected us to use that grace as a license for sin or for minimizing it. He never intended us to use the too oft spoken, “That’s just who I am; I can’t help It; it’s not that bad” rationale or use our male/female propensities as an excuse for our choices and offenses.
God’s desire for His people is a growing obedience not an intentional defiance. When we choose to pursue that which is after the heart of God, the hearts of two are emboldened to love better and trust more deeply. But when we make the foolish choice to remain in or return to entangling indulgences, we create a chasm that lies between.
If we share our sins, struggles, and temptations with no intention of giving them up but appearing to do so, we will go deeper into self-centered darkness and secrecy, a greater hardness of heart, and, not only will trust and intimacy not be restored, they will be seared on an even deeper level. When we choose to cling to those things that build walls in our marriages, we are deceived into choosing love of ourselves more than God and more than our spouse.
But, when we trust enough to confess these to each other and in humble reliance on God, leave them at the cross and tear down the strongholds that keep them active in our lives rather than deliberately continuing in them, we find a renewed intimacy, a deep confidence in each other. We learn to “bear each other’s burdens” and, thus, create a safe place for each. In fact, our confidence can be deeper and every aspect of marriage more satisfying and rich, as God intended it.
In James 5:16, God calls us to that transparency, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There is “freedom in the things we leave behind” as together we run in our pursuit of God’s delight for us, stripping away the sin that so easily drags us down and away from Him and each other. It refreshes the soul and builds trust in ways like nothing else as we die to ourselves and choose a vulnerability that is rooted in faithfulness to God and our spouse.
The same can be said for the one to whom sin is confessed; we each must be ready to give grace as grace has been freely given to us by our Savior. When we have been hurt, it may feel costly, but it is the greatest treasure to choose forgiveness and to set aside any bitter root. Choosing forgiveness does not negate the hurt, but it does not allow the hurt to define the relationship and it does not allow pain to create a chasm that God desires to repair and restore.
We can and should share the effect of the hurt, not to shame the other but to reveal the consequences. Then the both the offense and the hurt are taken to the cross and laid before the feet of our dying yet resurrected Savior!
Intimacy in marriage breeds confident trust. Trust begins with truth; it is both a catalyst for and a result of honest intimacy which cannot thrive without complete transparency; no secrets, no walls even if it means putting ourselves before the other, totally vulnerable. There is a tenderness and a deep closeness that comes when we humbly lay bare our weaknesses with our spouses with the intent to battle them rather than give excuses for them. Bringing darkness into the light diffuses its power over us and allows us to battle alongside rather than against each other.
As Francis and Lisa Chan have said in You and Me Forever, “Being in war together may be what keeps us from being at war with each other.”
If, in a marriage, there are deep wounds for which repentance before God has occurred, the pattern broken, and accountability sought, when the enemy rises up to accuse, together we can shut the door on that indictment, for it is neither true nor healthy!
In our marriages, we long for intimacy. So why would we do things that erode it when Christ has redeemed us not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of it? Why hide from Him and each other when freedom is found in letting go of our brokenness and acknowledging that before God and before each other? There is no intimacy in concealing a part of ourselves, just a restless wistfulness and deeper wounds!
Adam and Eve listened to the first lie, then assumed the second and hid; broken intimacy led to lack of confidence in God and each other.
With intimacy, we grow closer physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
With intimacy, we see our spouses in a more complete way and are able to put aside those hindrances that keep us from loving and trusting well.
We are able to put aside past wrongs, when they are left behind, and look forward to future joy and freedom together!
Will we, as couples, ban those attitudes and actions from our marriages that destroy intimacy? Will we do whatever it takes, in the power we have in Christ, to see they don’t rise up again? Will we also choose to trust our spouses with honest conversations and, as the other, will we choose to respond with grace and love so that marriages that need healing can be healed and those that are already healthy can grow deeper?
It is when we are intimate with God, unhindered by sin left at the cross, that we are free to have intimacy with our spouse!
Will we know and be known…yet still love?
“Real love is lived in the reality of two sinners LEARNING to love and forgive as each transgresses the other and each forgives. The words ‘I love you’ are easy. The sacrifice of ‘I love you’ is hard because we battle our own selfishness and that is where life is often lived.” (Joseph Wheat)
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3
These hands you made to hold yours, my love
These feet you shaped to walk with you in our garden
These eyes you placed to gaze upon your face
These lips you formed to kiss my beloved
I was made, I was made for intimacy
These ears you made to hear your rhythm of love
This voice you placed to sing songs of grace
This hair you wove, you numbered every strand
This gaze you love, it captures you with a glance
Intimacy is what I need, intimacy is calling me
Jonathan David Helser