Our life is like an iceberg. We see the 10% on the surface, but it’s the 90% below the surface – our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and habits – that can sink our hopes and dreams.
We have all heard the story of how the Titanic, the unsinkable ship, struck an iceberg which sent it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean along with 1000’s of lives. And, how many of us have heard of a marriage that, in the beginning, was “unsinkable.” The couple is so much in love that it’s impossible to think something that beautiful could be torn apart. Yet the statistics record a 50% divorce rate in our country. What is going on?! Maybe it’s because our marriage ship has collided with the “Intimacy Iceberg” of life – and we’re sinking!
How do you define Intimacy?
Dictionary.com defines intimacy as: 1) a close, familiar, and unusually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group. 2) A close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc. 3) Sexual relations.
I use to define intimacy only as number 3, but my definition has since broadened. A few years ago, Michelle and I attended a 3-day marriage conference in Kohler, WI at the American Club. Even though our marriage wasn’t horrible, we knew something wasn’t right. Yet, we couldn’t put our finger on what was missing.
The weekend message was presented by a pastor for the Green Bay Packers and it changed my life forever. He taught that each of us is created to live in intimate relationships. He described how our lives are like an iceberg with 10% of the iceberg above the water while the main body is below. From an intimacy perspective, he described how our lives are divided into layers: physical intimacy (the top 10%), emotional and relational intimacy (middle 20-30%), and the majority portion, spiritual intimacy.
Men tend to live in the top 10% realm while women tend to live in the middle 20-30% realm. Men rarely go underwater to the emotional/relational level of intimacy and women rarely venture above water to the physical intimacy level. Personally, I think it’s beautiful above the water and why wouldn’t anyone want to stay there!
Interestingly, though, the largest portion of intimacy is spiritual; it is having an intimate relationship with our creator. Too often we neglect the spiritual intimacy in our lives, leaving a huge void. The void is described when we say things like “He doesn’t fulfill my needs anymore,” or “I just don’t have the same feelings for her anymore.” The void is usually filled with things like excessive work, alcohol, drugs, pornography, excessive pleasure, sports leagues, infidelity and so on.
What if marriage wasn’t designed to make us happy?
Award winning author Gary Thomas wrote an excellent book titled Sacred Marriage. The subtitle states “What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” Jiminy Crickets!! When I read that for the first time I almost fell off my seat! Isn’t that what marriage is supposed to do – make us happy? What about the movies and TV shows and popular magazines that depict what a marriage should look like, are they all leading us in the wrong direction? Yes, pretty much! All the “How to spice up your marriage” articles and romantic ruses on TV, set people up for unrealistic expectations, frustration and eventually failure. That doesn’t mean you can’t experience that joy in your marriage, but that will come in proportion to you allowing God to fill His void first.
Thomas poses the question:
What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
The more I reflected on these questions, the more the image of the “Intimacy Iceberg” became clear. The void, emptiness, sadness and frustration that we feel in relationships are not necessarily symptoms of something wrong with our relationship, or the other person, but symptoms of our lack of an intimate relationship with God. The “God-sized” void can never be filled with earthly things or earthly relationships. The void can only be filled with one thing – a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you want to have a healthy and fulfilling marriage, it first starts with a healthy relationship with God.
I now have a better understanding that marriage, and relationships in general, are hard work, and God designed it that way! Yet, beyond the struggles, there are many blessings and moments of joy that are indescribable and worth enduring through the hard times.
Our biggest emphasis should be pursuing what it means to have an intimate relationship with God. I’m not talking about just showing up to a church on Sunday, participating in their weekly tradition, to put a check in the box. I recommend a deep commitment to reading the Bible, reading good books to help us understand and apply biblical principles in our lives, listening to sermons and other audio recordings related to biblical principles, and associating with other Christ-followers that can help you grow your relationship with God.
We can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage and other relationships to draw us closer to God and to grow in our Christian character. Ultimately, as I have personally experienced, it will lead to a more content and fulfilled life, and marriage, with deeper satisfaction and happiness.
If you don’t believe in God then this really won’t seem to make sense. I recommend you explore the monthly LIFE business subscription series titled AGO (All Grace Outreach). AGO is designed to help individuals start to find answers to questions they have regarding their faith. To know why you believe what you believe about God will help you circumnavigate the “Intimacy Icebergs” of life and hopefully prevent your “Titanic-life ship” from sinking. Godspeed