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Thursday, December 30, 2010
This is part 4 in a series on the negative effects of shame on marital intimacy. Go back here  to start at the beginning of the series.

Today I’m going to cover another significant shame issue that is at least somewhat related to the previous post in which I discussed how shame over physical appearance can inhibit physical and sexual intimacy.

Today’s topic is sexual shame.

Sexual shame comes in many forms and from many sources. I only have space to touch on a few of the more common ones.

"Sex is Evil" Mindset

To many it may seem ridiculous to even address such a ludicrous source of sexual shame, but sadly I think there are still many who suffer from the notion that sexual desire is evil and to be avoided.

I have seen this especially as a problem for Christian newlyweds who got it drummed into them repeatedly by well-meaning pastors who warned repeatedly about the evils of premarital sex. Now don’t misunderstand me. I strongly believe that sex is only intended for marriage. Unfortunately, however, rather than teaching that sex is amazing and wonderful and holy but only within the context of marriage, many take the “sex is evil” approach in order to ward off premarital sexual involvement. We can make such an idol out of purity so as to create all kinds of sexual issues for newlywed couples. It is as if suddenly, as the result of a ceremony and a ring, young adults are supposed to change their mindset from “sex is bad” to “sex is wonderful.”

Another source of “sex is evil” shame is the many negative ways in which Satan has so perverted and distorted what God created as beautiful. That is, because there is so much negative use of sexuality in the world around us (pornography, prostitution, sexual abuse, rape, extramarital affairs, teen pregnancy, etc.) some would throw the baby out with the bathwater, failing to distinguish between God’s original intent for the pleasures of martial sex and the way society has corrupted it.

The way to get past this kind of sexual shame is to understand that God created us for sexual pleasure. He made our bodies so that we would enjoy sex. He wired us emotionally and physically to desire it. He intends sexual intimacy between husband and wife to be a picture of spiritual intimacy between us and God – the ultimate in intimacy. Sex is beautiful and holy, with amazing physical, emotional and spiritual implications. When God had created us, male and female, including the specific method by which we were to be fruitful and multiply, he said “it was very good.” Believe it. God is VERY sex positive.

Sexual Sin or Sexual Abuse

For some reason we tend to attribute greater weight to sins of a sexual nature. The truth is that sin is sin, and while sexual sin can bring with it significant consequences in the natural (unwanted pregnancies, abortion, and disease among them) God’s grace does not fall short when it comes to sexual sin. His forgiveness in not limited to certain more acceptable forms of sin. “As far as the east is from the west is how far are sins are taken from us” as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Sexual sin can lead to emotional scars that need to be dealt with, sometimes through professional counseling, but the truth is that while we may have a hard time getting past these things, God doesn’t. He sees you as perfect and holy because of what Jesus did for us. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes this seems just to good to be true. But it is true.

Sometimes the roots of sexual shame can be traced back to some past sexual abuse. There may be shame associated with not having spoken up about the abuse or shame from having exposed the abuser. There may be shame from having ignorantly enjoyed the attention or the physical pleasure or shameful memories that keep sex locked in painful association with any form of sexual contact, including from a spouse.

While God can provide healing and wholeness from these horrid past experiences, you may need the help of a good Christian counselor or some serious inner healing prayer ministry to get past your shame so that you can experience fullness and freedom in your married sex life. That is God’s true desire for you.

Reclaiming Sexual Intimacy

Whether from a wrong mind-set, sin or some form of abuse the end effect is that something God intended to be beautiful and holy has been turned into something much less, possibly even something emotionally painful and difficult. So how can you reclaim the sexual territory that you are otherwise not experiencing in fullness?

Though the roots of sexual shame often run deep, restoration begins with changing how you think. Whether you appreciate the fact or not, sexual intimacy is an important aspect of your marriage relationship. Some call it the glue that holds a marriage together. Set it in your mind that you won’t settle for less than a fully satisfying sex life with your spouse and do whatever it takes to restore sexual intimacy.

Whatever the source, strive to set aside the sexual shame that has kept you trapped. Refuse to let shame come between you and your spouse. Let him or her help you find fullness in this important part of your marriage. If necessary get professional or pastoral help.

It is worth doing whatever it takes to overcome sexual shame so that you can experience a whole, healthy and deeply satisfying sex life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010
This is part 3 in a series on the negative effects of shame on marital intimacy. The bottom line is that shame and intimacy simply do not coexist well together.  For the rest of the series, start here.

There are an infinite number of possible things that can cause you shame before your spouse. I’m starting off with an area that applies mostly to women, but which is certainly not exclusively a female-only issue.

That issue is shame over your appearance.

I have posted about this issue before (see my take on the body image battle that many women face ). However, I have not dealt directly with the issue of the shame that comes with a negative body image.

Who Me? Shame?

I recently had a thorough physical. Since I turned 50 this year, I am thankful that I passed every test with flying colors. Every test, that is, except one. I need to lose about 15-20 pounds to be in what is considered a “healthy” weight range.

I’ve always been aware that my weight has been creeping slowly upward every year, but I won’t kid you, the directive from the doctor to lose weight did a number on my head. I’ve never been one to be pre-occupied by my physical appearance. I’ve mostly blown off the graying and receding of my hair and the wrinkles that are sprouting up – thinking them just a natural part of the aging process. But suddenly I see myself differently. Suddenly I feel fat. All because someone told me I need to lose some weight.

Perhaps for the first time in my life I have a genuine sense of shame about my appearance.

The Fruit of Shame

Now as never before, when I stand in front of a mirror my eyes go straight to the extra inches around my waist. I feel unattractive. Other flaws that I’ve mostly ignored come suddenly into sharp focus. I have a harder time believing Jenni is attracted to me, and I’m less comfortable being undressed around her. Even during times of physical intimacy my mind has been poisoned with nagging doubts about my appearance. These are all new experiences and emotions for me, and all of them have a negative effect on intimacy between Jenni and I.

While I am resolved to lose weight by eating better and getting more exercise in the coming months, I am also resolved not to continue letting these few extra pounds take a toll on our intimacy.

As I reflected on the shame that was stirred up in me by a single conversation with my doctor, I realized that women, and men to a lesser extent, are receiving negative body image messages almost daily. Everywhere they turn (TV, movies, magazines, friends, and especially advertisements) they are being told their appearance is unacceptable in one way or another. It is a relentless torrent of accusation.

Sadly, the resulting negative self-image about your appearance will hinder intimacy with your spouse in many ways. You won’t be able to receive their affection as easily, perhaps even doubt their love altogether. You won’t be as bold sexually, and it will likely negatively impact your interest level in sex and physical intimacy. In some extreme cases, it may cause you to feel hopeless and give up caring about your appearance altogether, further exacerbating the problem.

The Truth About Your Appearance

The truth is that attractiveness and so-called sex appeal are 90% attitude and only 10% actual appearance. Confidence, a positive outlook and a healthy sense of self-worth can easily overshadow any perceived physical flaws you may have. Remind yourself about your best features and the things your spouse most admires. Choose to focus on these things. Believe in your inherent beauty as a person. Accept at face value the praises and admiration of your spouse when they are offered and don’t argue back or reject compliments about your physical attributes.

That’s not to say that the ten percent appearance part doesn’t matter. Of course you should learn what colors and styles you look best in and how to accentuate your positive features. Pick clothes (and for women, lingerie) you know your spouse finds attractive and make you feel good. Invest in a good hair cut (and for women, decent skin care and makeup). But don’t get your identity from them. Rather, allow these things to reinforce the true beauty you inherently possess.

Think Differently

As with all issues of shame, getting past your disdain over your physical appearance is largely a matter of taking on a new mindset. Begin to think of yourself as a glorious creation, uniquely crafted by God. Go beyond merely accepting that your spouse finds you attractive, and actually believe yourself to be beautiful/handsome and worthy of desire and affection. Go beyond merely getting comfortable with your naked form, and begin to show off your charms for your spouse. Find joy in being naked without shame. Sure, do what you can to be fit and healthy, but refuse let your sensuality go up and down according to a number on the scale.

As you work to shift your own thinking, so also be diligent in helping your wife or husband think of themselves differently. Affirm her looks. Admire his body. Overtly state your desire and admiration in very specific terms. Use touch to reinforce your words. These words may be the key to overturning your spouse’s sense of shame about their appearance.

All this is much easier said than done. I understand that. But keep in mind that the goal of overcoming shame is increased intimacy. If you want to fan the flames of sexual intimacy, think of yourself as the hot woman or man you want to be and act as if you are. You will be amazed at the difference it will make.

Remember that your principle sex organ is your brain, and learn to think yourself into sexy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I hope by now you’ve had a chance to listen to the great video by Dr. Brene Brown that I posted a few days ago.

One of the interesting conclusions she uncovered from her clinical qualitative research is that shame is essentially the fear of disconnection caused by a sense of unworthiness (“I am not ______ enough”). She further concludes that this fear creates in us unwillingness to be vulnerable, which meansbeing who we genuinely are, in an effort to gain acceptance. So we numb ourselves against vulnerability using a variety of anesthetics such as money, food, alcohol, promiscuity and other forms of “medication.” Further we act in ways that keep vulnerability and intimacy at a safe distance through blame, perfectionism, an pretense. But as we mute fear and shame with these things, we also mute joy, creativity and happiness. We kill any chance for genuine intimacy.

In the end shame, which is driven by our fear of disconnection, prevents us from experiencing the very intimacy we fear losing (or not getting in the first place). Shame is a dead end, guaranteed to leave you trapped in loneliness, without the genuine connection you long for. The ultimate conclusion I draw from this is that shame and intimacy simply cannot coexist.

For the most part I agree with her take on things; that is until it comes to her prescription. What she suggests is a humanistic solution: just believe in yourself and your own worth and muster the courage to be vulnerable and genuine. I suppose there are those who can overcome shame this way, but I believe there is a better way. It’s the way of encountering divine love and acceptance in God.

An Encounter with Love

Sadly, there are many who would resist this line of thinking, because unfortunately the church has often been one of the biggest purveyors of shame and fear. This wrong theology has promulgated a view of God as mostly mad, sad and frustrated instead of loving, passionate and full of zeal for us. The latter is the truth. The former is the deceit and accusation of the enemy.

I believe quite strongly that overcoming the shame that is blocking intimacy in your marriage needs to start with a revelation of the love of God for you (and consequently for your spouse). What I’m talking about goes way beyond a vague “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” kind of understanding. I’m talking about a personal and powerful revelation of just how deeply and endlessly Jesus loves you .

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3, explains that our journey into discovering “the length, height, width and depth” of the love of Christ is the key to a life of fullness. I agree! Get to know this unknowable love. Feeling the embrace of Jesus, his total acceptance of you, just as you are, is the beginning of overcoming shame and discovering the glory that you were made for.

Banishing Shame from Your Marriage

With a firm foundation of shame-free living before God, you can then turn toward your spouse and boldly be who you are, without shame and fear. This is what Dr. Brown calls being wholehearted, living with courage and compassion. It means being willing to love unconditionally, even without the guarantee of receiving the same kind of love and acceptance in return.

I know at least for me, this is the kind of love that I must first receive from God in order for me to give it to my wife.

I know getting past shame is a process and a life-long pursuit. We will fail and fall back into shame from time to time, both with God and with our spouses. Shame-free living doesn’t mean being perfect, it just means being willing to be real and honest with your mistakes, embracing forgiveness and being willing to stay vulnerable in the process. It means not disconnecting yourself from your spouse. It means being willing to admit that there are things you still need to work on, but not letting your imperfection keep you from intimacy.

In the next few posts I’m going to talk about some of the major sources of shame and discuss things couples can do to deal with them. Just know that in all of this the starting point in your battle with shame is a genuine revelation of the love and acceptance that is yours in Christ. If that isn’t something you feel you have a good handle on, I suggest you begin that journey first and pray for divine revelation in this realm. It is life changing!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

You may recall that I did a post on shame as part of my recent intimacy series. Later I came across this video over at Anonymous8. It’s a short (20 minute) talk by Dr. Brene Brown that deals with the topic of shame both from a clinical research and a personal standpoint. Have a listen:

If you can’t see the video above, click here.

Now Dr. Brown doesn’t share her findings and insights from a biblical point of view (I don’t have any idea what her belief system is). However, I am always fascinated and slightly amused when secular researchers dig deep into something and come up with what is essentially a biblical truth.

I see tons of stuff in this video that points toward biblical principles, though I think without God in the picture the humanistic solutions she offers fall short. I’ll get to sharing some of those “near misses” in my next few posts. In the mean time I’ll leave you with this thought.

I love the scripture depicted in this picutre:

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame – Psalm 34:5
When we focus inwardly on our own weaknesses, failings and physical flaws, shame fueled by fear will quickly overtake us. But when we look into the face love and see the unrelenting passion in the eyes of our Bridegroom, Jesus, we can indeed feel radiant, even beautiful, because we know that's how he sees us.

This verse reminds me of the story told in Song of Solomon of the young Shulamite woman who is wooed and won by a loving and valiant king who refuses to let her hide in her shame. For more of my thoughts on Song, check out my "Dark But Lovely" post here.

What has been your own experience with shame? Do you have a story to share in which overcoming shame allowed you to find the connectedness (intimacy) you so desired?<

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See the left side bar under "Notable Series" for links to the entire Shame and Intimacy series.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well the Top Ten Marriage Blog votes are in and Journey to Surrender didn’t make the list. No surprise and no hard feelings. (Check the Top Ten List here) There are some tremendous blogs out there with a much bigger following than mine. There are some other blogs that didn’t make the list either, but which I think are fabulous resources for married Christians.

It’s been too long since I've added to my blog roll, so I am pledging to do a better job of giving recognition to some of my unsung favorites.

One of those is One Flesh Marriage, which is fairly new to the marriage blogging community and which I just recently discovered. Ever since reading their first post, I realized quickly that Kate and Brad Aldrich are kindred spirits. Their blog is unabashedly Christian and biblically based, something I find very refreshing. It is also encouraging to me to see others willing to take a stand for biblical marriage.  At the same time their blog is very real and they are honest about where their marriage has been and what the paradigm of working toward being one flesh (per the biblical mandate) has meant to their marriage. I also really like that Brad and Kate take turns posting, so you get a balance between the male and female perspectives.(Note to self:  have my lovely wife post here once in a while.)

I strongly recommend you click over the One Flesh Marriage and subscribe to their blog, You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I am a big fan of The Song of Solomon, that little book somewhere in the middle of the Bible that many people tend to ignore, either because it’s too strangely metaphoric or too sensual for their tastes.

There are many ways that people interpret Song. Some view it simply as a love story, or more accurately probably a musical of sorts, that tells of the redeeming love between a good king and a lowly villager. Some consider it an allegorical story of God’s love for Israel, and for others the story of Jesus’ love relationship with the church. Others use it to gain insight into the emotions of God, more particularly the heart of our Bridegroom Jesus toward us, individually and personally, as his bride. The story also provides some important perspectives on marital love.

They all work for me. I think anyone who claims that they have the sole “right” revelation on Song of Solomon are missing out on God’s amazing ability to impart multiple revelations within one set of scriptures. But enough theology.

Today I want to focus on one tiny verse in this tiny book. Actually, it is just one phrase from that verse, yet it has incredible significance for marriage.

A Story of Unrelenting Love

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it is a passionate tale of love between a good and powerful king and a lowly Shulamite woman who works in the family vineyards. When they first meet, she sees herself as unworthy of the king’s attention and affection. She proclaims:
I am dark but lovely… Song of Solomon 1:5a

Her darkness is a literal reference to her skin, which has become darkened from working out in the vineyards, but it’s is also a statement of the condition of her soul.

To me, the whole rest of the book unpacks and unfolds this “dark but lovely” paradox. The king, in extolling her physical beauty and proclaiming his passionate and steadfast love for her, wins her to himself by redeeming her “darkness” and convincing her that she is indeed “lovely.” Even in her doubt and weakness, her lack of trust in him, and her hesitation to follow him, he remains unfaltering in his love and in his praises of her virtues.

He looks past the dark and into the lovely. And it transforms her life.

The truth is that we are all dark but lovely.

Where do you see your darkness? Is it in your physical appearance or body image? Is it selfishness or fits of anger? Are there parts of your soul (thought life, negative emotions, or self-centered agenda) or body (physical appearance, unkind words or unloving actions) that keep you trapped, feeling unworthy of love, affection and desire?

We all have our stuff. We all have some darkness. You do, and so does your spouse. And for most of us, it doesn’t take much to convince us of our darkness. Even though the story doesn’t end there, the problem is that the lovely part can be much harder for us to see, both in ourselves and in our spouses.

The reason I love the Song of Solomon is the way it so clearly portrays the transformational power of unconditional and unrelenting love. It is also the kind of power that can transform your marriage.

The Shulamite woman is transformed out of her sense of worthlessness and into the sure knowledge of the love and desire of her bridegroom king. She finds herself delivered from shame and embraces glory in the courts of her king.

There are clear spiritual implications of this paradox, but as important as that is, I really want to focus on your marriage here.

Lessons for Your Marriage

Husbands, do you see yourself in the role of the unrelenting lover king found in this story? Can you see past your wife’s darkness and into her loveliness? In the words of Ephesians 5, do you see her “without spot or blemish.” Can you love her beyond her weaknesses and imperfections, affirming her, nurturing her, adoring her, loving her “as if?” Further, are you able to shift her own eyes off of her darkness and onto her loveliness and beauty? Such is the power of your unconditional love for your wife.

Wives, this paradox cuts both ways. Maybe it helps you to think in terms of “dark but handsome” instead of “dark but lovely.” Either way, your unrelenting love, shown largely in the form of unconditional respect and words of affirmation, can have the same kind of transformative effect on your husband. Can you see in him the kind of man he was created to be, in spite of his shortcomings and mistakes? Can you believe the best of him and believe in his love for you, even when his words and actions sometimes speak otherwise? Can you love him “as if?” Further, can you help him see the best in himself?

Lastly, realize that in the story of the king and the Shulamite woman, the power lies in the unrelenting words of affection, affirmation and desire that flow freely to one another out of the hearts overflowing with love. In this little book there are more than a hundred such unabashed statements of affection.

It is not enough to love unconditionally; it must show up in your words and actions. A lot.

Take a lesson from this obscure and often overlooked book of the Bible. The next time your spouse blows it, remember the phrase “dark but lovely.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

As I do periodically, this morning I popped open the tool I use to report visits to my blog. I was surprised to see that of the morning’s last 15 visitors, 9 were from outside the US! (In case you care, the hits came from Australia, Botswana, Haiti, Russia, Kenya, UK, South Africa, and Canada.) Here is a snapshot of other recent global visitors to Journey to Surrender:

I’ve been doing the blog thing for almost a year now (see my last post for some reflections on my 100th post), yet the global reach of the web and the ease with which we can be a part of lives half a world away still always amazes me.

What also struck me this morning was the universality of marriage and the innate human desire to build stronger, more intimate relationships with our life mates. Sure, I realize that marriage traditions, customs and societal views vary greatly around the world, but I believe God wired us with an innate desire for intimacy that transcends borders and cultures.

God placed the human desire for intimacy in us first and foremost to draw us into relationship with himself. It is astounding that the almighty God of the universe wants me and wants to be in intimate relationship with me, but the more I discover about the nature of God the more I realize it is true. He made us in his image: we seek intimacy because God does too. Amazing!

Then, in order to make sure we got it, he created marriage. But he didn’t create marriage just so we could “be fruitful and multiply.” There are any number of ways he could have chosen to populate the earth. Procreation is just a byproduct of marriage, not its purpose. Its purpose is to give us a glimpse into the heart of God toward us.

Then, just in case we were a little slow on the uptake of this idea, he even stepped out of heaven and took on flesh, coming to earth as our bridegroom redeemer, Jesus, in order to win us for himself as an eternal bride.

So, no matter what country you are from, the next time you are surfing the web in search of ways to grow your marriage and increase intimacy, remember the source of your desire for intimacy. Pause to consider and respond to the invitation from God to be more intimate with him.

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I am honored to be running for the Top Ten List among some of my own favorite marriage blogs. Your vote would be greatly appreciated!

Vote Here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
That’s right, with today’s entry I’ve reached that vaunted 100th post milestone. I suppose it’s time for the obligatory somber reflection that typically accompanies such landmark accomplishments.

OK I promise not to be too somber.

I jumped into the blogosphere less than a year ago, with no prior blogging experience, having only limited knowledge of html, Javascript, RSS feeds and the like. I really had no idea where it would go or if it would be sustainable. I didn’t know if I would enjoy being forced to write as frequently as blogging requires, much less if anyone else would actually read what I was writing.

It’s been a fun and interesting ride so far.

Here’s what writing 100 posts on Christian marriage has taught me:
  • The technical stuff (html, javascript, etc.) turned out to be the easy part
  • Trying to write relevant, approachable, interesting posts twice a week or more is HARD WORK
  • There are hundreds of lurkers for every person brave enough to offer a comment
  • Other bloggers comment 10-to-1 over non-bloggers. Blogger pity?
  • I got a lot less push back than I expected on some pretty controversial stuff I’ve written
  • Spell checker is not enough. Edit. Edit. Edit. Then edit again.
  • There is a picture for almost everything. Google images is my friend.
  • More men read here than I expected - about 40% according to the readers who took the survey.
  • People genuinely care about their marriages, but they also care about the marriages of others and about the institution in general
  • Writing in the public domain is scarier than I thought it would be. More fun, but definitely scarier.
  • I rarely struggle for something to post about. I have way more ideas than I can possibly blog on and I find that one of the frustrating things about this endeavor.
  • I struggle with brevity.  Conciseness is not my gift.
  • I have discovered an entire community of wonderfully talented marriage bloggers. I enjoy reading their stuff almost as much as I do writing my own.
  • There is no way I could do this without the support and encouragement of my lovely wife, Jenni. Thanks lover!
Are you a blogger? Does any of this ring true for you? Do you have any other observations about your own blogging experience?

Saturday, November 27, 2010
In the next few weeks we’ll be wrapping up the marriage small group that my lovely wife and I have been leading. It’s been great fun, and we’ve learned a lot by working through each of the twelve marriage principles that formed the basis for our weekly discussions. As part of most weekly lessons, we developed some simple, practical exercises meant to prompt action and discussion around the week’s topic. I thought I’d post a few of these exercises here in an attempt to answer the call for more practical, actionable marriage suggestions.

Yes, I just spent most of the last few posts (part 1 here and part 2 here) explaining why it is more important to think the right way about your marriage and your role in it than it is to just do the things that someone else prescribes. But I thought sharing these exercises might spur you on to some thoughtful action. Almost all the exercises are open ended and designed to get you to think about your marriage and your spouse anyway. You won’t find a lot of “just do this” in the exercises.

The first joint exercise is actually something I posted way back here. It is designed to answer two questions. The first one is, “Does your spouse really know what you love about him or her?” The second one is, “Do you know what your spouse loves about you?” If you didn’t do it yet I strongly suggest you take the time to do it now. It can be very revealing.

The other exercise is one I’ll call the “Little Love List.” The idea is this:
  • Make a list of 10 “little things” that you know your spouse appreciates as a gesture of love.
  • By little things, I mean it shouldn’t be anything that requires major planning, expense or extraordinary effort.
  • It may be something to which he or she has responded to positively in the past or something they have expressed as a wish. The idea is to think in terms of what love expressions mean the most to them. It may not be anything that floats your boat, but your boat isn’t the point.
  • Over the next ten days, make it a point to do one little love expression each day. You don’t have to make a religion out of it. Be flexible as you need to be. The main thing is to do it consistently over a period of time.
  • Plan these things into your to do list or your daily routine. Making a deliberate attempt to show love to your husband or wife not only shows them your love in their terms, but it also gets you into the habit of thinking of ways to bless your spouse..
There’s a follow up part to the exercise we did that is also helpful. (We did it as part of the next week’s exercises). At the end of the ten days, or however long it takes you to work through your list, show your spouse the list and let them give you some feedback on it. Did you put some things on the list that really don’t say “I love you” to them? Are there some little love expressions that would see as more suitable? Use the feedback to improve your list and keep it handy. Pull it out periodically, and do something on the list.

If you do the exercise, stop by and let us know how it went for you. I’d love to hear your stories about what you learned from the exercise.

Thursday, November 25, 2010
I have so much to be thankful for today!

We're away in the mountains with my one true love and our three lovely girls, enjoying the beauty of  creation, the warmth of a roaring fire, the love of family and the goodness of God! Not to mention too much good food!

I'm also thankful to be a finalist as a Top Ten Marriage Blog of 2010.  Be sure to check out the list of great marriage blogs over at The Marry Blogger.  Many of my own favorites are finalists as well.

If Journey to Surrender has been helpful to your marriage in the past year, I'd appreciate your vote. Click below and scroll to the bottom of the page to enter your vote.  Thanks!.

Vote For Journey to Surrender Here

Monday, November 22, 2010
Since my last post in response to those looking for “practical” marriage advice, I’ve been further considering the whole idea of thinking, being and doing.

My reflections, as they so often do, relate to the bridal paradigm, the spiritual parallels that can help to inform our understanding of marriage. It may not be obvious where this headed at first, so hang with me.

Relationship vs. Rules

There is a broad misconception about Christianity, in my opinion, that paints it as little more than a religion of a bunch of rules; an extensive list of do’s and don’ts. For many, including some in the church, Christianity is mostly about doing, perhaps even more pervasively about NOT doing.

Do you count yourself among those who think that you have to do the right things in order for God to like you? Or at least do enough of the right things to counterbalance all the wrong things you do? Do you see God as mostly mad, sad or frustrated with you? If that’s how you see God, then this little post probably won’t do a whole lot to sway your viewpoint, but let me just say I think that is complete wrong thinking.

God went to all the trouble of creation with one purpose in mind: to have a people he could love. He made you for that very purpose. He went so far as to step out of the perfection of heaven and put on humanity, to come to us as Jesus, our loving Bridegroom, and even to die, in order to make a way for you to dwell with him in intimacy for all eternity.

Yes, the Bible is basically a love story. And yes, God wants to marry you.

You see, our walk with God is all about relationship, not rules. Oh sure, the Bible has lots of exhortation to the kinds of things we should/shouldn’t do, but it’s all there in order to remove the stuff in our lives that hinders love. Love for God, our knowledge of his love for us, and our love for others.

God is after our hearts. Our sincere “yes” to him in our hearts causes all the angels in heaven to rejoice. The very heart of God is struck by our slightest glance in his direction. Doesn’t that amaze you? It does me. He is able to see us a beautiful and perfect because of the yes in our hearts to the extravagant grace of Jesus. It’s not that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s that his love is completely unaffected by it, because of our greater yes to him.

What if?

I’m sure you are wondering what exactly all this has to do with marriage and the whole thinking vs. doing question.

Well, suppose for a minute that a right understanding of God’s love led to right thinking about the way you are to love your husband or wife? Suppose for a moment that you saw that the primary purpose of your marriage was so that you could love your spouse and not so much so that you could get them to do what you want (or even so that they would love you back). Suppose love was your only motive.

Now turn it around. Suppose love was your spouse’s only motive. Suppose you knew that they were after your heart and not your conformance to a set of expected behaviors. Suppose what mattered most to them was to live in intimate relationship with you and not how they could get their own needs met. And further suppose that they were able to love you “as if” your love was already a perfect reflection of the selfless love of God, even when you behave otherwise.

How would it affect your marriage if BOTH of you thought of your marriage in this way?

The Gap

Now obviously we are not able to love as perfectly, as selflessly or as consistently as God does. There’s always going to be a gap between what we think in our minds and we actually believe in our hearts. And there’s always going to be a gap between what we believe and what we are able to demonstrate day in and day out in our actions. We are prone to human frailty and failing. True enough.

But, if you both know that the other has the right mindset and right heart toward your marriage, then these “gaps” don’t have to undermine your relationship and your desire for intimacy. Your spouse’s greater “yes” toward you and your marriage makes intimacy much more attainable and sustainable.

Once you both have your minds renewed to a different, love-centered paradigm (“right thinking” as referred to in my last post), it’s a lot easier to bridge the gaps that happen in real marriages involving real people.

Changed Mind => Changed Self => Changed Marriage

In the end, you ultimately want to be a better husband or wife and do the kind of things that bless your spouse, that make your marriage stronger and that build intimacy. In the end there has to also be right doing.

I believe that once you are able to think about your marriage, your spouse and your self in the right way, once you really believe that selfless love is the path to true intimacy, your attitudes and beliefs about your marriage and your spouse can’t help but be changed for the better. And as you gradually become more the husband or wife you want to be, your actions can’t help but be changed as well. It’s immutable.

But in this marital model, better behavior is not the goal. Rather, it is but a byproduct of a new way of thinking and believing.

What do you think (pun intended)? Does my theory on thinking and doing hold water in your own marriage experience? Am I being too high minded, too philosophical or too idealistic? I’d love hear your honest opinion.

Saturday, November 20, 2010
There's still a few days left to nominate your favorite marriage blog over at "The Marry Blogger" where Stu is running his second annual top ten marriage blog list.  I would be honored if you consider nominating Journey to Surrender, but regardless of who you choose, please take a moment to nominate someone.  The marriage blogging community would be very grateful!

Nominations run now through November 23rd, and voting for finalists runs Nov 24th- Dec14th. One nomination per person. You'll need the url of the blog you are nominating.  Mine is: .

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming...

Friday, November 19, 2010
First an apology for my previous paltry posting performance. I can’t believe it’s been more than ten days since my last post!

Prompted by the number of new respondants, I just took a glance at the latest reader poll results for some direction on what readers are interested in next. (If you missed my series on the most requested topic, intimacy, be sure to go back here and check it out.) It turns out that a close second in requested topics is “practical marriage tips and advice.”

As I thought about what that really means, I decided I should have thought about what that means before I put it in my survey. Oh well, live and learn. I decided, after much consideration, that people are asking this question: “What should I do to make my marriage better?”

One Size Does Not Fit All

It’s a good and valid question. Unfortunately it’s one that’s difficult to answer. I was struck by this post by Paul at The Generous Husband that decries one-size-fits-all marriage advice that guarantees to fix your marriage if you just “do this.” It’s as if some think there is a magic three step set of things to do that will miraculously and effortlessly catapult every marriage to new heights. I’m with Paul: Hogwash!

Now I understand our propensity for quick, straightforward answers. I am a problem solver by nature and by training as an engineer. It’s what I do. But here’s the thing: universal advice is universally worthless. I understand that, and so I think that’s why I shy away from offering much in the way of prescriptive solutions to marriage issues. Every couple is made of unique individuals and when you bring them together you get uniqueness squared.

I don’t pretend to have a panacea.

Instead what I focus on is a way of thinking about your marriage and your role in it. I spend a lot of effort identifying and explaining the principles involved, mostly based on what the Word of God says about marriage, about love, focusing a lot on insights from the kind of Bride-Bridegroom relationship we have with Jesus.

I’ve said before that “right thinking will lead to right doing.” If I were to focus more on the doing part of the equation instead of the thinking part, chances are my advice would miss the mark by a wide margin. Because, truthfully, you are going to be much better at figuring out what to do than I would be. It’s first about getting your head and your heart in the right place so that you can apply these marriage principles to whatever real-life situations arise in your relationship.

Maybe you’re thinking that’s just a copout on my part. Nah, it’s just the truth. I don’t have the answers to what you should do (sorry to burst your bubble) but you probably do.

Right Thinking, Right Being

As a footnote/addendum/clarification/extension to my postulation of “right thinking leads to right doing,” let me add, “Right thinking also leads to right being.”

By that I mean that when you begin to internalize the marriage principles that God lays out for us and begin to understand God’s design for marriage, it slowly will begin to transform who you are as a husband or a wife. Over time these principles move from your head to your heart as they become part of who you are and as you step more fully into your role.

Although thinking about your marriage and your role in the right way will help you make decisions that grow your marriage and solve your problems, it’s when you get to place of right being that you can be most consistent at right doing.

There, I’ve done it. I’ve managed to answer the “What should I do?” question without actually answering it at all. Sorry to disappoint. But I do believe strongly in this idea of how important it is to see your marriage, your self and your spouse in the right way. It’s much better advice that if I’d just said:
  1. Husbands – buy your wife a diamond.
  2. Wives – give your husband more sex.

Not that there’s anything wrong with either one of those ideas!

Monday, November 8, 2010
Before I get to today’s post, I want to first offer a quick welcome to all the new readers, followers and subscribers here. Also, I appreciate it that a number of you who have taken the New Reader survey (upper left side-bar, in case you haven’t and would like to). I hope you enjoy being part of my own marriage journey, and I want to encourage you to take part in the dialog by offering your comments on what you read here. I really do appreciate and welcome your thoughts, questions and insights!

Over the course of my blogging on marriage this year, an issue has arisen from time to time that was reinforced to me by several recent respondents to reader’s survey.

What do you do when your spouse isn’t willing to join with you in the Journey to Surrender?

Let me start by saying I haven’t any personal experience in this matter, because my beautiful bride is completely on board with the idea of a surrendered marriage and we are taking the journey together, step by step, hand in hand. Obviously this is the ideal case and the way God intends it to be whenever possible. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a spouse will find that they are alone (or at least feel alone) in seeking to make the marriage a reflection of the bridal paradigm, one that is a reflection of the intimate love relationship between Jesus, our Bridegroom, and us, the church, His bride.

Second, let me say that what I propose below is in no way meant to discount the often painful reality of the situations many face. I don’t offer these suggestions as a quick fix or a magic bullet. Rather, my intention is to offer some biblical and hopeful perspective.

Your circumstance may be that of an unbelieving spouse who simply has no perception of the deeply spiritual nature of marriage and doesn’t see it as God’s very own creation. It may be a spouse that is ill-willed or embittered and has put up walls that seem impossible to penetrate. It may be a spouse that has withdrawn and refuses to invest in improving the relationship. It may be some combination of these things or something else entirely.

The question is, though, what do you do when, for whatever reason, you find yourself feeling alone on your marriage journey?

Seek First the Kingdom

You’ve heard it a thousand times: Seek God first, and all the other stuff will be taken care of (my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33). Sure, it sounds like a trite and over-used expression, but it is only as we gain a deep and intimate knowledge of who God really is that the truth of it begins to ring true. The knowledge of God, especially of his infinite love, is the key to fullness in God (Ephesians 3:16-18)

The Bible implores us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). God is a faithful lover, full of grace and mercy, one who only has good in his heart for us. He is our source of strength to face even the most difficult circumstances. Press fully into the heart of God, discover who he is and how he feels about you. Let it be his presence that carries you forward in your journey.

Truth Is Truth

The truth of the bridal paradigm is real regardless of whether your spouse chooses to walk along side you in the Journey to Surrender or not. The biblical marriage principles of selfless love, respect, trust, transparency, intimacy and the others you’ll find among the pages of this blog hold true regardless of your circumstances or your spouse’s beliefs. Living your life and trying to walk out your marriage by these principles will definitely bear positive fruit.

That said, you also have to have realistic expectations. Because these principles are certainly most fruitful and helpful to a marriage when a couple chooses to go after them together, don’t be disillusioned if you don’t suddenly see all your marital problems evaporate. Be thankful for small steps forward and let the light of truth be a lamp to light your way forward.

There Is Hope

God is by nature a redeemer and a restorer of lost things. Know that his desire is to see your marriage not only survive but thrive. He is able to make something out of nothing and repair even the most damaged relationships. Pray for restoration, walk in faithfulness, and let the God of hope fill you.

Finally, I leave you with this prayer. It is my prayer for you in your marriage journey:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The truth is that those who walk with God never walk alone.

(Cautionary note. Of course in situations involving physical abuse you should immediately seek refuge from the abuser. In cases involving verbal abuse, substance abuse, infidelity or other serious issues, you should seek marital or other professional counseling.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010
This is the sixth and final post in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and to get a complete list of the related posts in this series.

So far we’ve covered a number of choices that will help put and keep your marriage on the Path of Intimacy. We’ve addressed the fact that the deepest form of intimacy involves your whole being: spirit, soul (mind/heart/emotions) and body. We’ve seen the importance of being transparent and open, bringing the fullness of your self to your marriage, acknowledging the important role that trust plays in bringing about an atmosphere of living “naked without shame.” Last time we looked at the fact that you can have as much intimacy in your marriage as you choose to work for and that you can always have more if you go after it.

So what is left? What is the key ingredient that remains?


Grace is what keeps your marriage on the Path of Intimacy when other forces would knock you off.

Grace is nothing more than unmerited favor, mercy and kindness. Easy to say, but really hard to do. But grace is one of God’s most significant attributes and one that we would do well to mimic in marriage. It is God’s grace, mercy and loving-kindness that draws us near to him in intimacy. It’s his kindness that leads us to be transformed and renewed in the way we think and act, not his judgment or wrath (Romans 2:4). Grace has the same power to transform you and your spouse in your marriage.

“But wait,” you say. “You don’t know my [husband/wife]. You don’t know what I put up with!”

OK, I’ll admit it, I don’t. But here’s the crazy thing about grace. God knew everything about you, every sin and weakness, every bad choice, angry word and spiteful act you would ever commit, yet he chose to let his own Son, Jesus, be put to death so that he could have intimacy with you forever. That is grace. Ridiculous, extravagant grace. It is reckless mercy. It is what we are called to duplicate.

“I’m not God,” you reply.

Neither am I. I’m not anywhere near as good at this grace thing as God is. Nobody will ever be. But I know enough to know that there is a promise in grace. That promise is intimacy.

Yes, our spouses are full of flaws and mistakes and at times will come out with unkind words and careless actions. As long as there are people involved in marriages, there will be pain. Plenty of it. Don’t let the pain knock you off the Path of Intimacy. At least not for long.

You have to want intimacy more than you want perfection.

It’s really that simple. I’m not saying it is easy. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I do know the power of grace. It’s simply amazing. (Wait, isn’t there a song about this Amazing Grace…)

So if it is the Path of Intimacy you want, choose the way of grace. Be extravagant in giving it and gracious in receiving it. It will do wonders for your marriage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Today is voting day!  If you haven't already - get out and vote!! Lest I go off on a political rant, that's all I'll say about that. VOTE!

And since you are in the voting kind of mood, click on over to "The Marry Blogger" where Stu is running his second annual top ten marriage blog list, and nominate Journey to Surrender.

I'd be honored to be among those who make the finalists for 2010, but either way be sure to check out the blogs that end up in the contest - there are some really great resources out there.  I know I'm looking forward to checking out the blogs that are new to me. 

Nominations run now through November 23rd, and voting for finalists runs Nov 24th- Dec14th.   One nomination per person, and you'll need the url of my blog in order to nominate me: (yeah, I know, some day I need to get my own site address - it's on the list...)

Friday, October 29, 2010
This is the fifth in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and to get a complete list of the related posts in this series.

Would it offend you if I told you that you can have as much intimacy in your marriage as you want? I know it’s a risky statement. And I know there will always be exceptions, such as a spouse who is ill-willed, abusive and/or unwilling to put anything into the marriage.

But in general, I believe two things about intimacy
  1. You can have as much or as little intimacy in your marriage as you want.
  2. There’s always more.

How Much Do You Want?

There’s an important companion question to the question of how much intimacy do you want. How much do you want it?

Intimacy is organic, a living thing. So if you want it to grow then you have to feed it. A lot.

Left untended, the natural track of intimacy is decline. The Path of Separation, as I call it, is an easy one, and to some extent it is the path of human nature. It is easy and natural for you each choose to focus on your selves, your own needs, your own fulfillment and satisfaction. If you choose to live self-focused and self-protected, intimacy will eventually wither and die.

The Path of Intimacy, on the other hand, takes deliberate choice, or should I say deliberate choices. Lots of them.

I believe that optimally there’s a progression of sorts on The Path of Intimacy, as I’ve said before. It starts with spiritual intimacy, which enables and deepens intimacy in the realm of the soul (emotional and intellectual intimacy), all of which culminates in the ultimate act of intimacy, sex.

There can be breakdowns or issues anywhere along the way. If it is more sexual intimacy you are after, look back to spiritual and emotional intimacy for issues that need to be addressed. Are spiritually connected? Do you pray together and talk about your spiritual lives regularly? How are you doing with emotionally intimacy? Are you willing to be “naked without shame” in the realm of the soul? Are you transparent with your spouse and intellectually honest? Do you express love in the way your spouse wants it to be expressed? Husbands, do you cherish, protect and nurture your wife? Wives, do you show your husband the kind of respect and admiration he seeks?

How much are you willing to invest to get the kind of intimacy you want?

There’s Always More

Regardless of where you are on the Path of Intimacy, there is always further to go. I purposefully use the word “journey” to describe the lifelong pursuit of deeper marital intimacy. It never stops. Or at least it doesn’t need to.

If you are feeling stalled or even if you are feeling like you have maximized the intimacy you enjoy with your spouse, ask yourself whether you have stopped investing in it. There is always more you can do to stretch yourself and your marriage in ways that enhance intimacy.

Again, I encourage you to look broadly up and down the path for opportunities to grow intimacy. In your sex life, how often do you try out new things in the bedroom or seek new adventures in physical intimacy? As for intellectual intimacy, have you considered learning a new hobby together, taking dancing lessons, researching and visiting a new country, or jointly getting involved in a worthy cause? Is the emotional intimacy between you still growing, or have you decided you already know everything about each other there is to know? In your spiritual life, think about reading a good book the would spur you to spiritual growth, joining a small group or getting involved in a ministry.

Each area of intimacy feeds the other, so as the two of you continue to grow toward becoming “one flesh,” make sure that intimacy is thriving and growing in your whole beings: spirits, souls and bodies.

Focus on Your Part

There’s a strong temptation when dealing with the area of intimacy to play the blame game. It’s easy to blame our spouse for the lack we feel in the intimacy department. While the truth is that maximum intimacy is only achieved when you are both work at it diligently, it is also true that you can only change you.

Of course I encourage honest, open, and non-defensive expression of needs and desires. After all, you partner can’t possibly satisfy and delight you (which should be their primary focus) if he or she doesn’t know what you want and need. But truthfully, most of your effort should be focused on what you can do in your role as husband or wife to enhance intimacy. What are you doing to satisfy and delight your wife or husband? Where are his or her needs going unfulfilled?

If at all possible, and this is where it gets really hard, do the things you know you should do to enhance intimacy without the expectation of getting something in return. You want to avoid the mentality of “giving to get” and instead think in terms of “giving to bless.” This is the way of selfless and unconditional love.

Where are you on the Path of Intimacy? How much more do you want? And what are you willing to do to get it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This is the fourth in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and get a complete list of the related posts in this series. Today’s post closely relates to my last two, choosing Trust and Transparency in your marriage, so go back and read those if you haven’t yet.

There is another choice to be made that impacts your ability to live with trust and transparency toward your spouse. That choice involves shame.

What is shame? Shame is the painful emotion caused by an overwhelming sense of guilt, embarrassment, and unworthiness. Shame is what drives us hide ourselves. Look what happened back in the Garden of Eden after the fall, when the paradigm of being “naked without shame” (transparency) gets replaced by a paradigm of shame:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."       Genesis 3:7-10
Shame causes us to run FROM God and hide instead of TO Him with our weakness and inadequacy. As we see in this passage, shame creates an atmosphere of fear instead of trust. When we mess up, we run for the fig leaves. But, instead of hiding in shame, God wants us to draw near to him without hesitation or hindrance, knowing that we are fully loved, just as we are, completely cherished and accepted by him through the finished work of the cross.

Shame destroys intimacy with God. Shame destroys intimacy in marriage.

Shame is a powerful human emotion. It’s one of Satan’s main weapons in attacking our relationship with Jesus. Shame will cause us either to accuse our selves or to excuse ourselves by blaming another, neither of which is helpful. Shame can keep a marriage trapped in fear, distrust and secrecy. But how do we choose to lose the shame?

Let’s consider what the opposite choice might be? You might guess that transparency is the opposite of shame. You might guess that it’s pride. Close, but not quite.

The opposite of shame is glory. It’s a little-used word today, especially when we talk about people. Maybe we don’t have so much trouble attributing glory to God, but humans? I say yes!

You see, shame has to do with disgrace, but glory has to do with grace. To live in shame is to live in darkness, hiding in the shadows, but glory allows us to live in the light, out in the open. Shame leads to dishonor, doubt and fear, but glory leads to confidence, delight and a sense of honor.

We were made in the image of God; we were made to be glorious.

But how do we choose to operate in the place of glory instead of the place of shame? Here are a few ideas:
  • It is unconditional, sacrificial love that makes the way for us to be glorious, despite our weakness and failings. Believe that love is at the core of all your spouse says and does, even when it doesn’t always appear that way.
  • Grace, grace, grace. Give it generously. Receive it thankfully. Learn to see your self and your spouse through the eyes of Christ. This one is huge!
  • Never, ever use shame to manipulate or punish each other. It never really gets you what you want anyway.
  • Desire intimacy more than perfection (in your self or in your spouse) and realize that condemnation puts you quickly onto the Path of Separation. Deal with issues in a way that preserves the connection with your spouse.

Most of all , you have to believe that you were made for glory. Not so sure? Take a look at how your Bridegroom, Jesus, sees you:
…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27

Shame causes you to become insecure and self-absorbed, and the corresponding fear causes you to be self-protective and to hide your true self. Fear and shame are evil step-sisters. They work together to prevent and maybe even destroy intimacy in your marriage.

Choose to lose the shame. Choose glory instead.

Sunday, October 17, 2010
This is the third in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and get a complete list of the related posts in this series.

I posted last time about the first choice that will lead your marriage down the Path of Intimacy: transparency. Why is transparency so important? Because the highest form of intimacy comes from being known completely and yet loved absolutely.

I understand that getting “naked” before your spouse can be a scary proposition, but there is something that can help make the choice to bare your real self to your spouse a little easier. That something is an atmosphere of trust.

How do you choose trust?

Trust starts with you both believing that love is at the center of everything you do. Deep conviction about the other’s love is the essential foundation upon which other trust will develop. Each must also trust in the other’s understanding of the bridal paradigm and in your mutual desire to wholeheartedly go after a surrendered marriage. Trust that your spouse has a good heart.

For trust to be nurtured an atmosphere of faith is also required. Believe in your spouse and your marriage. If faith is the expression of belief, then trust puts that statement into action. In effect, trust says, “Because I know you and know of your love for me, I put myself in your hands.” So yes, transparency follows from trust, but trust also follows from transparency. When you reveal parts of your self, and find in return the love, grace and acceptance of your husband or wife, then you will become more willing to reveal the real you – all of you.

Trust is not simply passive acceptance, but rather an act of purposeful surrender. Trust says no to fear and yes to faith.

Whenever I think of trust I remember a retreat game I played in high school that was an object lesson in trust, where one person was blindfolded and told to fall over backward into the waiting arms of their partner. To me it’s an apt picture of trust in a surrendered marriage. Believing that your spouse will “catch you” means that you have faith in the fact that you and your spouse are partnered together in this marriage endeavor and that each is looking out for the other.

Growing your trust level is a part of learning to live as one flesh. For when you we are irrevocably joined with one another, it means that if you win, I win too. Trust is fostered when the inherent value you see in your spouse is spoken of through consistent expressions of admiration. Most of all trust disarms the enemy, whose weapons include accusation, shame and fear. (More on that next time.)

Are there places in your marriage where doubt and fear have taken over? What can you do to choose trust instead? Trust opens a wide path to intimacy.
Friday, October 15, 2010
This is the second in my series on intimacy. Go here to see where this started and get a complete list of the related posts in this series.

I mentioned last time that men and women tend to look at intimacy differently. In general, and I know I’m stereotyping a little here, men think of sex and women think of romance. Of course it’s not really that polar. Men and women probably think of both sex and romance when it comes to intimacy, but the mix between the sex component and romance component is probably pretty dissimilar.

The thing is, whether you think more of sex or romance, if you limit your thinking to those two areas then you will limit your progress on the Path of Intimacy.

The first choice you must make to get on the Path of Intimacy is to first forget about sex and romance. Huh? Yep, forget about ‘em – at least for now. While these may be meaningful destinations further down the road, they can actually distract you from making the necessary choices that start you on the journey to deeper intimacy.

What’s the first choice to make when you want to get going down the Path of Intimacy and get off the Path of Separation? Choose to get naked. And no, I’m not talking about sex again.

I’m talking about transparency. I’m talking about being naked without shame. Do you remember this little passage of scripture?
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed Genesis 2:24-25

Yeah I know a lot of people think this is just talking about sex, but they’d be looking at it way too narrowly in my opinion.

This verse is talking about two becoming one in every sense, spirit, soul AND body. It’s talking about being real and bringing the fullness of yourself to your marriage, the good and the not so good.

You can’t have fake intimacy. It’s a non-starter.

So start down the Path of Intimacy by first choosing to get naked, to get real. Bring your strengths and bare your weaknesses. Share your hopes and dreams as well as your doubts and fears. Communicate with integrity about your successes as well as your shortcomings. Help your spouse love you by teaching him or her the things that delight, excite and inspire you.

Being transparent with one another is the only way to create an environment where intimacy can thrive.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Intimacy is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny. But strange funny.

Ask a dozen people what it is, and you’ll get 13 different answers. Men and women tend to define intimacy differently, and I think there are also some generational differences in how people look at it. It’s elusive and hard to pin down. If you ask a married couple if they are feeling intimate with their spouse at any given time, they will probably tell you how they feel (yes/no/somewhat), but they may not be able to say exactly why.

As elusive as it seems, most everyone seems to understand its importance to marriage.  As my new reader survey results continue to show, intimacy is one of the most sought after topics on my blog. So even though I've touched on it periodically, I decided it's time to really give the topic the attention it is due.

Intimacy is a Living Thing

It is important to understand that intimacy is organic; it’s a living thing. As such it is either growing or dying. Very few living things can stay dormant for very long and still survive.

Regardless of how you define intimacy, you are either growing toward each other or growing away from each other as a couple. I look at this dynamic as a couple either being either on the Path of Intimacy or on the Path of Separation. And make no mistake; you are on one or the other.

The Path of Separation

When left to inertia and natural human tendencies, intimacy will tend to decline. It just doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a conscious effort to get on and stay on the Path of Intimacy, whereas the Path of Separation is easy to enter and even easier to stay on.

This is why so many couples seem to wake up one day suddenly asking themselves questions like: “where has the passion gone?” or “why does he always treat me like that?” or “why doesn’t she trust me?” or “why does he leave everything to me?” or “does she always have to be such a nag?” or “isn’t she attracted to me any more?”

The Path of Separation that leads to these questions can be a subtle one. You may be on it for months or even years before you realize that you are in a marriage that lacks the kind of intimacy and passion you once had; the kind of intimacy and passion you desire. Often by that time old habits and patterns of thinking are deeply engrained, making it difficult to reverse course and get back on the Path of Intimacy.

But it is possible. Very possible.

The Path of Intimacy

Wouldn’t you rather wake up one day saying things like: “Wow, I didn’t know it could be that good after all these years,” or “I can’t believe we are still so in love,” or “this just keeps getting better and better,” or “I’m so thankful I married my best friend,” or “You are the best thing that ever happened to me.”

I plan to spend some time on the important topic of how to choose the Path of Intimacy. I want to look at how the choices we make either put us on the right or wrong path when it comes to intimacy. I want to examine things that destroy intimacy and things that build it up.

If you desire a more deeply intimate marriage, stick around for this series and join in on the discussion.

Index to the rest of the Intimacy Series:
  1. Intimacy - It's Not What You Think!
  2. Intimacy - Choose Trust
  3. Intimacy - Choose to Lose the Shame
  4. Intimacy - As Much as You Want
  5. Intimacy - The Most Important Ingredient

Saturday, October 2, 2010
Words are funny things. They inherently carry with them the baggage we have gained over our history, providing us with an innate emotional response to these words.

A few months, back in my post entitled “Finding the Right Words,” I clarified for my readers what I mean when I use the terms surrender, submission and headship. Essentially I use the term surrender, which applies equally to husbands and wives, to convey the paradigm shift of turning from self-focused living to a life focused on your spouse. It means bringing the fullness of who you are into your marriage partnership and choosing to focus your self and abilities for the betterment of your spouse and your marriage. A wife’s surrender takes the form of submission to her husband; the husband’s surrender takes the form of sacrificial, servant-hearted leadership.

Today I want to dig a little deeper into a few words on a wife’s side of the surrender equation by looking at three ways in which surrender can be manifest: respect, submission, and trust.


I’ll start with respect by noting how the Apostle Paul ends his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 with this summary:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Though he begins this text with instructions to wives on submission, he ends with the need for them to respect their husband. But are these really the same thing? Let’s look more closely.

Strong’s defines the Greek word Phobeo, in this context, as to reverence or treat with deference. Some dictionary definitions I’d like to include here are: holding in honor or esteem, to pay proper attention, and to show consideration for.

I have mentioned before the survey results that clearly show the highest stated need for husbands is the need to feel respected, in contrast to wives’ highest need, which is for love and affection. Interestingly, these are the very two things that Paul includes in his summary, quoted above.


In contrast, Strong’s defines the Greek word for submission, hupotasso, as “to arrange ones self under,” and “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”

So what’s the difference between submission and respect? The way I see it, respect is the attitude and submission is the action that flows out of the attitude.

Emmerson Eggerichs, in his book “Love and Respect,” makes a pretty strong case that a wife’s respect should be unconditional in the same manner that a husband’s love should be unconditional. By this he does not mean unconditional admiration, agreement or approval. What I think he is getting at is the idea that if respect and honor is not the primary expression of your unconditional love for your husband, he will not feel loved. Again, this doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with or approve of his attitudes and actions. It means you approach him with respect out of reverence for that fact that he is your husband. See the difference?

But I also believe that without respect, martial submission is really hard. A husband who requires grace from his wife in order for her to act with respect toward him will make her job of submission much more difficult. So although I tend to agree with Eggerich’s call for unconditional respect, a husband who works to earn that respect will add grace to his wife rather than requiring it from her, and in so doing further enable her to walk in submission to him.


Submission is the act of preferring another above your self - a strongly biblical principle. In the marital context, it means a wife yields her self in deference to her husband. Respect is the attitude that enables her submission.

Trust, on the other hand, is a separate dimension of the marital equation.

While there is no biblical reference that I have found that directly calls for a wife to trust her husband (or vice-versa), trust should be a central principle of any marriage that strives to be a reflection of the love relationship between Jesus and his bride, the church (what I call a “bridal paradigm” marriage).

Whereas respect should be shown without condition, and submission should be the default position in most cases, trust must be earned by a husband.

Trust grows out of consistent demonstration by a husband that he desires the best for his wife and their marriage and that his intention is to cherish and nurture her and help her to be all God intends her to be. He must earn her trust through the demonstration of caring and godly leadership, through consistent attention to her needs and desires, and through the strong but fair exercise of his authority.

By earning his wife’s trust, a husband can propel her past the issues of respect and submission and into the joyous place where she willingly joins herself to her husband, where two truly become one.

When husband and wife two are living as one, then when either person wins, the other wins by definition.

What do you think of my definitions? Do you buy into Eggerich’s idea of unconditional respect? Does the establishment of a deep level of trust help lessen the issues of respect and submission?

See also: Love, Respect and Submission from my "What I Believe About Marriage" series

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Perhaps you’ve heard the news story that’s brewing this week about a congressional race in Florida where democratic Rep. Alan Grayson fabricated a campaign ad depicting his opponent, Daniel Webster, as “Taliban Dan” for having supported a biblical view of marriage. Yikes! Is that really the way some people view those of us who support God’s design for marriage? More on that in a minute.

First to clarify the news story.

The ad clip apparently comes from a teaching Webster gave on marriage in 2009 (photo above is of him giving that teaching). He encourages husbands to journal, presumably about their marriages. Then he says, “Find a verse… Don’t pick the ones that say, ‘she should submit to me.’ It’s in the Bible, but pick the ones that you’re supposed to do. So instead, ‘love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.”  Good stuff.  I want to shout Amen!  But the ad clipped out everything but “She should submit to me. It’s in the Bible,” repeating the phrase “submit to me” over and over. It was an attempt to paint his opponent as a "fanatical fundamentalist," ultimately equating him with members of the Taliban.

Depending on your political leanings you can see a Sean Hannity clip here or an NPR story here, both of which include the political ad in question.

This is not meant to be a political post, but I just need to say I could never vote for anyone who would stoop to such deception as using part of someone’s words (the clip was cut in mid-sentence) to make it sound like they were saying the exact opposite of what they were actually saying. It is especially irking that Grayson refuses to back off the ad, despite being confronted with the truth.Oh well, that's politics.

What prompted this post, however, is not politics.  It is the grief I feel when I see biblical marriage so completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Sometimes I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, trying desperately to tell the truth in a clear manner, yet frustrated by the drumbeat of falsehood that is so prevalent. I had a similar post back here that was prompted by a Daily Mail (UK) article about a pair of Anglican Church leaders who had the audacity to preach what the Bible says about marriage. It actually spawned an entire series on “The Audacity of the Bridal Paradigm.” You can get to the whole series using the Notable Series sidebar tool.

Why is there such a pervasive misunderstanding about biblical marriage? Is it that it has been taught wrongly from the pulpits of our churches? Is it that the topic of biblical marriage has simply been neglected by pastors and church leaders? Is it the history of wrongly applied Christian marriage principles, leading to domineering and controlling husbands using biblical submission as a weapon to subjugate and oppress their wives?I don't really know.  Maybe it is all of these.

More importantly, what is the remedy for this malady? 

How do we get the truth out?

This cuts to the core of what is now my life’s mission and message and the purpose of this blog. The small group we are leading in our church with a few other couples is great starting point. There are also a dozen or so couples also participating by email in an online small group, receiving the same materials and exercises that the real-life group is getting.  Will some want to paint me as a fanatical fundamentalist?  Probably.  Especially if they don't bother to hear what I am really saying; if the ignore the heart of my message.

But I sense that this message of the bridal paradigm and of surrendered marriage needs to get out – really get out on a wide scale. It needs to get into the church, into small groups and into the pulpits. It needs especially to be promoted among the next generation, who are growing up without any frame of reference for biblical marriage. In fact they are getting the kind of stuff that Alan Grayson’s campaign put out: distortions and lies. But my heart grieves especially for them, because I think they have an opportunity to learn early the lessons it has taken me 28 years of marriage to get. If only someone will tell them.

I don’t pretend that it will be easy. But I do believe that it is essential. I also believe it will pay huge dividends in bringing about the reality that churches should be the place where marriages thrive.

If you agree with me, post at least an Amen in the comments section. I need to know I am not completely alone in this!!

Then maybe pass this blog onto a married friend who could use some help and hope in their marriage. Maybe even send it to your pastor.

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