After getting married in 1995, Serene and I committed to doing “Couple Devotions”. And one precious lesson which stuck in my mind was the importance of developing and maintaining Spiritual Intimacy in the marital relationship. In those pre-parenting years, it didn’t pose too much of a challenge to us as we did everything together – and that included attending church services, fellowship groups and seminars. At the same time, the Lord stirred in each of us a hunger for Him and we found ourselves talking about spiritual stuff, reading the Word, being convicted by similar issues and praying together. It was so exciting and fun … serving God and discovering Him as a couple! With that in place, we were both ready and willing when the Lord called me in 2000.
Across my talks on Marriage and Family, I have found that not every couple has had this privilege of growing together and enjoying spiritual intimacy. Both may be church-people but each will have his or her own times of devotion and prayer, if that even takes place. They may go on couple dates or have couple activities. But build spiritual intimacy? Sadly, in many marriages, that is an alien-sounding concept.
Admittedly, it is easy to talk about spiritual intimacy but not quite as easy to implement nor maintain. If anyone has an excuse for not doing so, we have seven! Add to that homeschooling, housekeeping and a packed ministry schedule. To this end, over the years, we had also let this important aspect slip in our marriage. Yes, we pray, but individually. Yes, we read the Word, but separately. Yes, we minister and bless others through our lives and family, but in different spheres and areas. Aren’t these good? Of course, they are. But notice the operative words that should raise alarm bells and danger signals … individually and separately.
In my busyness, I had neglected my wife and the spirituality that must be nurtured together in our relationship. Issues must be discussed and items prayed through and over together. If not, a couple can drift apart theologically, each forming his or her own conclusions and interpretations on how the Word of God should be applied in various situations. The enemy loves couples like that! Theological and doctrinal gaps present great openings for him to drive his diaboloical wedges of dis-satisfaction, discouragement, bitterness, pride, self-righteousness, blame and unforgiveness into! He loves to see husbands and wives take biblical stands on marriage and family issues just so they can argue with each other from opposite sides. How sneaky, how deceptive, how disastrous!
More recently, the Lord convicted me of this area of neglect (yes, there is no softer word) in my marriage. As the husband and the head, I am fully responsible for the level of spiritual intimacy that Serene and I share. By assuming that we were both doing ok and obediently serving the Lord, I had allowed the gaps to widen and that began to show up in many aspects of our marriage and family life! We became tired and worn out by the workload. We were easily discouraged with things that didn’t go right. We were frustrated with the behaviour of the children. We lost focus amidst the 1,001 things to do. Soon, we were questioning God, wondering where He was in all these. It was just so easy to get into yet another pity-party, a woe-is-me and nobody-understands-our-problems session. We knew we had to bring it to the Lord – not individually, but together!
And that is what we have been doing … we have begun, once again, to pray together. Each night, after Serene puts our youngest to bed, we would spend time praying together. No TV, no computer, no newspapers. Just the two of us, crying out to the Lord. We would pray for one another, for the children, and for anything the Lord lays upon our hearts. And if there was nothing to pray for (as if), we would just pray in the Spirit, allowing the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf. These have not been earth-shaking moments and usually after the “amen”, we’d just chat or go back to our tasks. But in the spiritual, there has been a powerful shift! We have drawn so much closer to each other spiritually. It’s hard to explain, but somehow, the spiritual environment and climate at home is different from what it was just a few months ago. It’s less tense and there is more joy, more singing, more smiles, more laughter. There is a renewed consciousness of God and His presence in our lives and conversations. We sense it in our relationship with each other, and also with each of our children. In the natural, we are still struggling with the same issues and challenges. But in the spiritual, we just know that God is leading us and taking us through step by step; and that in turn, will affect and direct the natural.
We know that this is just the beginning and there is just so much ahead of us. Spiritual intimacy must be maintained and developed even more and more, and there must be no letting up. If not, we will find ourselves back at square one. Life presents new challenges each and every day, for our marriage and for our family, in the lives and situations of each growing child. For the family to be strong, the marriage must be strong; and only spiritual intimacy will ensure the solidity of that foundation. Out of our prayer times, I believe the Lord will cause us to identify and deal with other issues. These will cause us to search His Word, to rightly interprete and apply it together. Our unity in the Spirit will also affect the raising of our children. In time, we want these prayer times to extend to and include our children as they come of age.
Much has been written about this. Even more has been said about this. But spiritual intimacy cannot be simply read or talked about. It has to be developed and the best first step couples can take to draw closer spiritually is to begin to pray together.