“The deepest struggles of life will occur in the most primary relationship affected by the fall: marriage.”
– Dan Allender and Tremper Longman
I came across this quote recently. It’s cited in Gary Thomas’s Simply Sacred daily readings book. It brought home to me something I’ve been thinking a lot about: Why is sometimes more challenging to be selfless and patience and giving to your own family?
I’ve been seeing it recently with stories I’ve heard from friends, comments from blog readers, and yes, my own experience. It comes in statements that sound like this:
“She’s so generous with her church, but she criticizes everyone and everything at our family reunions.”
“Our kids have so many good friends, but they fight constantly with each other.”
“He’s always leading youth events and going on mission trips, but he hasn’t taken me out on a date in ages.”
“She’s involved in so many ministries, giving of herself constantly, that she never has time for sexual intimacy with me.”
We’ve all known that person who acts one way among church friends and another way in other contexts — the hypocritical Christian. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Many people who are devoted and gracious with others simply don’t see their own neglect or mistreatment of family. It’s a blind spot.
So in the realm of sexual intimacy, they don’t think about how that area of their life is also ministry.
The husband who patiently takes time to study the Bible with a seeker or greets visitors with a smile and questions about their day may turn around and show little to no romance or affection for his wife. Then he wants sex and can’t figure out why she isn’t leaping for joy at the prospect. The wife who pours her heart and soul into teaching children in Bible classes and serves meals to shut-ins may get home and pour nothing of herself into being sexually engaged with her husband. Then she can’t understand why he’s always so disgruntled about her charitable activities.
It requires intentional self-evaluation to ask “How am I doing?” again and again in our marriage. We tend to get married, grow comfortable, and fail to make the effort needed to maintain and deepen love. We remember our manners outside the home and forget them with our family. Especially our spouse.
But you see, Satan’s all over that. I suspect he’s just fine with you teaching Bible classes now while he slowly, subtly, certainly tears at the seams of your marriage, rip by rip. It may take time, but eventually he can render someone ineffective in ministry to others because they neglected ministry at home. With the foundation of your marriage crumbling, it’s not as hard to knock you down.
One of his weapons is messing with your sex life. Whether it’s distracting a spouse from marital intimacy with good things like ministry or bad things like porn. (Of course I recognize there’s a huge difference between these two, but marriages can suffer from both.) Whether it’s encouraging selfishness with constant demands for sex or with constant rejections of sex. Whether it’s creating division in how we view the significance of sex or the significance of other activities.
Over time, we let intentionality go and fail to give sexual intimacy the attention it requires to thrive. One or both spouses begin to feel untended, unloved, unimportant. The godly principles we espouse — such as love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness — are increasingly absent in our marriage. Over time, we lose our deep connection, distance and resentment grow, and eventually it’s easier to show kindness to the barista in the coffee shop than to your own husband or wife.
How do we get it back? How do make sure that Satan doesn’t gain a foothold through our marriage bed? Intention. Commitment. Reminders. Time. Bible study. Communication. Prayer.
We have to recognize the temptation to see our ministry as happening outside the walls of our home. Yes, we have a calling to reach out beyond our borders, to proclaim the Word and ministry to the needy. We shouldn’t neglect that calling. But neither should we ignore the ministry inside our home, and even in our marital bedroom. God has given us a unique opportunity to minister to our spouse in a way no one else can. This marriage bond means that we get our sexual needs and desires met through only one source — that beautiful husband or wife you vowed to love.
Satan wants to tear it down. God wants to build it up.
We decide whether to approach our sexual intimacy in marriage with godliness and honor.
Has sexual intimacy been a blind spot in your marriage?