The day I got married to my wife Theresa had to be one of the top days of my life!
But it wasn’t long after our wedding that we had our first real argument. Neither one of us remember the details of that fight anymore. All I know is that it was about hanging a picture!
It started off with a few harsh words spoken between us, and then our disagreement quickly escalated. Fifteen minutes later, I stormed out of our apartment. I remember thinking, “Did I mess up? Did I marry the wrong person?” I had never been so angry in my life!
I started wondering… What went wrong?
Before my wife Theresa and I got married, we had no premarital counseling.We didn’t know we needed it. Like most couples, we just believed: Since we really love one another, everything will just work out.
Every book and TV show reinforces this lie. It tells couples that if they love each other enough, then they’ll be kind and other-centered. Everything will be easy and marriage will be great.
But here’s the truth: If you really love one another, a healthy, happy marriage will require supernatural enablement from God and an amazing amount of hard work.
Why? All of us as humans face the spiritual barrier of sin and its effects of shame and selfishness.
After Adam and Eve sinned, the Bible says their eyes were opened. Suddenly they were self-conscious and aware of their sin. For the first time they felt shame and their response was to hide.They hid their bodies with fig leaves and themselves from God. (Genesis3:8)
Since then, hiding has been our response to God and to one another.
The average couple spends a lot of time hiding their true selves and thoughts from one another and from God.
Isn’t it interesting that even though we know He’s an all-knowing God, somehow we think He won’t really see what’s going on? It’s no wonder we have a hard time opening up in prayer.
But God wants us to be honest and real with Him so that He can forgive us and remove the barrier of sin in our lives.
God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin was grace – even in the midst of the curse.
The LordGod made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”(Gen 3:21-22)
God forgave Adam and Eve and he covered their shame — but not without a price. An animal had to die. God also banished them from the garden and forbid them from eating from the tree of life so that they wouldn’t live in their sinful state forever.
Today, we continue to live in this sinful world. That’s why there will always be difficulty in this life, and our marriages are always going to be hard. One of the main reasons for this is our selfishness.
After sin entered the world (Genesis 3), what was once the most natural response in our relationships — to be other-centered and grace giving –became the most unnatural of responses.
At the core of our human flesh is selfishness – the desire to get our own way.
The biggest insight for me came during the first two to three years of our marriage when I realized my own selfishness. I wanted Teresa to change and meet my expectations and I got mad when she didn’t!
I also realized that I needed the power and grace to give forgiveness and do things for her when I didn’t feel like it, similar to the grace that Jesus gave me.
That’s when I knew that the core solution to the barriers to intimacy in our marriage wasn’t primarily about Teresa and me. It started with my relationship with God.
We all need someone to remove the barriers of sin, shame, and selfishness that come between us and God, and us and our spouses. We all need forgiveness. And that can only come from Christ.
We also need God’s Spirit, His strength and power so that we can give our mates what they don’t deserve – what we naturally don’t want to give.
Gaining intimacy in our marriages is not about gaining techniques. It begins with seeing God’s model for marriage, seeing the barriers, and then being a model of grace to our spouse.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip