Naked and Unashamed: Embracing God’s Attachment Design for Covenant Marriage
Naked and Unashamed: Embracing God’s Attachment Design for Covenant Marriage
Categories: RECENT RESEARCH
Jesse Gill, Psy.D.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh… the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:24-25, NIV)
This passage in Genesis speaks about the way God originally intended our relationship with Him to be. When we choose marriage it also forms the pattern of our relationship with our spouse. He created us to be transparent and without hiding. It speaks to intimacy, walking in the cool of the day with Him, fellowshipping, knowing and being known. God’s original plan for our relationship with Him was that we would live openly and without defenses. This open posture also speaks to the type of intimacy, including sexual intimacy, which God designed for us in marriage (Gill, 2015, p. 221).
Adam and Eve were originally naked and unashamed with one another as God intended. They had no defenses, but instead they walked in unbroken fellowship together and with their Creator. After The Fall humans developed fear responses, along with a very real need to protect themselves and their children from harm.
Due to our needs for protection we wall ourselves off from others when we’ve been hurt. Sometimes we also lash out at each other due to our fear of getting hurt. But God, in His mercy, created a way for us to be knit back together again. It is the way of love which casts out fear and binds us to one another. The process that binds us, providing the tangible experience of love, is called Attachment.
Attachment is God’s design for humans which drives us to connect in life sustaining, close, and secure relationships. It begins with the close emotional and physiological bond between an infant and a primary caregiver, usually the infant’s parent. Attachment is forged through touch, close attention, and consistent emotional responses which meet the infant’s needs (Bowlby, 1969). This co-created bond ensures survival. It links the parent and child in closeness, comfort, playfulness, and fierce protection.
We co-create Attachment with a primary caregiver, rest in the strength of this bond, and draw upon it in times of need. A securely attached child can always turn to the primary caregiver for help, especially in moments of distress. Secure Attachment means that the child does not fear abandonment, and as a result the child has greater confidence and poise when hard times come (Ainsworth, 1979).
In adulthood our Attachment bond transfers to our spouses (Johnson, 2004). A Secure Marriage is one where both spouses know that they can turn to one another in times of need (Gill, 2015). With confident assurance these spouses share their needs vulnerably and bring their deepest longings forward. Secure spouses daily position themselves to stand face to face, “naked and unashamed.” In this fallen world those naked moments encapsulate one sacred aspect of God’s redemption for us.
“The purpose of marriage is to get naked, absent of defenses, to share the parts of ourselves that we have never shared with any other person” (Vogt, 2007).
When a married couple lays aside their defenses to meet in a place of safety and trust, they are recreating Eden. It’s a restoration of that open posture that we naturally embraced prior to The Fall. This embrace is like coming home to a place that is woven deep within us, beneath the scars of our broken existence. This nakedness can feel risky, but it is also healing and comforting.
Taking these risks with our spouse in emotional and physical space is the way that we create the bond of love between us. We literally “make love” as we open ourselves to expose places we were too frightened or ashamed to share with another person before. When our spouse receives us and reaches for us in the same way we create oneness, a secure bond, which brings glory to God and reflects His nature.
Ultimately, we come from God. The God of the universe is Love (1 John 4:8). We come from the timeless love and unity at the core of who God is. The Trinity embodies the whole unified relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally communing and eternally one. We humans here on earth long for a return to this loving connection with God. We find this reconnection today through relationships with God and one another.
When we choose to get married our sexual connection with our spouse may be the most vulnerable experience we ever have. Husbands and wives who “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) are creating physical, emotional, and spiritual oneness. Sex with our spouses has a truly spiritual dimension which should not be taken for granted. Many theologians believe that the bond between a husband and wife is the closest representation of the unity in the Trinity that a human can experience. Jesus desired that all believers would experience the unity that He shared with His Father.
“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21; NIV).
In marriage we co-create oneness by laying down our defenses and embracing vulnerability. We build intimacy when we lay down our lives to be the hands and feet of Christ to our spouses. This dying to self is a daily act and also a process that grows us to be more like Christ throughout our lives. It is both emotional and physical.
In marriage, emotional and sexual intimacy is intertwined and complementary. When they are well developed and integrated, they generate a dynamic bonding between two people that reflects God’s relationship with us and the “oneness” of the Trinity. In this relationship, we exemplify love like our Creator loves (Rosenau and Neely, 2013, p. 10).
The call to oneness can only be fulfilled within the covenant of marriage. With our Creator at the center of our marriage we experience absolute safety and security. We know that He and our spouse have made the same promise to “never leave us nor forsake us.” Our response to such love must be one of faithfulness too. Physically our bodies are capable of having multiple sexual partners in our lifetime or even in a single week. But that is not God’s plan for us. Our God is faithful, a God of covenant.
He made a covenant with Abraham to provide fully for what he needed and to fully provide for Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:1-17). “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12) was His promise to Moses, then to Joshua, and to all believers for generations to come …Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5).
God is covenantal and faithful; He identifies Jesus to us as “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11). God calls us to embrace and participate in His covenantal nature with our spouses. So, while we have the equipment, blood flow, and hormones to mate like rabbits, He calls us to be sexually faithful in our marriage covenant with our spouses.
In the marriage covenant God also calls us to lay aside our protective defenses, becoming naked with our emotions. He calls us to die to the self-preserving ways that we posture and defend ourselves. He calls both husbands and wives to submit ourselves to our spouses in a fully trusting and open manner. We do these acts of trust and faithfulness as unto Him, and they are central to the marriage covenant.
It is no small thing to be called to this kind of love. It demands everything of us and requires us to surrender all in order to be completed in this manner of love. Here is where we draw upon the third member of the marriage covenant, God Himself. He calls us to love like He does, faithfully and in the same way that Jesus laid down His life. He also empowers us and strengthens us to fulfill this, by carrying out His love right through us when we yield our lives to Him.
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23; NIV).
The Hebrew word chesed is used to describe the type of love that God brings to His covenant relationship with us (Snaith, 1944). It is a transcendent love which remains constant even when we are unfaithful, and it is greater than anything we humans are capable of (Snaith, 1951). It appears in the verse above which is now translated as “lovingkindness,” but it is hard to find exact synonyms in the English language to describe just how great God’s covenantal chesed love is towards us. It is a love that never fails, never gives up, and never abandons us. It is a deep compassion for and awareness of our feeble nature that has been present since we fell in Eden when we first became walled off and ashamed.
“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14; NASB).
Chesed is lovingkindness that never ceases, compassion that never fails, and mercies that are new every single day for our marriages. This is how great His faithfulness is towards us in providing for what we need. When we enter into covenant marriage with God and with our spouse, we are stepping into something which is more than we could ever be in our own strength or devices.
But He is there to undergird us, uplift us, strengthen us, and comfort us. He promises to “Never leave us nor forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6). When we give our lives to Him, He provides for all we have need of according to His riches in Christ Jesus. Therefore, we know that we have Secure Attachment with Him, the beautiful freedom to be naked and unashamed once again. This is His calling and His gifting to us in covenant marriage. It is His chesed, His goodness, and lovingkindness which is at work to help us create Secure Attachment with our spouses in covenant marriage.
Within this faithful and intimate relationship He has designed us to be naked and unashamed. This is where a face to face sexual connection comes into clearer focus. When we are secure with our spouses, we can bring any need or concern forward to our beloved ones without fearing rejection or being dismissed. In this secure place we can open our hearts and our bodies to them, entrusting them with all that we are. It takes a step of faith, but it is well worth it.
“Love can only be known when we take risks” (Johnson, 2008).
For couples and counselors who are seeking to learn more about the map for building emotional and physical intimacy there are great resources available. Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage (Gill, 2015) is specifically designed to help couples break out of painful cycles of conflict and build a Secure Attachment. Throughout the book couples are invited to deepen their Attachment bond with their Heavenly Father while drawing upon the perfect love of Christ. It includes an important chapter on Attachment and sexual intimacy. For couples who are more united and ready to work on their sexual intimacy, Rosenau and Neely (2013) have written a very helpful resource for connecting and re-igniting passion. Finally, for couples who have sexual dysfunction a more comprehensive resource may help guide them through the steps towards healing (Penner and Penner, 1993).
God has given us marriage so that we may experience the redemption of nakedness, the fulfillment of oneness, and the steadfast reassurance of covenant. Even in this broken world, He demonstrates His great love for us and the hope of returning to Eden. Through the marriage covenant we may co-create Secure Attachment and experience His beautiful plan.
W. Jesse Gill, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist who earned his doctorate from the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology. He completed his internship with Philhaven in Mount Gretna. Dr. Gill has been on staff with Psychological Health Affiliates since 2001. Dr. Gill is passionate about marriage and family therapy. He specializes in the treatment of children ages four through teenage years. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and Tourette’s Disorder are among those concerns that he addresses with children and their families.
Ainsworth, M.D.S. (1979). Infant-mother attachment. American Psychologist, 34, 932-937.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and Loss (Vol I). London, Hogarth.
Gill, J. (2015), Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage. Bloomington, IN, Westbow Press.
Johnson, S. (2004). The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection New York, Brunner-Routledge.
Johnson, S. (2008). “Externship: Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.” June 24-28, 2008, Ottawa, Ontario.
Penner, C. & Penner, J. (1993). Restoring the Pleasure: Complete Step-by-step Programs to Helping Couples Overcome the Most Common Sexual Barriers. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson Publishing.
Rosenau, D. & Neely, D. (2013), Total Intimacy: A Guide to Loving by Color. Sexual Wholeness Resources, Atlanta, GA.
Snaith, N.H. (1944). Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament. London: The Epworth Press.
Snaith, N.H. (1951). A Theological Word Book of the Bible, A. Richardson (Ed.). New York: MacMillan, pp. 136-7.
Vogt, R. (2007), “Treating Personality Disordered Couples from an Attachment/Trauma Framework.” Workshop; November 9, 2007, Philhaven, Mt. Gretna, PA.