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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In my last post I offered some thoughts on how our spiritual relationship with Jesus offers us insight into how, in a marital relationship, we can similarly become “one” yet still remain as “two” individuals.

Today, as a follow-up, I want to paint another picture of oneness and individuality from an altogether different perspective. Today we’ll look at the one-flesh lessons found in sexual intimacy.

In Ephesians 5, when Paul refers to the “great mystery” of two becoming one, he quotes this famous verse from Genesis:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24

The obvious allusion here is to sexual intimacy between a husband and wife. Of course there is much more to becoming one than what is attained in a sexual union, but I think we can glean some insights for the broader context by looking more closely at the nature of sexual intimacy.

Sex as a Metaphor

It is sometimes said that what is happening in your bedroom is a microcosm of what is happening in the rest of your relationship. I don’t know that it’s 100% true, but I do believe that sexual issues often point to issues elsewhere in your marriage. It’s also often true that if your relationship is thriving outside the bedroom, then a great sex life is a lot more likely to result.

So, as part of this ongoing series of “truths-in-tension,” it makes sense for us to look at the tension between unity and individuality found in the act of sex.

When a man and woman come together as “one” in a sexual union, it is obvious that they do not somehow leave themselves behind in the act. Rather, they ideally bring their physical bodies to the sexual experience for the mutual pleasure, benefit and satisfaction of their spouse and themselves. It’s actually a great picture of how becoming one works in a much broader marital sense.

Male and female bodies were purposefully designed by God for this beautiful and intimate sexual relationship. In the same way, a husband and wife were hand-crafted by God as unique individuals but that that fit together in a unique, intimate and beautiful way. The beauty and pleasure of two becoming one in sexual intimacy is the same as the beauty and pleasure that grows out of a marriage relationship that embraces the one-flesh paradigm throughout the whole of their marriage.

Naked Without Shame

There’s an extremely important yet often overlooked verse that follows the one quoted above. Here’s the whole thing again in context:
(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
Naked! Without Shame! In sex, yes, of course. But this means much more than sex with the lights on. Being “naked without shame” is also a way to live the entirety of your marriage. It means being willing to bring the fullness of yourself, flaws and all, to your marriage, knowing that unconditional love covers those places you’d rather not be seen by your spouse. It means being real, being vulnerable and being seen for who you really are. It means giving to your spouse the same grace and acceptance you hope to receive from your spouse in the face of your own shortcomings and weaknesses.

It takes time and experience for a couple to find their sexual groove. Over time they grow into sexual maturity by identifying their own sources of pleasure, developing their skills as a lover, and learning the unique landscape of their partner’s body. So too in becoming one in marriage, you come to fully know your partner and become fully known by them. You grow into the fullness of your marriage relationship, not by leaving yourselves behind, but growing more into who you really are.

Known Fully – Loved Completely

Because it is a fitting description of the intimacy that develops in a one-flesh marriage as well as in your sexual relationship, I’ll restate my definition of intimacy:

Deep, genuine intimacy comes from being fully known (naked) and completely loved (without shame).
It’s true that the fullest and most enduring kind of marital intimacy is the kind that involves the entirety of your being: spirit, soul and body. When two people become physically one-flesh in sexual intimacy, they still remain separate bodies. In the same way, when you and your spouse become one-flesh in the rest of your marriage, you are still separate beings.

In the end you will discover how in marriage you are very much interdependent with your spouse, yet your own identity is neither compromised nor diminished. In fact, it is actually enhanced!

The most important lesson from all this is that together you can create something unique and wonderful that is much more enriching and satisfying that either of you alone. True for sex. True for marriage.



Bill Standish said...

For the saints in Christ, the reality of having an identity in Christ wonderfully furthers these precious thoughts. Two disciples in Christ and Christ in the man and woman infinitely enrich the marriage.

Scott said...

Bill - Yes indeed, excellent point! The "true self" I speak of is our identity in Christ. And one of the main goals of every marriage should be to help each other find, embrace and walk in their true identity.

Thanks for the reminder.

Strong Man said...

Beautiful. Agreed fully. Physical intimacy is a great way to practice unity that can carry into every other aspect of marriage.

Itisme said...

can a man become un-one from his past sexual relationships, or is he forever one with those people?

Scott said...

Hi Itisme - I believe that by God's grace we are set free from all of our past, including our sexual past. God is by nature a redeemer, and by the Holy Spirit, we can be set free by all soul ties from past relationship. I also believe a spouse needs to believe and affirm this truth to allow their partner to be released from it.


I wonder at the effect of baggage brought into a marriage by either party such as generational curses. Do these affect the well being of the new union?


I wonder at the effect of baggage brought into a marriage by either party such as generational curses. Do these affect the well being of the new union?

Scott said...

Hi Samuel. Baggage can and should be dealt with in a loving but direct manner. If it is serious consider bringing a trusted third party, like your pastor, into the discussion. As for generational curses, you have the spiritual authority, as a believer and as a husband to break this off of your family. Again, involve a pastor if this is not something you feel comfortable dealing with.

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