The young woman in my office was animated, though not upset. “I never dreamed what has happened in our marriage during the past year was possible,” she said. “We’ve gone along for years just sort of ho-hum. Nothing bad, nothing spectacular—just steady. I guess we were in a rut. It was comfortable, and I guess we felt, or I did, that this was the way it would always be. But Jim came home from that men’s conference and made all kinds of changes. Even though they were mostly positive, it took me awhile to adjust.
“The first thing he did was come up to me and apologize for not telling me that he prayed for me every day, and had for years. How would I have ever known? In fact, that’s what I started to say, but I caught myself and thanked him for telling me. A week later he asked me how I would feel about praying together and reading from the Bible occasionally. I have to laugh now because it’s like he wanted me to but wasn’t sure how I would respond. So we did.
“I can’t explain why or what happened, but there is this incredible sense of bonding or closeness now that we never had before. We pray, we read, we share. Sometimes I call him and pray a sentence prayer for him over the phone. He does the same. And our sex life is a whole different story. Others have seen our relationship change. And when they ask, we tell them. I guess we’re finally experiencing what the Bible says about cleaving in the full sense of the word.”
Spiritual bonding. Spiritual intimacy. Spiritual closeness. Desired, yet avoided. Available, yet elusive for so many.
When partners are asked the question, “How close are you spiritually as a couple?” there are usually two responses. Many say, “We’re not spiritually close,” or “We’re not as close as we could be.” The second response is, “I think we would like to be.” Many couples, when they finally talk about it, discover they would like to be closer spiritually, but they were uncomfortable dealing with it. It was difficult, so it was never discussed.
Still some couples say, “We just don’t have time. With our schedules we hardly have enough time to say ‘hello’ to each other, let alone have devotions together.”
To relate together spiritually means creatively meshing two people’s schedules. When either an individual or a couple states they don’t have time to develop the spiritual intimacy in their marriage, I say, “I don’t agree. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t work out the time. It may take some creative juggling, but it’s a choice—like so much of the rest of life. You have to be flexible, committed, and have realistic expectations for what you want to happen in the relationship.”
Others have said, “We’re not at the same place spiritually in order to share this together.” Perhaps praying or reading the Bible together would be the very process that would enable them to become more unified spiritually.
Many marriage partners today feel close to their spouses in every way except spiritually. In that area they feel isolated. Often this isolation cannot be kept in check, and it may creep into other areas of a couples’ life and impact those areas, too. And the more one person wants to be close spiritually and the other resists, the more resentment will build.
Intimacy suggests a very strong personal relationship, a special emotional closeness that includes understanding and being understood by someone who is very special. Intimacy has also been defined as an affectionate bond, the strands of which are composed of mutual caring, responsibility, trust, open communication of feelings and sensations, and the nondefended interchange of information about significant emotional events. Intimacy means taking the risk to be close to someone and allowing that someone to step inside your personal boundaries.
Then we come to spiritual intimacy. In his book, The Spiritually Intimate Marriage, Don Harvey has the most complete definition that I’ve found. He says spiritual intimacy is: Being able to share your spiritual self, find this reciprocated, and have a sense of union with your mate.
I know couples who worship regularly together, but there is no spiritual intimacy. I know couples who read the Scripture regularly together, but have no spiritual intimacy. I know couples who pray and share together sporadically, but are lacking in spiritual intimacy. I know some couples who don’t pray and share, yet have spiritual intimacy.
What’s the difference? It seems to be in their attitudes. Spiritual intimacy is a heart’s desire to be close to God and submit to His direction for your lives. It is the willingness to seek His guidance together, to allow the teaching of His Word in your everyday life. It’s a willingness to allow God to help you overcome your sense of discomfort over sharing spiritually and learn to see your marriage together as a spiritual adventure. It’s a willingness to enthrone Jesus Christ as Lord of your lives and to look to Him for direction in your decisions, such as which house to buy, where to go on vacations, or which school is best for the children. It means He will direct both of you, and change your hearts to be in agreement rather than speak just through one of you.