Shame and Intimacy Cannot Occupy the Same Space
It’s true that you cannot have genuine intimacy in marriage without the vulnerability that comes from allowing yourself to be fully known by your spouse.
But that is only half of the equation:
Naked Without Shame – The Intimacy Ideal
Knowing he’d need a bride for his Son, God had marriage on his heart before time even began. He first instituted marriage in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Their pre-fall union is described in Genesis:
Naked without shame. That’s how God designed marriage to operate.
The first thing we need to understand about this passage is that the second verse (naked without shame) is the key to enjoying the intimate relationship available to us in the oneness of the first verse (one flesh).
The second truth found here is that intimacy requires us to be both naked and shame-free because intimacy and shame cannot occupy the same space.
Finally, there is the less obvious truth that nakedness applies to the entirety of your marriage. Being “one flesh” is more than a veiled reference to the sexual union you share in marriage. You and your spouse are one in all things. And “naked without shame” is how you are to live in every dimension of your relationship (sexual, spiritual, emotional…).
Love and Grace – The Bookends of Marriage
We lead marriage small groups in our church. The curriculum we developed is based on God’s design for marriage as revealed in the relationship between Christ and the church. We start with a lesson on “Love” and end with a lesson on “Grace” and describe these two as the bookends of marriage. Love and grace hold a marriage together. In the middle, among 10 other lessons, is transparency.
Yes, being fully known (transparency) is essential to intimacy. You can’t have fake or pretend intimacy. But unless the vulnerability of being fully known is met with love and grace, it’s unsustainable.
When we get real with our spouse and they respond with judgment or criticism, shame sets in. Shame shuts off vulnerability and blocks intimacy.
Conversely, when our “nakedness” is met with love and grace, it invites vulnerability and connection. Grace is an invitation to intimacy. It’s true with God, and it’s true in marriage.
The Face of Grace
What does it look like to respond to each other’s transparent nakedness with love and grace?
Simply put, it looks like Jesus.
- It means not basing our love response on our spouse’s behavior or conformity to our expectations. (While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.)
- It means being willing to show love first (We love because he first loved us.)
- Never use shame as a weapon. (It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance, not his judgment)
- Desire intimacy more than perfection (in your spouse as well as in yourself).
In my post Choose to Lose the Shame, I describe how the opposite of shame is glory:
Shame has to do with disgrace, but glory has to do with grace. To live in shame is to live in darkness, hiding in the shadows, but glory allows us to live in the light, out in the open. Shame leads to dishonor, doubt, and fear, but glory leads to confidence, delight, and a sense of honor.
If you want your marriage to reach the pinnacle of intimacy, it requires you to both live transparently and to respond to each other with love and grace.
Go for a marriage that is truly “naked without shame.”