Strip it down…this is the greatest lesson I’ve learned in marriage.
In February of 2016 I attended a Christian women’s conference. By the last day of the conference, I found myself on my knees with tears streaming down my face fighting like hell to suppress all the emotions.
John and I were not in a great place. Work had taken over our lives. It had taken over our marriage. We were in one of the driest seasons of our relationship.
Our marriage, it felt more like a roommate kind of relationship. We knew changes needed to be made.
We wanted to bridge what felt like a 12 mile gap standing between us, but we had no idea how.
As the conference drew to an end, the leader of the event challenged all present in the audience to reclaim an area of life where we knew we were being disobedient.
Each person present was given a domino. The domino was to represent the very thing that needed to be addressed.
The idea was if you were obedient to that one domino/area of your life, the domino would fall. And as it fell, so would another. And another. And before you knew it, an incredible force of momentum would occur within your life. Change would happen. Progress would occur.
We were asked to write the act of obedience we needed to do on the domino. And then she challenged us to share the act if we felt bold enough to do so.
I knew before I even heard her challenge what needed to be written down on that domino. But it was so personal. The thought of putting it in writing made me want to vomit and furthermore the thought of saying it out loud seemed next to impossible.
But I felt that internal nudge, the one prompting me to speak up. Although I was convinced no one would be able to relate. These women probably would think I was a nutcase…because everyone has a perfect marriage, right?
Nevertheless, that quiet voice in my heart persisted. “Speak up. Share what you wrote.”
So I swallowed my pride and out of my mouth came these words:
"Sexual obedience. That is my domino. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere over the years, I stopped letting my husband get close to me. I stopped letting him see me fully exposed: physically, spiritually, mentally.
I’ve struggled for years with body image. And as a response to that struggle, I restrict: I restrict food, nourishment…touch, and intimacy. Because I feel more safe when I restrict these things. I feel more in control. But it is a mirage. And the control is breaking me. It is breaking my marriage."
Stripping down: Is it Biblical?
In Genesis 2:22, we meet Eve for the first time.
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
When I read the back half of that sentence, something in me stopped. God brought Eve to Adam.
And this is where it gets pretty awkward. God brought Eve to Adam, naked.
I don’t know about you, but this nakedness makes me feel awkward.
Because when I replay how this event went down, the thought of Eve naked before God just seems so weird. The thought of God leading a naked Eve to a naked Adam is even weirder.
And I just can’t shake this image. I can’t shake this image, because it is vulnerable and raw to the core:
A daughter, a woman, a wife, standing before her Creator completely exposed. Completely stripped down.
Before Eve met anyone on this earth, she stood before her heavenly Father in her most vulnerable state and it was normal. It was all she knew. There was no shame. There was no hiding. She opened herself to the gaze of her Creator, and she let him see every part of her.
As I reflected on this truth, these words were whispered to my heart:
This. This right here. This is the kind of intimacy I want with you. And it is also the kind of intimacy I want you to have with John. Stop hiding. Stop running from my touch. Stop coming to me partially exposed. Don’t you know, I can see your hurt. I can see the pain you are carrying. I see you trying to control and restrict and it is wreaking havoc on you. Let me lay eyes on you, all of you. Come to me naked, exposed. My daughter, don’t be afraid.
The night the conference ended was the first time I allowed God to see me in the same way He laid eyes on Eve the day He created her. Fully exposed. No hiding. And it was also the first time I let John see me in that state.
And by God’s grace and in His time, the domino fell. And the momentum following that act of obedience is something only God could do.
But this is a constant struggle. Because the truth is, we live in a broken, sin-filled world and living in this kind of transparent state is not natural. We have to fight for intimacy both with our heavenly Father and our spouse.
So how do we strip down?
1. Get naked with God. What does this look like?
-The worst part of my miscarriage happened on Easter. My head knew it was a day of rejoicing in the resurrection, but in that moment all I felt was death. My prayers, they were explicit. I cursed God. I cursed the pain. I cursed the brokenness.
And you know what, I am so glad I did. I am glad I did because God can take those kind of prayers. He wants that kind of honesty. He is not afraid of our hurt and anger. Instead, He wants to be in it. That Easter was the first time I held nothing back from God in real time and I swear it caused a breakthrough in my relationship with Him. In those horrible moments, I felt the squeeze of His hand saying “I can take it. Get the anger out. Cast it on me. I want all of it. I know you’re angry, let me have it. Don’t you dare suppress it. Hold nothing back.”
2. Get naked with your spouse. What does this look like?
-It starts with the heart. John and I try to have an “awkward” date night once a month by asking these questions from @betweenparents. Prompted by these questions, we ask if there are any secrets we’ve been keeping. We ask if there’s anything we are hiding in our relationship-physically, emotionally, spiritually. We dig into the awkward. And it has helped tremendously. Below is a link to some sample questions. Thank you Billy and Joy for leading the way with these conversations. Change is happening because of your boldness to speak into the awkwardness.
3. Get naked with yourself. What does this look like?
-I’ve gained what feels like a significant amount of weight this year. Partly as a result of the pregnancy, partly because of crazy hormones, and partly because I am trying to get physically healthy which means no extreme dieting and no extreme working out. And as a result, nothing fits. And I hate all of it.
Turns out my body has been running on fumes for way too long. And while I’d love to fit into those skinny jeans again, truth is it just isn’t healthy in this season. So every time I put on something that feels snug, I change, put something more comfortable on, and scream “Screw you, Satan…this new size, it is beautiful. My body is healing. I’m done living on fumes.”
Ladies, our bodies are temples. We were uniquely and perfectly made by God. Own what you’ve got. Embrace it. Screw the skinny jeans.
4. Do the darn thing.
-Put it on the schedule. Find a routine. Life is busy and schedules are crazy. Make it a priority to strip down, to be seen, to be known, and to not hold back.
5. Still want to vomit at the thought of all this nakedness?
-Pray pray pray. Pray for boldness. Pray for strength. Pray for the courage to let yourself be seen, touched, and known by your heavenly Father and your spouse. Lean in to the awkwardness.