The husband awakens
from deep slumber and sees his wife. Overcome with love, he whispers ever
so adoringly to her, "sweet bone of my bones and flesh of my
flesh." Ah, such intimacy. Such tenderness. Seems like love in
paradise, doesn't it? In fact it is—in a paradise called Eden. God
intended Adam and Eve, the man and woman He created, to share a blissful
intimacy that joins the husband and wife as one flesh, without any
separateness between the two (Gen 2:21-24). The sense of oneness and
closeness is so complete that the Scripture goes on to emphasize that
"the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame" (Gen 2:25).
I have often wondered about this verse: of the countless possible
qualities that may depict a perfect spousal relationship, the Scripture
chooses this one—nakedness without shame. Let's think about this for a
moment. Why is our capacity to be stark naked in the presence of our
spouse and feel no shame of such great significance? We often assume that
the Scripture is talking only about nakedness in physical terms. But
imagine, also, the likelihood of Adam and Eve being naked, emotionally and
spiritually, with each other and feeling no shame. Why is this significant
and how does it apply to our marriages today?
Physical nakedness without shame in a marriage is an easy concept to
grasp. We can all understand and accept its relevance in a happy marriage.
Few would argue that a concrete and immediate way that we can show our
love for our spouse is to accept whatever shape, size, or form our loved
one may be in. The artificial coverings that help us to stay selectively
protected and hidden from the rest of the world should be unnecessary
within the intimacy of marriage.
But with age, our bodies undergo unbecoming changes; perhaps most common
are those flabby, not so lovely "love handles" around the hips
and waists. There may also be unforeseen life circumstances that disfigure
the body, such as accidents, diseases, or medical conditions and
procedures. Even one of the natural miracles of life, pregnancy and
childbirth, can change the mother's once slim figure into something else.
Accepting each other's physical nakedness in these and many other
situations is a challenge that becomes even more important for maintaining
a healthy marriage.
Physical intimacy between husband and wife is a profound mystery created
by God. In no other love relationship do we expect to find this physical
consummation. This union involves the total giving of oneself and the
receiving of another, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God
created this intimacy for a husband and wife so that they may share an
exclusive, special connection with each other. This bond is shattered when
we choose to share this intimacy with someone other than our spouse.
Therefore, we should take care to protect and nourish this marital
blessing by being loyal and monogamous to our life-long partner so that we
can continue to stand before our spouse naked and without shame.
Now, let's go beyond the physical body. Consider the different ways that
the vicissitudes of life can leave us feeling rather naked emotionally.
Losing our job, for instance, may strip us of our self-esteem.
Encountering disappointments big and small may cast our spouse in a new,
unattractive light, exposing his or her hidden weaknesses and
When these situations arise, can we share our deepest pains and our
darkest worries with our intimate other? Are we able to show our loved one
the most private and vulnerable emotions within us? Conversely, can our
spouse count on our unconditional acceptance, patience, and support when
baring his or her soul to us, even when we may not be in the mood to
listen? Being emotionally naked and feeling no shame with our spouse means
being able to do any of these things. But for one reason or another, we
It is not merely external changes that can shake up the harmony in a
marriage or strip us of dignity, leaving us feeling naked. In fact, both
partners bring into a marriage many different views and ways of doing
things, and these differences can often lead to an emotional rift in the
relationship. But isn't it true that every husband and wife, even the most
compatible of all, encounters differences with each other? How could two
people who grew up in different families and with different norms not be
different from each other? From varying tastes in furniture to conflicting
spending habits and communication styles, differences are inevitable.
The question is how we resolve our differences with our spouse. Sometimes
we handle this problem by avoiding it, kind of like hiding behind
protective barriers in order to not fully expose and deal with our
discrepancies. We may feel shame and fear about being emotionally naked,
because we don't trust that our spouse could understand our perspective.
And perhaps we are too painfully familiar with the road that leads to
arguments and hurt.
Similarly, the reluctance to shed our emotional defenses in order to allow
our spouse to see our inner core may apply to our spiritual side. In
particular, the longer we are married, the more
spiritual weaknesses we may see in our partner. This may crush our ideal
of him as the spiritual head of the family or shatter our image of her as
a steadfast companion.
During these times, we may find it difficult to be kind to our spouse and
accept his or her spiritual flaws. Instead of gently pointing out the
imperfections as normal shortcomings to improve on, we may unleash insults
on our loved one and inflict unnecessary wounds with little respect. In a
similar vein, just as we find it tough to accept our partner's spiritual
flaws, we in turn fear baring all of our spiritual weaknesses to our loved
one. Shame paves the way to fear, which then creates barriers to our
ability to communicate with our spouse or to lend a spiritual helping
hand. Not only is this harmful to the relationship but it also goes
against God's will for the spouses to be each other's suitable spiritual
helper (Gen 2:18).
Reconciliation through God
Given the challenges and obstacles to our capacity to bare body and soul
to our spouse with no shame, how then do we attain the complete oneness
and openness shared between the first man and woman? To discover the key
to this question, we need to return to the story of Adam and Eve and first
try to understand the reason for their downfall. Sadly, only seven verses
after the portrayal of their perfect relationship, this same couple that
knew no bounds to their connection and openness with each other suddenly
felt ashamed of their nakedness. They felt a need to sew fig leaves
together to make coverings for themselves (Gen 3:7).
What happened? Did the husband and wife have a fight with each other? You
might think that some kind of interpersonal friction must have arisen
between them to stir up mistrust and shame, right? Yet what is so striking
about the story is that it was Adam and Eve's sin against God that created
the rift they experienced between each other. It wasn't an interpersonal
conflict between them, but rather their transgression against the Lord.
Immediately after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they suddenly
realized that they were naked. And this was no longer okay for them,
because the moment they fell away from God's grace and presence, the
perfect harmony that they once shared with each other was forever
What a sobering teaching this is! Our relationship with God is an
essential component of our marital relationship. How close we are to God
and how blameless we are before God directly impacts the level of intimacy
we have with our spouse. But why is this so?
God as the Source of
On one of several occasions, Jesus taught, "If you obey my
commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my
Father's commandments and remain in his love" (Jn 15:10). To remain
in God's love, we must obey His commandments. This in turn is crucial to
our ability to love our spouse, because "God is love" and
"love comes from God" (1 Jn 4:7, 8).
Think of this analogy: to obtain a constant supply of water, we would need
a pipeline that carries the water directly from a lake or river, wouldn't
we? Similarly, in order to love our spouse truly, unselfishly, and
wholesomely, it makes complete sense that we would need to be close to the
source of that perfect love, God Himself. When we are initially caught up
with the visceral feelings of being in love, we cannot appreciate the
profound mystery of this teaching. But look to the Scripture and we see
that "there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made
perfect in love" (1 Jn 4:18). To be able to bare our soul, our body,
our all to our partner, without shame and fear, we absolutely need God to
live in us so that we can draw upon the source of perfect love.
God as Our Strength
Recognizing the value and necessity of His presence in our marriage is
only the beginning of understanding how God works to bring us closer to
our spouse. Turning to the Lord in the midst of our marital strife is the
next step in making this concept a reality. In the heat of the moment,
when insults and criticisms fill the angry expanse between our spouse and
us, it is impossible to think kindly of that unreasonable
"shrew" or "iceberg" we think our partner to be. Often
we walk away feeling hurt and unresolved, believing that once again our
spouse was wrong and has let us down. "How could he have done such a
stupid thing?" "How could she say something so nasty?" we
wonder ever so self-righteously, don't we? It is precisely when we are
least able to feel love for our spouse that God can supply us with the
wisdom and strength to cross the angry divide, but only if we turn to Him
and seek His assistance.
This is an incredible mystery and wonder. We may not be able to comprehend
it fully, but it is true. Some of the most moving experiences that couples
have gone through come from seeing and experiencing God's loving
intervention, which enabled them to soften their hearts toward each other
and to realize something they did not realize before. Often these
unforgettable moments come as the wonderful result of prayer. The Spirit
of God helps the believer to see his or her own flaws and role in creating
a hurtful argument. As God's teachings and love fill the person,
self-righteous anger gives way to humility and repentance. Who is right or
wrong no longer matters. Ultimately, the believer can initiate a sincere
and loving reconciliation with his or her spouse and, in return,
experience the partner's tender extension of forgiveness and apology.
This is the wonder of divine intervention. The Scripture records that the
Spirit of God "will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and
righteousness and judgment" and is "the Spirit of Truth"
who will guide believers into all truth (Jn 16:8,13). By helping us see
our own faults when we are least able to, by guiding us to the truth of
His teachings when we are least open to them, God can bring about
kindness, humility, and, yes, even love in our wounded, bitter, and
unforgiving heart. He can help us restore that precious intimacy with our
spouse when we are least likely to know how to do it alone.
The complete unity and trust that Adam and Eve enjoyed before they fell
from divine grace is the intimacy that God intends for every husband and
wife today. How truly wonderful it would be if we could bare our body and
soul to our intimate other and feel not shame but closeness, joy, and
trust. This blessing is what God wishes for each of us to experience,
perhaps as a way to taste a bit of heaven and tranquility in a turbulent
world. So long as we live in God's presence and love by obeying His
commandments and seeking His assistance, His promise will be realized in
our marriages today. Nakedness without shame. It would be a return to
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