On my second date with my wife, our relationship hit its first speed bump: ordering pizza. She loved veggie pizza; I couldn’t pick broccoli out of a lineup. Awkward, even for the server, who had to give us “a few more minutes” 17 times. Years later, we realized we’d each experienced a silent “uh-oh.” It all worked out, thankfully—these days we compromise with supreme.
In the early days of our marriage, we had more silent uh-ohs:
- “Uh-oh. She doesn’t think Brooklyn 99 is funny.”
- “Uh-oh. He snores.” I still maintain that I do NOT snore. (I totally do).
We’re often desperate to forge a connection with our spouses, scared to death our interests will diverge and our marriage will crumble.
When monk/wrestler Ignacio (Nacho Libre) meets the love of his life, he microwaves an instant connection by getting down to “the nitty-gritty.”
“Who is this Encarnación?” He asks.
She ticks off a list of favorite things (puppies, the color light tan, serving the Lord, and volleyball), to which Nacho exclaims, “Everything you said are my favorite things, too!”
Well played, sir. To woo her, though, he believes he has to put on a show, burying his burning passion—wrestling.
We tend to think the deepest bonds between people are formed by shared interests, likes and dislikes. We worry if those passions change, we’ll grow apart. As Christ followers, though, we have an unbreakable connection with our spouses: the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual intimacy: God at the center of marriage
God is with His children. If you and your wife follow Jesus, the same Holy Spirit is with each of you (Ephesians 1:13). God Himself has declared a husband and wife are “one” (Matthew 19:4-6), and the Holy Spirit is the crazy glue that sticks us together. Marriage, in fact, forms a triad relationship: you and your spouse connect with each other, individually with God, and together with God.
Our relationship with Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, is the most significant part about us. It shapes everything. It lasts forever.
Therefore, spiritual intimacy forges the deepest, most significant bonds between wives and husbands, because our spiritual lives make up the core of who we are. Spiritual connections create stronger intimacy than shared vocations, hobbies, or senses of humor. Since our relationship with God can always grow, that means our marriages can, too. Unlimited growth potential, right here at our fingertips!
3 ways to grow spiritual intimacy in your marriage
If your marriage is like ours, though, spiritual intimacy comes last on the shopping list. It’s not something we’re used to talking about. Plus, insecurities abound.
I’ve noticed when my wife asks basic questions about how I’m doing with God, my defenses spring up like a gopher trap. If things between God and me haven’t been good, I mentally accuse her of snooping—She’s only asking because she had to dust my Bible. And nothing makes me sweat like her asking me to pray. “Now? Out loud? What if I pray something silly?
Other times, I’m feeling close to God and in a good place spiritually. But that spins other anxious wheels: What if she isn’t in such a good place. Will she feel judged? Am I just being cocky? Or, what if I share that all’s well and then tomorrow things change?
It’s clear I’m obsessed with controlling my wife’s opinion of me. That obsession turns me into a performer, putting on an act to please the crowd. I deflect, pretend, or excuse, like a magician making her intimate question (presto!) disappear.
Performance kills intimacy. When I put on an act, I lie. And if I can’t be honest with my wife, our marriage can’t grow.
Can you relate? Here are three ways to create and strengthen the spiritual intimacy in your marriage.
1. Get real.
Are you able to be honest with God? To open up and talk to Him about what’s really going on in your life? That’s the first obstacle to hurdle in your path to spiritual intimacy. Your spouse can be your greatest help, but do you feel safe communicating that to them?
Sometimes we need a different form of communication to open up. A letter or text might be a better way to express difficult things. You can write it in an hour or over two weeks, look back over it to see if you’re communicating clearly, and even ask a friend to give it a glance.
You might even “prime the pump” by expressing your fears and needs off the bat in a separate letter to lay the foundation for a helpful conversation.
If you’re still struggling, the way forward may be to enlist a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor to help. Tell them the struggle you’re facing and ask for help to open up with God and with your spouse.
2. Listen well.
Sometimes, when my wife shares how she’s doing with God, I get into fix-it mode. Instead of listening and empathizing, I tell her how to solve her problems.
Ugh. We create safe-sharing opportunities by committing to listening well without judgment or advice unless it’s specifically requested. We can create that space by modeling that posture and politely asking for it. My wife reminds me of this by saying, “Babe, can I process something with you?” That language tips me off that it’s not problem-solving time.
3. Connect with God together.
Once you’re ready to build intimacy with God and with your spouse, why not kill two birds with one stone and do it together by praying? Being honest with God and your spouse and asking Him to draw you closer together seems to me like pouring rocket fuel into your Honda’s gas tank.
Reading the Bible together can also be a great connector, but fair warning: For me, it was a bit of a learning curve. I began our marriage thinking I was supposed to lead my wife spiritually. That’s true, but what does that really mean?
In year one, I thought it meant knowing the most and being the best. Instead of learning together, I was attempting to teach and impress. Needless to say, those early times reading the Bible together fell flat. Sara wanted a confidant, not a Bible study leader.
The leaders in our lives aren’t the ones who tell us all the answers or lord knowledge over us. They invest in us, care about us, and sacrifice for us. I usually have to take what I’ve assumed about leading my wife and flip it on its head—ask her advice, admit I don’t know an answer, confess my shortcomings.
Here’s a crazy thought—I should ask her what she desires of me in a leader! Only took me a shade under a decade to figure out.
A Vision of Flourishing
The prophet Ezekiel experienced some tough times. He saw the violent exile of the Israelites from the Promised Land because of their unfaithfulness. To encourage Ezekiel and His people, God shows him a beautiful vision in chapter 47: a trickle of water that grows into a wide, tree-lined river. That vision of flourishing reveals God’s plan for our relationship with Him, growing into eternity.
That’s God’s dream for our marriage, too. As we knit our hearts to God more and more, we’re drawn closer to Him and closer to each other.
Whether we’ve been married for a week or half a century, growth is possible. More intimacy awaits as we focus on our relationship with Jesus.
And I know that in your marriage things might not be great right now—you might be struggling, drifting apart. There’s hope, though. Adversity has been the heat that forges intimacy for my wife and me. As we’ve moved toward Jesus together in whatever situation we’ve found ourselves, fear fades away as our hearts knit together and we know that nothing can tear us apart.
Not even pizza toppings.
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Andy Allan lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and three kids, Ellie, Bodie and Asher. You’ll find him biking Lincoln’s trails or watching the latest Fast and Furious movie. Connect with him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @KazBullet.