“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:3
It was 6 p.m., and the phone was ringing. We were less than two years into marriage, but I was well into pregnancy with our first child. When I answered, my husband Dave was on the phone. With a sheepish tone of voice, he explained that he had stopped by an “adult bookstore” on the way home after work. After his rendezvous with pornography, he came out to find his car towed. Wanting to be gracious, I expressed hurt but also reminded Dave that God’s discipline surely meant he was a son of God.
This was just the beginning of a saga that would span 20 years of our marriage, including our years in the full-time ministry. There would be periods of freedom, but then Dave would fall again. I would express disappointment, but then, fearing abandonment, would seek to quickly “restore” him, often by giving myself sexually.
Eventually, the falls began to increase. Well-meaning brothers did everything from reading Dave Scripture on repentance to threatening church discipline. Little did we know that we were both caught in a web first spun in the Garden of Eden.
Back to the Garden
In the last article, we talked about how true intimacy involves knowing and being known in all your imperfection. For a married couple, romance and sexuality help create this safety and unity. In contrast, false intimacy idolizes sex and romance as being the supreme goal. Instead of thriving in real life (including heartache and loss), this false intimacy depends largely upon fantasy.
Bottom line: False intimacy is based on an illusion woven by the father of lies himself. This illusion boldly states that certain actions or thoughts, explicitly forbidden by God, hold great power to give us satisfaction, fulfillment, control or relief from emotional pain.
I’ve found that the temptations that come with false intimacy mirror Eve’s temptation in the garden in Genesis 3. The road to false intimacy includes:
|Satan’s Whisper||Allure of False Intimacy||False Promise|
|Did God really say?||One bite promises the knowledge/ experience that you need.||One look won’t hurt anyone.|
|Your eyes will be opened.||All of your fantasies about romance, love and sex will be fulfilled.||You’ll have what you want without suffering, pain or hardship.|
|You will be like God.||You’ll feel powerful and worthwhile.||You’ll share unlimited passion with others.|
|You won’t surely die.||You will feel more engaged with your sensuality – more of a man/woman.||You won’t have the consequences that God promised.|
It would be easy to assume that, since God wholeheartedly endorses a beautiful freedom and holy passion in marriage (just read the Song of Solomon!), we are largely exempt from these temptations. But remember that Satan’s goal is not just to lead our bodies away from God and each other, but also our minds. And he can do that both outside and inside of our bedrooms.
Dave and I have learned that our best defense is understanding what Satan seeks to steal from us through false intimacy and then setting hedges of protection around our marriage.
|Temptation||Steals From Us|
|Secretly seeking comfort from life’s pain through chat rooms, Internet pornography, masturbation, etc.||Finding complete comfort in God and my mate. Walking in the light together.|
|Escaping from emotional disconnection through romance novels, movies and television.||The emotional energy needed to engage the ups and downs of real-life intimacy.|
|Creating “better sex” through pornography,
x-rated videos or imagining sex with someone else.
|The process of communicating, listening and learning to respond to our sexual differences.|
|Bartering sex for favors or demanding sex as reward. Pressuring a mate to go beyond their conscience.||The ability to set and honor boundaries. Respect for myself and for my spouse.|
Satan whispers that false intimacy is okay because it feels good or pleases our mate. But, the more we spend our intimacy reserves on false intimacy, the less we have to spend on real intimacy. From the starting place of false intimacy, Satan has led many a couple into emotional affairs, adultery or other dark places they never imagined.
Coming Out of Hiding
Through counseling, recovery groups/literature and immersing ourselves in the Bible, I’m grateful to say that Dave and I have learned to replace false intimacy with Biblical intimacy in our marriage. In fact, now we can say that the greatest treasure in our marriage is our intimacy. (Amen!)
One of the most important skills we needed to learn in this process was setting healthy boundaries.