Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Lonely Trek to the Narrow Gate - Part One - What You Need To Know First

"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life,
and those who find it are few."
Matthew 7:14 (ESV)

"Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day."
Psalm 25:4-6 (NASB)

I am writing this particular post for those who, like me, are dealing with spouses who deny intimacy. While some of this post could apply to other situations, I am definitely not considering this post adequate for those dealing with spousal abandonment, adultery or abuse.  Those are different paths than the one I describe here.

Now, when I say intimacy, I really do mean more than just sex, although I would say sex (at least to most men) is the most contested ingredient of intimacy. Sometimes it is the first part to be noticed as missing, sometimes the last, and, in general, men suffer most from loss of sex. One thing is for certain, though, and that is intimacy in a Christian marriage cannot be separated from sex.

Why, you ask?

Because the only entity in God's entire creation we are allowed to have sex with is our spouse.

And, folks, that degree of exclusivity is, by definition, intimate.

I have set down some of my thoughts on the give-and-take of intimacy, as it is a part of the marriage due, in this post, but let's examine this in a slightly different manner before we start, because it will come into the discussion later.  With intimacy, as I see it:

A spouse always has the right to refuse, but a duty not to.

A spouse always has the right to ask anytime, but a duty not to expect.

This is not the paradox it might seem.  First off, your rights come from the fact the Jehovah created you as a free moral agent with the right to choose your own courses of action (Deu 30:19-20Jos 24:15.)  So, where then, does the duty come from?  Well, does this sound familiar?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."  1 Corinthians 13:4~8 (NIV) (Goosebumps, every time I read this.)

See the underlined part?  We need to be looking for our spouses interests, not ours.  I won't bandy more on the semantics of intimacy here--different strokes and such.  But without it, we feel incomplete, detached from our spouse, unloved, rejected, despised, ridiculed, sad, ugly, unworthy--to list just a few. It is truly a very powerful thing. Nor am I going to bandy about why, rightfully or wrongfully, you're being denied. For this post,

It is irrelevant.

What this post is about is how to deal with long-term, consistent denial of intimacy in a way pleasing to God. Let's begin with some information you need to know.

1. Your spouse is sinning.  You are being wronged.

Might as well get this out first.  Do you feel better knowing it?  Feel righteousness bubbling up inside you? Here's the hard truth:

It is irrelevant.

2. You do not have the right either to demand or expect your spouse to change.

This is starting to get depressing, eh? Since your spouse is a free moral agent, even Jehovah will not impose on, or demand from them, change.  And if He does not,

why do you think you can?

3. You must realize that always, whatever you do, you are doing it for your own reasons.

Even with a gun against your head, you always have the choice of what to do. They might not be pleasant choices, mind you, but they are yours to make. Again, Jehovah made you a free moral agent. This means:

You. Must. Take. Responsibility. For. Your. Actions. 

This is very profound.  So much so, that many never really grasp it or accept it, instead, always complaining "You made me do this." (I do realize there is such a thing as "reduced capacity," but since that is usually part of a severely abusive relationship, I will not cover it here.)

4. Satan is Real.

And, Apostle Peter warns us, he is out to get us.

"Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, the Devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."--1 Peter 5:8 (ISV)

If you pay attention, you can see Satan at work.  But do not despair! Satan only has whatever power over you that you give him because,

Not even Satan can take away your freedom to choose.

Without it, the Adversary is powerless. He must get you to choose to follow him (ref mat 4:1-10); that is how you recognize his work: when you are faced with choices or courses of action, there will be clear differences between them: Clearly God's way and not.  Careful, though.  Satan is patient and tricky.  Sometimes the not won't be per se sinful.  But it will definitely not be clearly God's way. And so you start down the dark path, as James warns us:

"We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead."--James 1:14-15 (CEV) (Emphasis mine)

But we can resist!

"Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you."--James 4:7 (CEV)

As you start consistently choosing God's way, the number of choices Satan offers become fewer and farther between, and though he never truly gives up, he goes looking for riper targets.

"So the Devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to him."--Mat 4:11 (ISV)

5. This is going to hurt.  A lot.

Can't hide this. You need full disclosure. I am truly sorry, but the hurt, emptiness, humiliation, longing, frustration, desperation, disappointment--these do not go away.  But they do become bearable.  On the positive side, the anger, resentment and--yes--hate, these do go away.  Do not let your suffering bring  you down!  As the Apostle Peter reminds us:

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps"--1 Peter 2:19-21 (NKJV) (Emphasis mine)

And do not forget what the Apostle Paul says!

"for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister"--Hebrews 6:10 (ASV) (Emphasis mine)

6. Your faith will be tested like never before.

I put this in here because most will probably not have faced so severe a trial. If you have, then this post is probably just a curiosity for you, because you likely already know what to do. You need to draw strength from the Scriptures. Read them. Meditate on what they say. Bring them into your heart. Get to know Jehovah for the kind, loving God he is, and remember he is not your enemy.

"God will bless you, if you don’t give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him.  Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others."--James 1:12-13 (CEV) (Emphasis mine)

7. Your marriage can be saved and be better than before!

When I started down the path to rebuild my marriage, I didn't know where to start.  All I knew is I wanted to follow God's way, because nothing else had worked.  I was full of complaints about my bride, my heart was in pieces, and I just wanted out. But this is my second marriage, and I was not going to give up without a fight.  At the time, I was reading James, and one Scripture popped up.

"Do not complain about each other, brothers, or you will be condemned. Look! The Judge is standing at the door! As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord. We consider those who endured to be blessed. You have heard about Job’s endurance and have seen the purpose of the Lord—that the Lord is compassionate and merciful."--James 5:9-11 (ISV)

And that was the "kick in the butt" I needed.  Shortly thereafter, I ran into the these two Blogs that I follow: Intimacy In Marriage (Julie Sibert) and Forgiven Wife (Chris Taylor).  These two Blogs, written by women who themselves had been denying intimacy to their spouses and-on their own--changed, made me leap with joy.  I knew then I was on the right path--Take the initiative.  How much quicker if you start earlier? You know, stop complaining--DO something about it. Don't fix the blame--fix the problem.

God's way.

I will tell you about the particular path I have taken in my next post.  In the meantime, keep this in your heart and your mind:

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."--1 Peter 5:6-11  (NKJV)

You are all in my prayers.

Image courtesy of Matt Banks at

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