Abraham and Sarah model the importance of having a shared vision for your marriage (click here.) Another quality that Abraham and Sarah had going for them was something we call “intimacy”. Typically, when we hear the word “intimacy”, we immediately think of physical intimacy, or something sexual. But the word is much deeper than that. Intimacy comes from a word which means “inner”. Intimacy occurs whenever we let another person see inside our hearts.
What was the great inner pain which occupied Abraham and Sarah’s hearts? It was their childlessness. God promised Abraham that he would bring a great nation forth from him. To give birth to a great nation required the birth of children, at least one. Yet for 25 years, they had been waiting and waiting, watching their bodies grow older and older.
Ten years into this abyss of waiting, their patience ran out, and Abraham and Sarah decided to do something to help God out. 4,000 years ago, if a wife was infertile, the culture said it was the responsibility of the wife to find a sexual surrogate for her husband. Genesis 16 tells the painful story of Sarah giving her slave-girl Hagar to her husband, so that they could at least have a child, and this is when Ishmael is born.
But God never asked for Abraham and Sarah’s help. He never put his stamp of approval on the culture’s way of doing things. Sarah felt as any woman would feel, sharing her man sexually with someone else. Yet because the culture endorsed this behavior, she has to stuff her pain inside.
But after a run-in with Hagar, Sarah lashes out at Abraham. “You’re responsible for the wrong I am suffering!” she yells, and lets it pour out of her, all these feelings, longings, dreams, and hurts.
In that moment, they experienced intimacy.
I think deep down inside, each one of us longs for true intimacy. We long for a friend who will know us completely, a person before whom we can take off all those masks we wear, to whom we can show ourselves. And when I show you my brokenness, I know that you won’t judge me or brand me or talk about me behind my back, but you’ll pray for me and help me, and know me. That’s intimacy. And relationships with intimacy last.
It’s the way God wants to know us. King David said in Psalm 139, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” God is that close, that intimate, to his children.
How do you have intimacy? It’s not hard to describe, it’s just hard to do. You have to start sharing yourself. You have to begin opening up your inner world and your inner wounds to others. God has opened himself up to us like that in causing the Bible to be written. The Bible is God pouring out to us his hopes and dreams and emotions. To read the Bible is to read an intimate love letter written by God to you.
But what do I start sharing? you might ask. I’m not good at this. There are different types of intimacy.
- Intellectual intimacy. All day long, our mind is busy churning things over. So share what it is you have been thinking about.
- Social intimacy. This is where we talk about the events of the day we have been caught up in. You say, Well nothing special has happened today. So what? It doesn’t have to be special, it just has to be shared.
- Emotional intimacy. We all have a whirlpool of feelings and emotions that spin through us each day. Share them. These are the building blocks of intimacy. I know wives who would absolutely drop dead if their husbands came in and started talking about their thoughts, activities and feelings from the day, instead of the little grunts, groans, and one word answers.
The problem with so many marriages today is that either the couple doesn’t talk at all beyond grunts, groans and single words, or the other extreme, when they talk, all they seem to be able to do is fight. Couples like this fail to grasp the beauty of a simple conversation. But it’s in that simple, little conversation, where two hearts can intersect, that intimacy occurs.