Ever been to the zoo and seen a pile of reptiles lounging together? Their intimacy is almost embarrassing, but it has little to do with affection. Most reptiles are cold-blooded and need the warmth they receive from each other to get through a cloudy day or chilly season.
In this way, we’re a lot like lizards. We were built to thrive in the warmth and accountability of close, Christian fellowship. Many of us taste of this here and there through a Bible study or with a girlfriend who walks closely with the Lord, but we look forward to that “best friend for life” — our spouse — because then we will have a spiritual partner to grow and learn alongside. Someone who will always be available as the second soul in that ‘gathering together in my Name’ equation.
I was no exception. When I got married I expected that, along with the emotional and physical oneness I was promised, I’d at last have that spiritual partnership I thought was a part of every good, Christian marriage. But as the weeks of the honeymoon and then the first years of our marriage swept by with wonderful harmony and joy, I felt something was missing. My husband was kind, gentle, and a good provider, but his spiritual life didn’t look anything like mine, and our spiritual intimacy was not what I expected it would be.
Trying to be sweet, I didn’t complain. At least, not often. I was afraid that sharing my discontent with my husband would erode his confidence and show discontent for all he did provide. Yet, I was lonely. I wanted to grow spiritually and had expected all my life that my husband would be my closest companion on this journey. Occasionally I would break down and reveal to my husband my feelings, but mostly I kept it bottled inside, an ache I was both afraid and ashamed of.
Finally, after we’d been married five years, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Thankfully, God had a plan all lined up, ready for when I quit doing this in my own strength and fully gave it to Him.
Do you feel spiritually alone?
Maybe you’re feeling unequally yoked in marriage, or are the only believer in your family. You’re starving for spiritual accountability but you’re not getting it from the places you expected and wanted it the most. Perhaps the journey the Lord led me on in the early years of my marriage may inspire or encourage you.
The way to fight loneliness in marriage is to reach out and make connections.
You and A Friend
It was the words of a close friend that allowed me take the first, vital step toward addressing the ache. She encouraged me, “Be honest with yourself. Admit that you’ve experienced a loss in these unmet expectations. Let yourself grieve.” Only then would I be free to move on into the healing. When she spoke those words to me, I began to weep tears of grief, which quickly turned, surprisingly, to ones of relief and hope. I’d been carrying my secret burden for so long, unable to admit reality. Once I faced the situation I was suddenly able to hope for change.
You don’t need to face this alone. Seek out a friend or mentor who can encourage you as you make steps to heal and grow. But be sure the relationship with your girlfriend pushes you back to God and your spouse. Don’t allow any influence that disrespects your man or encourage self-pity or pride in your heart.
You and God
Go to God. Go ahead and ask God the hard questions. You may be surprised at the glimpse He will give into His heart for you and your marriage. Ask Him why He’s allowed this, and how He wants you to respond.
Don’t be afraid to grow alone. In the story of Joseph we see the Lord leading Joseph to a place of great growth and prosperity, but it was not without sacrifice. When he was called from the prison to the palace to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, he shaved his beard out of deference to Egyptian custom. Did you ever think about how that beard was the final thing linking him to his Hebrew roots — and that shaving it could mean his loved ones wouldn’t recognize him if they ever came looking? I admit to being unwilling to grow on my own, afraid to leave loved ones behind. Don’t let this fear cripple your spiritual life. I do believe God desires us to have close spiritual communion with our spouses, but if that’s not the case yet, you should not let that stop you from deepening your own relationship with the Lord.
You and Your Man
Revealing your hurt and fear to your husband can be the hardest step, as we fear appearing judgmental. But keeping him shut out of this part of your life isolates both of you. God says it is not good for man to be alone and created marriage for companionship. We walk a fine line when we address unmet needs in marriage, but honesty is crucial. He needs to know how you feel. Have your friend pray as you begin the process. Ask the Lord to give you a pure heart and direct your timing.
Live 1 Peter 3:1-5:
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”
In the past I was afraid to apply these verses to my life, for fear it would imply I had an “unbelieving husband”. But a meek and quiet spirit is an asset in any marriage. In the book, The Resolution, author Priscilla Shirer explains that the Greek meanings of “meek” and “quiet” can be boiled down to humility, kindness, and orderliness. She says,
“If we will funnel our wifely behavior and responses through the Biblical filter, we will intentionally become more careful and circumspect… We’ll attempt to make things easier instead of harder for him, tempering our words and actions with peace and discreetness causing him to feel more confident because he knows we’re not here to tear him down, but to build him up.”
Do you think that connecting spiritually with your spouse would be easier if you maintained a bit more humility and orderliness in your personal life?
If our men did not feel threatened by our prideful spirituality, and if our days actually held the promise of a few moments together, this could allow things to grow. Routine is discipline’s greatest ally. Are you making order a priority?
When you talk, share with your husband what you feel you’re already doing right as a couple, and what makes you feel close spiritually.
Brainstorm together on how you can cultivate this aspect of your relationship. Perhaps it’s a new devotional, keeping a prayer journal, or carving out time to attend a couple’s Bible study.
Finally, give it time and don’t despise small beginnings.
Little ones, tight budgets, long work hours — sometimes you‘re just surviving the season you’re in. Cultivating your spiritual relationship will take time, even if you’re both on the same page. Be faithful with the moments you have — even if it’s just once a week — and trust God to fulfill His best for your marriage.
A few months after our tearful conversation on her living room floor, I was excited to give my prayer-partner a report. Not only had God opened my eyes to begin to understand my husband’s spirituality (it was there, but looked very different than mine), but He was also working in our relationship since I’d finally had the guts to face my unmet expectations and pray about them. We were communicating honestly about the spiritual side of our relationship and growing closer as we understood each other. He initiated a weekly prayer and devotional time using the book Closer by Jim and Cathy Burns. I think we were able to stick with this longer than any of our other attempts at devotions together because it was doable for us in the season we were in — there’s only one reading per week — and he finally understood how important this was to me.
If you feel alone in marriage or in your spiritual life in general, I strongly encourage you to face the reality and then do something about it.
Find a small group or Bible study to belong to. Find someone you respect that is willing to disciple you. Be willing to grow though you may feel like you’re leaving your spouse or your family behind. Joseph willingly stepped into opportunities for growth even though it meant further distancing himself from his family. In the end this allowed him to lead his family to a place where they, too, could thrive.
You don’t have to be alone. I pray God will lead you into the fellowship He created us to enjoy with Himself and His children.
(originally published in 2012)
Photography: JenniMarie Photography