Eight years in to marriage there are still some things I refuse to do with my wife. I refuse to use the toilet in any way when she’s in the bathroom, for instance. I won’t start watching a movie with her halfway through. And, until very recently, I wouldn’t read the Bible with her. I’m not proud of that.
I grew up in a loving home with loving parents who also had a very strict, legalistic understanding of God. There wasn’t a lot of grace when the rules were broken, and there were a lot of rules, and I was never very good at keeping them. I learned early on that my parents couldn’t handle the honest reality of what I was thinking and feeling, and so around 5th-6th grade I created an “acceptable” version of me that wouldn’t let them down and get me in trouble.
Side by side with this sat the nightly devotionals my dad tried to lead with our family. He wanted us to engage and share and pray, but it’s really hard to do those things when you’re keeping the most honest version of yourself away from people. And so I developed an intense aversion to spiritual intimacy. It felt unsafe and threatening. It made me shut down. And when Christina and I were seriously dating I didn’t know how to undo this. She wanted to read the Bible and pray together, but for reasons I had a hard time explaining then that idea terrified me.
It wasn’t until very recently that the work I’d done at learning to be vulnerable combined with a desire to talk about God with my wife, someone whose way of processing life and faith and relationships is intensely valuable to me. I like the way she thinks. She makes me a better me. Just this last week we read the Bible together, and (surprise!) it was great. I loved it.
I feel embarrassed sharing the above with you and the TM community, but I’ve discovered over time that I’m far from alone in struggling with spiritual intimacy with my spouse. Maybe you’re reading this and identify with some or all of what I’m describing. If so, I want to let you know that pressing into the scariness of spiritual intimacy is worth it. Here are four amazing things I’m experiencing:
Spiritual intimacy is teaching more more about my wife
Within five minutes of the first time we read the Bible together, Christina shared something about herself that I never knew. It wasn’t something she was hiding, it was that leaning in to our relationship with God together led to a level of vulnerability and transparency that couldn’t have happened any other way.
Spiritual intimacy helps us face our struggles together
What Christina shared was a very personal admission of a fear surrounding our current financial situation. For a few years now money has been tight for us, and while that is stressful for anyone there were some painful moments from Christina’s past that made our current situation feel excruciatingly painful.
Since that conversation my ability to empathize with Christina when she’s anxious about money has skyrocketed.
Spiritual intimacy is increasing every other area of intimacy
This one is pretty obvious after reading the first two points, right? Everything I’m talking about involved Christina and I knowing and seeing each other at a deeper level, and saying “I love and accept you.” That’s pretty amazing!
It’s also pretty sexy. I’m just saying ….
Spiritual intimacy helps us lean in to God’s blessings
I’ve written about this before here at TM, but I firmly believe that God is actively rooting for your marriage. He’s on your side! He wants to bless your relationship with your spouse more than you can imagine!
As Christina and I read the Bible and pray together, I can sense God at work, giving us clarity and focus for our future, deepening our commitment to each other, and protecting us spiritually from a spiritual enemy who wants to destroy us.
So, in short, reading the Bible and praying together has been amazing. Better than I could have hoped. And it makes it hard for me to remember what I was so scared of before. The truth is – the truth always is – that my fears of the past were keeping me from God’s best in my present.
But that doesn’t have to be, for me or for you. So if this resonates with you, share it with your spouse, and set up a time to read the Bible and pray together. For what it’s worth, Christina and I started with James 1 (we only made it 5 verses!) and that instantly created good conversation. If you’re not sure where to start, begin there.