How can we develop intimate marriages?
There seem to be three basic steps in developing intimacy. For some they seem obvious, but not everyone is approaching marriage on the same footing. Personal sharing brings mutual understanding. Deepening commitment can follow from this understanding. This then leads to more opening of the heart with more personal sharing. The relationship is designed to continue growing in this way. Strong marriages keep this cycle going around and around even in the difficult times of life.
One word needs to be said before we continue. Please remember, when we speak of intimacy in marriage, we are not merely speaking of physical initmacy. That is only one aspect. Unfortunately, some think intimacy is only physical. This is a greatly distorted view leading to very superficial and less rewarding relationships. Because they are built on getting things, the relationship cannot get strong. Our modern society has convinced us two mistaken notions:
1) Pleasure: Relationships are all about sexual encournters.
2) Power: If we do certain things, then we can get the things we want.
Intimacy is best thought of as a process where two partners are deeply revealing their true selves to each other.
Intimacy is best thought of as a process where two partners are deeply revealing their true selves to each other. Actually, intimate times are not just when one shares a special part of his life with the other, but also when he is able to get a better picture of himself through that sharing time. Relationship building occurs when both people grow. Marriage was made to protect and keep this kind of intimacy.
The depth of relationship depends on a person's honesty and sincerity. Of course there are two partners. And so it is dependent on a person's ability and willingness to reveal his inner self to another. Let's focus on two key ingredients that affect intimate sharing.
Intimacy requires absolute honesty and good understanding. Only by sharing the real inner happenings going on in a person's life will that intimacy develop. The problem is that to share what a person is struggling with or thinking requires self-reflection.
We need to know what is happening to be able to share it. It is true, that sometimes as we begin sharing, more and more comes out. These times often become very tender and precious moments. But they are rare. We cannot afford to wait until these special times to grow as a married couple. The sharing is to be regular. The skill of reflecting on who we are, what we are doing and the reasons we do those things are rare today.
Today, we have very few quiet moments. Walkman's have stolen the last quiet moments when we are not plugged in to the world. These distractions actually threaten our times of self-reflection and because of this, our relationship with our husband or wife suffer. The only talking in front of a television is to ask if the other needs a drink or something. More than often, we hush the other down so that we can hear hear better!
In a sense we have an affair with the world. We have given the time that was to be with our husband or wife and instead given our time, our attention, our money to others. We seem to just accept this as modern living. Instead of challenging the situation, we usually make it more attractive by having television rooms, bigger screens and more channels.
One of the special gifts God has given to man is self-reflection. The more we develop it, the better a person we will be. The contrary is also true. The more we neglect the discipline of reflection, the poorer we will be. Developing our minds so that we can talk with others and hold good conversations is so needed today.
Part of the before and after marriage discouragement comes from the increased sharing time between the two before marriage. They want to be together. They love to talk. There is an extra motivation that drives them to share. This is often lost after marriage. They have nothing to look forward together towards. They have nothing to talk about.
We do not share then because we just don't how to share. We don't know what to talk about. Things are not about to get better either, because we are captivated by the other voices wooing us.
There are other reasons keeping us from reflective personal sharing.
|We don't know how to share
|The heart is very deceitful. We just do not know our true selves.
||1) Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
|Sin keeps us hiding John 3:20
|2) John 3:20: For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
|Too busy with life to pause (sabbath) (Exodus 20:8-11)
||3) Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
|Selfish - focused on our desires rather than the needs of others. (Philippians 2:4)
|4) Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
|Pride - can't see weakness
|3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
We say we love but when there is strife we know there is hatred.
|Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.
We will quickly discover that this kind of in depth sharing is not often found. The biggest reason is personal sin. Society has its part, no doubt, but we could change by God's grace. Let's in fact think about what we can change to improve our times of self reflection alone and with our spouses.
How well do you know yourself?
We don't often like to think about it, but sin is the preoccupation with ourselves. Some are lust driven or covetousness motivated, but in the end these and the many other kinds of sin keep people out of our inner lives.
The way to dvelop our ability to deepen our relationship with our spouse will depend on how well we deepen it with God. There are other factors to consider, no doubt, but in the end we must come back to this point.
We see this parallel problem in societies. People have traced it. The more a culture removes itself from God's principles, the more we see the institution disrespected, and broken down. Although we realize not everyone int he culture shares the same values, we do recognize that those who stand apart from the cultural tide are few. The waters of relativism have risen so high it is hard for none of us to be greatly affected.
Something is real wrong with the church. We see it in the way God's people view their sexual lives. The reports that reveal the low standard of morality shows us that we have left the Lord. We will of course deny that we have left Him at all. If anything, we will vocally speak up to how we are still God's faithful. This is what they did here in Jeremiah 3.
The Lord is calling us to be pure in heart. Lately, I have seen a special way to looking at this whole issue that will bring clarity. The insight isn't new but deserves to be readdressed in our modern context.
There are doubtless many ways to illustrate and teach this lesson, but God has repeatedly used one picture illustration.
The Lord has revealed that our spiritual lives and marriages are interconnected. One could also phrase it differently: intimacy with God is correlated to initimacy in our marriage partner. We understand that the correlation is not perfect. Both spouses need to be changed to draw close to each other. However, we should not dismiss what the scriptures are teaching.
This mistaken notion is also true in their relationship with God. We should not think that intimacy occurs only when one feels tingles throughout his body when communing with God.
Spiritually, this no doubt has some qualifications because God knows all about us (cf. Psalm 139). However, we do know He treasures these times with us as we do with Him.
Marriage then is the earthly picture of the heavenly, but it is more than that. Our spiritual relationship with God is shaped by the way we share ourselves on earth.