The Dangers & Blessings of Spiritual Intimacy

February 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm
Imagine with me for a moment that I am a man who is passionately searching for a closer relationship with God. I am reading his word, I am praying, I am seeking him out through fellowship with other believers. I desperately want to grow. And imagine with me that I suddenly have the opportunity to hire a new co-worker, and imagine that upon hiring her I discover that, she too, is passionately pursuing God. Now imagine that I decide that instead of doing this spiritual journey in isolation that we should walk it together. So imagine we start praying together. Imagine our prayer times are fruitful, passionate and spirit-lead. Imagine they become a daily experience for both of us, and are deeply satisfying; a brother and sister in Christ pursuing God, together.
 
Now imagine that somewhere along the way my wife discovers that each day I am spending time with another woman with whom I am sharing my spiritual life.  She learns about the depth of our conversations, the transparency of our prayer requests, the encouragement and support I am receiving, and the way in which my prayer time has finally come alive with my new sister-in-Christ.
 
…And then imagine that she blows up at me.
 
I am baffled. “We are just praying,” I argue. We never touched, we never said anything inappropriate, we are not attracted to one another. It has always been just a time of prayer together. What could possibly be the problem?
 
The problem, quite simply, is the blessing and danger of spiritual intimacy. As multifaceted beings we are comprised of spirit, body, and mind. When we connect with another human we often focus on the physical connection while disregarding the other dimensions of relational intimacy. But it is every bit as important to guard the boundaries of spiritual intimacy as it is to place healthy fences around our physical intimacy. 
 
To argue the validity of spiritual intimacy, consider another example from within the boundaries of marriage. If sex is just physical it is selfish. If you are physically present but your mind is somewhere else (or with someone else), it is a lie. If you are physically and mentally present in sex, but the spiritual life between you and your spouse is non-existent then sex is still much less than it was designed to be. It is only when we fully present ourselves to the other as mind, body, and spirit that true union occurs. One flesh.        
 
In dating relationships, the way this typically works out is that many couples focus almost exclusively on creating healthy physical boundaries only to compensate for the lack of intimacy by constantly hooking up with others through their spirits and minds. They share their souls, their stories, their struggles, their fears and their pain, laying themselves before another in ways that are every bit as sacred and vulnerable as standing naked before one another. When the relationship ends, the partners leave with pieces of the other they never should have had with the security of a covenant.       
 
Young couples frequently come to me in order to confess that they found themselves in the back-seat of a car with their shirts off, yet seldom feel the need to confess that the week before they were steaming up those same car windows with the breath of their prayers.
 
I have counseled countless couples who tend to boast about their well-disciplined approach to PDA, but simultaneously brag about the new couples devotional they started on their first date. They are willing to forgo kissing until they stand at the altar but need help finding a new church where they can both worship together. They are proud that she is helping him with his addiction to porn and he is helping her with her father issues. They never hold hands, unless it is to pray together. 
 
Within marriage, the same principles can be applied in reverse. How many marriages today are stifled because one or both of the partners are unwilling to be intimate with their spouse spiritually. I confess that it took nearly fifteen years of my own marriage before prayer with my wife became a daily discipline. I can assure you I wouldn’t have waited fifteen years to experience physical intimacy, and yet, an equally important aspect of our relationship was ignored to the detriment of our experience of one flesh.
 
Much in the same way that young couples are encouraged to postpone the sharing of their bodies for a future spouse, so too I want to encourage them to consider the saving of their spiritual lives for the same blessing. My wife has access to my soul in ways that no other woman ever should. And she did not gain that access until we were free to share all of ourselves with one another within the secure boundaries of marriage.
And if you are reading this as someone who is experiencing a particularly dry season of a marriage, I encourage you to consider moments this week, this month and this year that you will choose to let your soul stand naked with your spouse’s for a moment before you crawl under the sheets together.   


Read Spiritual Intimacy PART 2 HERE