Hawkins, Ronald E. (1991) Strengthening Marital Intimacy, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. Summary: Dr. Hawkins has done a wonderful job in presenting the essential elements of what it takes to have a Biblically sound intimate and committed marriage. In Strengthening Marital Intimacy (1991), he has captured the two foundational truths, intimacy and commitment, makes a good marriage into a great marriage. It is not enough to know the Word of God intellectually there must be a real surrendering to the sovereign will of God.
To do it will transform a life of commitment to God and to the marriage. The key concepts presented in this book cover marital intimacy, commitment, wisdom, reality, God’s sovereignty, the person, sexuality, communication and companionship. The main components of this book are God’s design for marriage (Gen. 1:26-28), intimacy in marriage (Genesis 2:18, 25-26), and building on the foundation great commitment (Gen 2:17-17 and Genesis 3:11) to God’s principles governing marriage. Hawkins explains that problem as a satanic wedge.
Marriage was God’s idea for the man and wife to grow as helpmates (companions fitted for each other) however, Satan had a plan to drive a wedge between the man and his wife, and humankind and his creator (Hawkins 1991, 14-15). Thankfully Christ became the wedge remover (ibid, 17) providing the pattern for the dynamics of biblical commitment through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was the key to intimacy and the ultimate goal for a marriage. Almost as a side note Hawkins explains that intimacy is not sex and sex is not intimacy (Ibid, 24) and that a real foundation for true Godly intimacy is a foundation of commitment (ibid , 28).
Not just any kind of commitment but a godly commitment (ibid, 35), even in the face of the individual selfishness, a couple that seek forgiveness and grace committed to meeting each other’s need can fulfill the plans of God if they stay the course with God. What follows a commitment to trust God in a marriage is a commitment to know His wisdom. God’s wisdom brings added resources to the marriage (Proverbs 4:5) that open up line of communication with your spouse. God’s wisdom is not the same as having natural wisdom.
God teaches man how to act or behave according to His standards of reality. That reality will include temptations, injustices and trails (ibid, 65) and a deeper seeking of a loving and Sovereign God that produces an inward stability, which helps a person to understand their mate as a real living soul, that live in a body with emotional needs. Commitment will lead couples to understand, accept, adopt and appreciate each other (ibid, 90) and add fulfillment to their intimacy and enjoyment of each other (ibid, 95).
As Hawkins concludes his book, he reminds the reader that God is a communicator and that by the power of the Holy Spirit so can a husband and his wife learn to communicate. Nothing is more important than communication in a marriage if the couple wants to have a lasting relationship with their mate (or companions) for a lifetime. Hawkins returns to the premise (Genesis 2:18) that it is not good for man to be alone (ibid, 125) we were designed for fellowship no matter what stage or age in life. It is their commitment to God and His standards, which allows a couple to grow and strengthens their marriage bounds over time.
Hawkins concludes his book as he began it with an admonition to strengthen marriage by intimacy and a commitment to do is the best way to achieve personal growth and a shared oneness in family together. “The stronger the individual is, the stronger the team when they pledge to oneness (ibid, 137). This book was a great read and it should be in every marital counselor’s bookshelf. The information shared in this book would benefit those who are single, the pre-marital or engaged couple, and the post marital group as well. It was an easy to read, no none sense, reflection on what a Christian marriage should be.
Hawkins never strayed far from his three main foundational points; marriage is God’s design of men, intimacy is the goal of marriage, and commitment to the marriage is the divine principle that governs a godly marriage. I am convinced that the author has done a superb job in the presentation of his thesis Concrete Responses: The Marriage Mistake: When I frist started doing marital counseling, I was only 23 years old, untrained in the Word of God, and trying desperately to lead a small church of mostly US Service men and women in Okinawa, Japan.
I had one year of Bible school and no practical training in counseling and with less than six week at my new post, in walked Greg and Thelma a young couple that has only recently started attending church. When I say young, Greg was 26 years old and a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force his new wife (his second) was only 16 years old. Thelma was of legal age to marry in the Philippines and spoke only broken English. She had been raised a strict catholic and understood her duties as a wife to both her new family and her old family back in the Philippines.
Their problem was, as Greg saw it, his wife unwillingness to perform sex acts the way he wanted her too. Greg and Thelma were married for only three months at that time and both knew just enough about the Bible to create their big sexual relationship dilemma. Regardless of the more than ten years age difference, Thelma and Greg had gotten some marriage counseling in the Philippines before their marriage and it was a valid marriage before God and civil authorities. When I was pressed for my judgment on their situation, I really did not know what to say.
In my naivety, I counseled them to pray more, and to love sex less, not to overrate sex in the marriage, to never forced sex in any way especially, sex acts, and I suggested that they wait patiently until the weaker (not younger) Christian mate grows up into their role as a helpmate to the other. My one scriptural reference to Greg and Thelma was from I Corinthian 13. I thank God that this couple remained in my church together for the next two years and from time to time I was able to talk to them several more times. By God’s grace, somehow this couple made it through those frist few years.
Reflection: What is happening with the changing views on Christian and Sex in marriage? It was the section in Hawkins’ (1991) book, Strengthening Martial Intimacy, that really caught my attention and my spiritual senses aroused. Hawkins credits much of the change-taking place in the Christian community to an outward expression of sexual affection in marriage to the work of men like “Jay Adams, Tim LaHaye, Ed Wheat and the Penners. I agree with that assessment (Hawkins 1991, 100 -102), yet it is clear that there is still more teaching on sex in a Christian Marriage needed.
Christian marriages still suffer a very high divorce rate and the infidelity cases that I have encounter within Christian circles are too many to elaborate. I believe that sex is a gift from God to help men find intimacy as a way to build stronger and more intimate marriage relationship. More training should be available to Christian counselor on how to reach the older Christian couple on God’s expectation on Sex in marriage as a way of encouraging good sexual health and to promote marriage role models for the younger generation. Sexual relationship and a Godly marriage go hand in hand.
I want to recommend to anyone the “12 Biblical Principles for heighten Sexual Intimacy (ibid, 104 – 106)” as a vital part of any marriage counseling session that is appropriate. Application: When I consider how the information presented in Hawkins will influence my counseling and personal growth, I will confess that it has given me a slightly different approach that I can use in couples counseling, pre-marital counseling and dealing with singles before they meet a mate. With the majority of my couples counseling, I have never used Hawkins’ book.
I have mostly relied on Jimmy Evens, Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage (1994, 2001, 2005) and the 4 laws he teaches from Genesis 2:25-26. That God give man (1) The Law of Priority: A Man shall leave his father and mother; (2) The Law of Pursuit: He shall cleave (joined) to his wife; (3) The Law of Possession: they were one flesh (co-possessors) and (4) The Law of Purity: They were naked and not ashamed. My focus was only on the fundamental of marriage. I do have many more resources that I use in the counseling ministry such as DR.
Emerson Eggerichs book, Love and Respect: the Love She Desires and the Respect He Needs (2005); and one of my personal favorite book by M. D. Ed Wheat and Gaye Wheat is, Intended for Pleasure: New Approaches to Sexual Intimacy in Christian Marriage (1977, 1981). This book by Dr. Hawkins has greatly influenced my life and I plan to add it to my personal and counseling loan library. I also will be pilot testing it with all of my new pre marital counseling session to gage its effectiveness in real world applications.
I plan further integrate Hawkins’ book into my counseling of couples as soon as I can effectively do so. References Hawkins, Ronald E. 1991. Strengthening marital intimacy. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. Evens, Jimmy. 1994, 2001, 2005. Marriage on the rock: God’s design for your dream marriage. Dallas Texas: Marriage Today. Eggerichs, Emerson. 2005. Love and respect: the love she desires and the respect he needs. Brentwood, Tennessee: Integrity Publishers. Wheat, Ed and Gaye. 1977, 1981. Intended for pleasure: New approaches to sexual intimacy in christian marriage. Fleming H. Revell Company.