After almost 10 years in full-time marriage ministry in the local church, I have noticed a consistent challenge in couples. Most couples do not know how to grow spiritually with one another. Many couples struggle with what it means to be and how to be spiritually intimate with one another. At the same time, I have never found a book I love that discusses this aspect of intimacy in marriage and how and why a couple should make spiritual intimacy a priority.
In Merge, Watermark Community Church’s premarital ministry, we define spiritual intimacy for a couple as: together, growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ. This involves two general items/steps: (1) knowing Jesus as your savior (Mark 8:27-29, John 14:6), and continually recognizing your dependence on Him (John 15:4-5), and (2) seeking to grow in your relationship with Him (typically defined as spiritual disciplines, including bible study, prayer, service and more).
What can be more important for a couple than how to grow closer to the Lord and to one another spiritually? For premarried couples, this topic is often the last (if ever) discussed subject, but I’m not sure there is a more significant topic for couples to be aligned upon. My hope is for couples to build their marriages on the Matthew 7:24-27 solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago, I wrote three posts on spiritual leadership in marriage. One of the characteristics of a husband who leads his wife well is that he is able to lead his wife spiritually, as they pursue spiritual intimacy with the Lord and with one another.
I have heard intimacy defined as being fully known by someone and fully knowing the other individual in return. This definition of intimacy lends itself to different aspects of intimacy with another individual: spiritual, physical, emotional, relational and probably more. In this post I will focus on spiritual intimacy.
The fundamental root issue, I believe, is that we have enough trouble drawing near to the Lord on our own, let alone what this looks like with another human being. Today I will share some of the obstacles to spiritual intimacy, and in my next post I will share some practical suggestions on how to grow closer to the Lord together as a couple.
I posed the following 3 questions to some marriage ministry leaders:
- What is spiritual intimacy?
- What are some reasons why spiritual intimacy is hard in marriage?
- How’s your prayer life? As an individual and as a couple?
Every couple present agreed spiritual intimacy is a major challenge in marriage – even for the couple married 40 years with five, incredible grown children!
Together we brainstormed eight barriers to spiritual intimacy in marriage.
Sometimes we know that spiritual intimacy would do us good as a couple, but we’re too lazy and preoccupied by other tasks or selfish desires. Often we seek immediate fruit, and spiritual intimacy usually produces a product/fruit down the road, not in the immediate present.
A great time to pray or discuss what we’re learning spiritually is when we go to bed at night. But, we are so exhausted from the day’s activities that we conk out before even getting a chance to discuss or pray.
Other things take precedence, including television (get rid of that TV in the bedroom if you have one!), hobbies, schedule, people-pleasing (we say yes to everything else and have no margin left for the things that matter most), reading (even good things can replace the great thing), exercise (we make the physical more important than spiritual) and much more. Good becomes the enemy of great.
4. Different schedules
Sometimes the husband and wife have different sleep and wake schedules. The husband is up earlier or vice versa. Regardless, schedules not in sync make it difficult to make time for any and all conversations.
5. Uncomfortability (a made-up word, I believe).
We don’t know how to share with our spouse. Our relationship with Jesus is something private to us and we are uncomfortable sharing what we’re learning or struggling with and we just don’t know how to share with one another.
A close relative to uncomfortability is insecurity. We don’t have the spiritual intimacy with the Lord we would like on our own, so sharing with our spouse becomes something we don’t want to do because of our guilt, shame or embarrassment. Or, we are fully aware of our own depravity (1 Timothy 1:15) and we don’t think we are worthy of sharing spiritually with our spouse.
7. False Humility
We don’t want to appear hyperspiritual or holy, so instead of sharing with our spouse we decide to stuff it and not share with one another. We don’t want to ‘brag’ about what we’re learning or shove it in someone else’s face, so instead we don’t share with our spouse what we’re learning.
8. Broken Trust
At its core, this may be the biggest challenge for many couples. Our trust is broken with either God or with our spouse, so we don’t share with one another. If trust is broken with God or with your spouse, then you will choose to not be intimate in any way with them.
Here’s the good news… All these barriers can be overcome. In the next post I will share how.
What would you add? What are some other barriers you have come across?
With which of the barriers do you most struggle?