Sexual intimacy is only a form of intimacy, and in order to define it, we must first know what intimacy is. Intimacy is described as a close, familiar, and usually affectionate, loving personal relationship with another person or group. Therefore, sexual intimacy is not simply sexual desire fulfilled through your spouse by way of intercourse. It is engaging in actions (not limited to intercourse) and thoughts of a sexual nature for the purpose of enhancing your existing relationship and encouraging a unique closeness and affection with your spouse.

My husband and I also describe it as the freedom to affectionately and shamelessly serve and enjoy each other physically, because of the continuous desire to see the relationship improve. True sexual intimacy always begins with, and is sustained by, the pursuit of intimacy with your spouse.

Taboo

Because of the private nature of sexuality in marriage, sexual intimacy is rarely discussed in the church in a joint public forum that addresses its nuances appropriately, but honestly for the married and singles. As a result, we often adopt a shallow view of what sexual intimacy is. Out of ignorance or laziness, we take on this view from the world through past experiences, advice, and the media. We then sprinkle it with a little “righteousness” and hope it will do. The problem is many portrayals of sexual intimacy we encounter are largely selfish, performance-based, and contrary to Godly-love.

At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I believed there were only a few things to be concerned about regarding sexual intimacy: appearance, sexual performance, and frequency. In our eagerness to indulge freely and guiltlessly, it became evident that we had limited sexual intimacy to being the other’s outlet for sexual desire and physical closeness. We made the mistake of confusing sexual activity with sexual intimacy.

Fighting Lust

Lust is a form of abuse. The only way to justify abuse is to dehumanize the abused or convince yourself of their consent, need, or enjoyment; we see this with slavery and other forms of abuse. We live in a world where sex is a billion dollar industry and culture invites men and women to downplay the consequences of lust by dividing it into blurred categories of appropriate and inappropriate.

Fighting lust acknowledges that neither your spouse nor anyone else is your slave or object of exploitation; they are persons, created in the image of God. Fighting lust seeks to provide your spouse with the sweet comfort and security of knowing that your attention, eyes, thoughts, and affections are for them alone. Fighting lust makes your spouse feel safe, cherished, and builds trust that nurtures the freedom to serve, enjoy, and experience each other physically.

Sensitivity, Humility and Patience

Our corrupt ideas about sexuality and sexual intimacy do not simply evaporate, because we are saved and are being sanctified. While I do believe God quickly releases us from certain desires, I also think we should be prepared to honestly address our thoughts, motives, and actions regardless of how innocent or impartial we believe them to be.

A sensitive, humble, and patient approach is required in pursuing sexual intimacy; it is a delicate matter. We can never be sure about the residual nature of past experiences, advice, worldliness and so on. We must be sensitive to our own wounds, needs, attitudes, actions and those of our spouse. Then together, we can graciously address the wrong mindsets with God’s word and action.

Humility challenges us to first approach God before looking to each other’s needs (Philippians 2:3-4) and bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). God invites us to assist in our spouse’s sanctification and healing in an exclusive way and cultivate a relationship that protects emotional vulnerability. Moreover, God, in his wisdom, allowed physical intimacy to ease moments of emotional turmoil, if done selflessly and tenderly.

However, pursuing sexual intimacy without patience is impossible. Like sanctification, it is ongoing and life-long; we must remind ourselves of this constantly. Just as children take time to grow and empires take time to be built, in the same way, we must learn to wait.

True Sexual Intimacy

Waiting is a natural part of fulfillment. Even the nature of intercourse is that of actively serving while waiting. In pursuing sexual intimacy, our experience is not limited to overcoming erroneous mindsets, but includes enduring different periods of change that may alter the nature of the relationship.

These periods include, but are not limited to periods of separation, personal successes, emotional difficulty, sickness, birth and care of children, family emergencies and so on. Some of which my husband and I have experienced over the few years we have been married. The man and woman who endures both display true love (1 John 3:16) and recognize the true nature of sexual intimacy.

The couple recognize sexual intimacy protects from temptation (1 Cor, 7:5), and is never independent of a personal, loving relationship in marriage. They recognize it combines the joint fulfillment of emotional and physical desires in a way that respects and protects the other’s vulnerability. They understand it encourages a joyful and free expression of physical desire. True sexual intimacy chooses the other person over selfish performance-based notions that lead to fear of failure and discontentment. It replaces unrealistic expectations and fairy-tale notions with the reality of human life in a broken, sin-filled world.

Finally, they know true sexual intimacy strives to reflect God’s heart. God created sexual intimacy to reflect the freedom, joy, pleasure, and passion we can experience in him, the God who provides us with the ultimate security, constancy, and act of grace in his Son, Jesus Christ.