Intimacy is a word, an idea, that the world reduces to nothing more than sex. But, there is so much more. In this episode, we’re taking Intimacy out of the bedroom and exploring ways to bring life to your relationship.
We get it. Marriage is work. Keeping a marriage healthy is hard when a career, to-do lists, kids and busy-ness distract us. It’s further complicated by personality differences and our own unique stores and the baggage we bring into it. We encourage you to take the next 30 minutes to learn about 7 layers or aspects of Intimacy.
Each one is a unique and necessary piece to making the connection you have with your spouse even stronger.
Grab a paper and pencil – you’ll want to take notes. Learning how to invest in all the layers of intimacy is your next step in “Becoming Whole.”
The lack of emotional intimacy can easily dry out a marriage and leave you with a roommate instead of a husband or a wife.
Pay attention to how you’re different and honor it but also move towards each other
Gods design that a husband and wife coming together in a sexual union would be the one way that new life would be created on the earth that’s pretty profound
List some ways you and your spouse are different. Now, what are some ways you can honor those differences?
Be honest, do you offer a hug, a kiss, or hold hands hoping that gesture will lead to sex?
How vulnerable are you with your spouse? A big part of that answer can be found in your “family of origin.” Growing up, did your family lead with emotions, or was your family more intimidated by feelings?
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
We know that intimacy is vital in a marriage, right? We also know that every marriage goes through difficult times when one or the other just doesn’t feel understood, or seen or known. So what’s at risk here is this idea of true intimacy. But what do we really mean when we talk about intimacy? So, what do you think of when you think of intimacy Do you think of sex? Do you think of depth Do you think of emotions? So today, for our purposes, we’re going to explore six different aspects of intimacy In a marriage, and actually, these things apply to relationships in general. And each area is really important and unique. And each area can be complicated, sort of, kind of explore those together today.
Right, and I think, you know, a lot, some people might be listening to like, six different kinds, like, I think we have a lot of different ideas about what what intimacy is, and, and actually, they all really, they just weave in and out of each other really, really well. And you’ll find actually with whereas one area is strong, it will strengthen the others if one areas weak, it can weaken the others. So, so I think it’s gonna be a good conversation, get excited about it.
That’s a good point that they do definitely relate compliment each other. They’re not like standalone and one, hopefully, we’ll kind of move into the other as we talk about it.
So we won’t start with one that I think most or many listeners automatically go to, which is sexual intimacy. We’ll get to that a little bit but We do want to start with with talking about emotional intimacy. I think this is bedrock. So, talk to us a little about what you know what comes to mind for you? What do we mean by emotional intimacy?
Well, when I think of emotional intimacy, I think about a certain kind of transparency, you know, a certain kind of ability to be real. And to be vulnerable, to be able to be open to be where you are, who you are in your relationship. And, you know, that means that there’s a certain amount of safety, there’s a certain amount of security that you feel with one another. What do you think of when you think of it?
Well, no, I think that’s right. I think I mean, I honestly think that there’s a way that emotional intimacy is one of the most vulnerable forms of intimacy that that people can have a marriage and one of the reasons it can be some of the most difficult or one of the areas of intimacy that’s most difficult. I think maybe, I’m not sure but I think maybe especially for men there’s a there’s a sense of, you know, like a lot of us have trouble even kind of acknowledging or working through and understanding what we feel ourselves. And so now when we’re asked to kind of share open up and share those things with somebody else, or to be with somebody else as they’re sharing their emotions with us.
Yeah, I think culturally it’s true. I don’t think men are generally is encouraged, you know, to feel and to talk about it. And the other thing that really comes into play here, certainly has been true with us is your family of origin. Like, you know, in Greg’s family, you you just didn’t talk about emotions. It just wasn’t done. And in my family, we lead with that. And so here you have two people who experienced and been formed really differently. One thrives on it, and the other one is, frankly intimidated by it. So you know, that can be challenging.
I think some families like the point thing, some families in We’re just out of control. And so, you know, why would I want to kind of open that can of worms up in my, in my home. I think another thing to think about with emotional intimacy, it’s not just about talking about your, your feelings, it’s also about feeling with each other, and allowing the other to feel what they feel. I know for my wife and I like, there are times where we’ll watch a show together, and I am deeply moved by what we’ve seen, and I, I just experienced emotions different than my wife does. And so, they’ll be times for me where, like, when the show is over, I just want to sit and kind of think about it a bit. Mm hmm. And, and she’s like, Okay, next thing and so that’s a place for us where emotional intimacy is a it’s a growth point for us each to kind of step towards the other, and being able to experience we experience emotionally,
which is kind of great because, you know, we kind of think well, how we do it, how we, how we respond is the right way, but you really can learn so much from each other if you do stop and oh, what about Like to respond that way, you know that you really can get something out of that, because that’s true with us too. I mean, for me, I, I get a lot of comfort in being able to express my emotions, I, it’s important to me, but Greg honestly can be really, like, that’s too much, that’s too much. And so rather than push each other aside, and you know, that’s too much, that’s not enough is to kind of lean in a little bit like, Okay, how do we honor each other in our differences here so that I can know that sometimes I need to tone it down, but also bring it and he can learn to kind of step up, you know, so I think that’s important in terms of foundation for for any relationship.
Yeah, for sure. I can’t I’m also kind of wondering here like, you know, we, I cannot this a fully formed as a thought but it seems to me that when we’re talking about emotional intimacy, the can maybe even a misunderstanding of like, somehow it’s I don’t know I’m not sure how I feel articulate this. But you know, it really is, in some ways, just kind of like allowing the door to your inner life, maybe to your heart to open up and another the other parts of intimacy we’re gonna talk about a little bit later, but also involve your your inner life. But I think there’s something about the way we’re talking about emotional intimacy, which is really kind of allowing the inside of you to be seen in a way and including some of the things that happen inside of you that you may not fully understand or be in control of. And I think that’s, that’s maybe another reason that emotional intimacy or that heart intimacy is can be so challenging and why it’s so important to be safe with each other. I think it’s one of the reasons that that marriage can be such a wonderful place to kind of grow in this in this form of intimacy.
So I really like that I think when you said even those places we don’t know ourselves what to do with. It is a real gift to be able to To in your relationship, be able to say, you know, I’m struggling with this, I’m not sure what I’m feeling, or what to do with what I’m feeling. And that maturing process to be able to do that with one another, in, in a relationship in a marriage is very much a gift. So, you know, and speaking of that, you know, the importance of that connection that we just described emotionally. I heard this quote that I think I can certainly relate to, and I know that other friends can relate to it, Josh, I’m curious if you can relate to it. It’s the lack of emotional intimacy can easily dry out a marriage and leave you with a roommate, instead of a husband or a wife. To me, that was really helpful reminder that I don’t want a roommate. I really want a husband. I want a partner. And so what what are your thoughts on that?
No, I think that’s I think there’s truth to making a speech. The truth in that I think there are times for my wife and I were, where we’re not connecting emotionally and it does feel like you know, life’s gotten busy word carding the kids around everywhere we’re getting stuff done. But we don’t really feel like we’ve been seen or heard. And, and for me, I can’t quite explain this. But I think there’s there’s a level of just when that happens for us, where I feel a longing for. For a sense of her, her attention and her respect, and I think then, when the emotion emotions, we’re not connecting emotionally, I think there’s can be ways that I feel like she’s not kind of honoring me as her husband. And I think for her, I think she could feel the same thing. And it’s, yeah, I guess it’s Yeah, maybe it’s that we feel sick, or maybe it’s in those times. So.
So I think that’s, you know, I felt that before we didn’t really just articulate it quite like that, where I’ve kind of felt like, geez, why does it feel so weird that we’re not really connecting. I feel like we’re just you know, but I never really thought of that. It’s a great reminder for us like, like, let’s let’s pay attention to when we feel like roommates and you know what’s missing? And how might we get after it? You know might be something to think about.
There we got so we got a lot of ground to cover. Let’s let’s keep going with so emotions PCs one.
Well, so I wanted to talk about, I think it’d be really helpful to to talk about physical intimacy, apart from sexual intimacy. And the reason that I feel like that’s really important is because I think that physical intimacy is in a category of its own. You know, it is so important to me. Like I even have told Greg, when he’s like, you know, what do you need these days? I’m like, you know, what, in the middle of the day, you know, when you just come up and give me a real hug, like a real hug, that just does so much for me. It doesn’t mean it’s leading to sex. Sometimes it can, but it doesn’t have to and so for me, that’s physical intimacy is a is a really important communication from my husband that he that he’s present. And that that is a part of that affection, even apart from sex is a part of our life together.
Yeah, and I think for in the reality, I mean, we’ve seen this many times in our ministry where there’s been some type of sexual difficulties sexual breach in the marriage. And it’s an important step towards healing, for the spouse to even begin to entertain this idea that hey, physical connection, physical intimacy, does not always lead to sex. And and I’ve I know that we’ve heard from spouses who have been betrayed, or there’s been, you know, one spouse who’s kind of, you know, wants sex more than the other for that, for the first spouse to feel like, Hey, I just want to know that you want to be near me. And it’s not just about the pleasure of sex that you want. And so I think physical intimacy in that realm is really vital to
Yeah, I think you’re so right when there’s been some kind of betrayal. Some kind of infidelity. It’s this is sensitive and really important and and couples can really grow and heal a lot by allowing this kind of slow but sure, you know, physical affection. And I feel like for me, I love knowing that even though we do have the privilege and the beauty of of talking and sharing sexual intimacy, which we’ll talk about next. To me, it’s very, very it feels respectful to me that Greg can give me physical affection and then that and not pursue that that feels very loving to me. Right, right. I think
yeah, I mean, the converse of that would be kind of the feel of like, you know, he wants something you know, like he Yeah, it’s not just that he’s giving me this affection. It’s not a form of affection is a form of kind of like you know, leading to something. So things like holding hands hugging, sitting next to each other. cuddling, well, kissing, I think all those things are are forms of that. And yeah, I know. And other times my wife and I’ll be watching a show, and she’ll kind of just pat the seat next to her. Yeah. Which I should say to you, like, I think the other thing that comes in here is they’re like, different statuses will feel differently and want different things and their physical intimacy and so, like, again, you know, I talked earlier about how we feel things differently. And there are times where, like, Hey, we’re watching a really intense movie right now. Like, I think I just need some space, you know, so. So there’s again, I think, like with all kinds of intimacy, there is a learning about each other getting to know each other. So,
yeah, absolutely. And you can honor those differences. And you can also find that you move towards each other, like I definitely can see that we’ve, you know, my my desire to sit close when we’re watching something was something that Greg just didn’t really it didn’t really occur to him that much. But now it does, just because and I also can can Realize that sometimes he needs some space. And so that’s also a beautiful thing in all these areas of intimacy to just pay attention to your, how you’re different and honor it, but also move towards each other. So this easily, you know, from the physical intimacy, we can move into the sexual intimacy, which is clearly very important. I think the thing that sets it apart the most is that this is the one type of intimacy that we are not to share with anyone else.
Right. Yeah. And why is that so significant? Okay. I mean, I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a rare perspective in our culture today.
I think, you know, I just know that for me. When when my husband and I are able to share that It is just between the two of us I say that I say this is something we don’t share with anyone else. Like that’s just powerful and beautiful and significant because it is so it is so intimate. I mean it is in the best you know, healthy sexual intimacy means that it’s not just a physical act of course it’s it’s it’s a seeing each other it’s really a trust and a knowing and seeing each other kind of in an ultimate way.
Yeah, I mean, there’s a reason that the the Christian church traditionally has understood sexual intimacy between husband and wife to be the consummating act of the marriage and the wedding value. Now the wedding vows we say things this is you know, I basically we say, I’m giving myself to you, in the in the marriage bed in sexual intimacy, a husband and wife say to each other, in essence, this is my body given for you. It’s a it is a mirror. Something of Christ’s relationship with the church it points to his great sacrificial gift of his body. And it’s, it’s powerful and not to mention it, it has the capacity to lead to children. And yes, it’s it’s kind of it’s it’s crazy. I think since the sexual revolution, it’s almost been looked at. And even, it’s almost like an afterthought in some ways, like a pregnancy. This it’s kind of an unfortunate risk of of sex, but within the, within a marriage. I think that, that, that it’s a it’s a beautiful thing, and it brings a level of what’s the word? What brings a weightiness to this exact You know, this because, and, and I, you know, there’s a lot you can say about this, but I think even just that idea of God’s design, that a husband and wife coming together in a sexual Union would be the one way that new life would be created on the earth. Like, that’s pretty profound. And we I think we would do well to really consider like, why did he choose That like, yeah, it’s it’s a kind of incredible thing So,
and that, you know, the word that comes to me, which doesn’t fully explain, describe healthy sexual intimacy at all, but a word that does come to me is sober, that there is a sobering like, this is beautiful. And, you know, it’s also sobering and like you said, weighty, you know, this is an This means something far beyond just that it feels good. It is far beyond that physical sensation. And I think, of course, you know, we live in a complicated broken world and we lose sight of that. And so remembering that is so important.
When shifting gears a little bit, I think before we leave sexual intimacy, I think when we have to say is, we have to say, I think is that the Hollywood portrays sexual intimacy as something that just happens you know, either you have or you don’t think there’s even a kind of a sense out there that before you get married, you should have sex with somebody to know is a good fit or not. But sexual intimacy like every other kind of intimacy is not just something that just happens. It’s something you work out. It’s something where you get to know each other as we’ve been saying, you find out likes and dislikes and, and spend time with each other. I mean, things change in our bodies over time, things change, sometimes day to day and in what feels nice, it feels respectful, it feels loving. And so it’s it takes it takes work, and I think authentic sexual intimacy has to include good communication in your sex life. A freedom to talk about freedom, be honest about how things feel for you. Yeah. And I don’t just mean feel in the realm of pleasure. I also mean like, does this feel honoring to you does, it feels like something that’s that’s dignifying to you? And that elevates you? Yeah. Rather than than just something that’s, you know, me seeking my pleasure using your body, which is not what sexual intimacy is supposed to be about at all.
And clearly, you know, and this kind of goes without But I think it’s too important not to say it that the the whole realm of Hollywood movies has done such damage to what we think about when we think about, you know, a healthy sex life, you know, it makes it seem like it’s this, you know, golden perfect everything is, you know, candlelight and, you know, goes exactly how you want it to go. And, you know, it’s just sad because I think that the, the beauty of the sex of sexual intimacy doesn’t have to have all of the glamour around it to make it this beautiful thing. And we’ve sort of, I think, sort of damaged it by that.
Yeah. And we really ought, I think, I think our Matthew is, as probably Matthew, our podcast producer said for a long time, we ought to do a podcast just on this and we should because there’s a lot more we could say about all this stuff. So and including even getting after like, what do we do when there are issues sexual intimacy issues, and so
yeah, one thing I do want to say Can I say one One more thing because I found this quote about this that I thought from Gary Thomas, who’s written all kinds of books on marriage and I just thought it was it was really spoke to this idea of it being exclusive, you know, and and really beautiful in that way it said rather than make us careless, sexual exclusivity in marriage should make us grateful, and therefore even more interested in pleasing our mates. And I just loved that. I loved that. I was like, yeah, so Okay, moving on.
Okay, so this next one kit, this is this was yours. I gotta say like, I’m not even sure I know what this is. So I’m looking forward to like, intellectual intimacy. What do you want intellectual intimacy?
Well, I know that we started talking about this, even before we really knew what it was called. I think when we were doing some premarital workshops. And when we were talking about marital intimacy, my husband would say be interesting. One of his points was be interesting. And I realized that that was something that he brought to our marriage and even asked To me to bring that I didn’t have a label for or a category for. And this is the idea that you know you, you have opportunities and you seek out opportunities to share your ideas to read something and say, I met something really interesting today, what do you think about this, or watch something interesting and provocative together, not in a sexual way. But you know, just different kinds of movies or programs or documentaries that get you thinking, it brings out a whole other level of communicating and connecting. And it can be a lot of fun, and they can really give you insight into who this person is in ways that the other the other areas don’t.
So can you can you give an example of that from your your life like, Yeah, I’d love to hear more.
Well, one of the things that we do is we we love nature. And so Greg read something about him. He’s really into some of the complexity of how nature works together the sun and the trees and, and he’ll, he’ll read something and then he’ll bring it to me. And then when we’re out in the woods, he’ll say, remember, we were talking the other day, like, see how close these are now this is gonna, some of you guys gonna be like, you guys are forest nerds, that’s okay. It’s all right.
It’s your intellectual intimacy, not ours, like back off.
So we would really be interested in like, that’s amazing how in a really, God in His creation, works these things out. So we talk a lot about that. When we see a bird that we haven’t seen before, like, we can’t wait to look it up and you know, learn about it. And then we spot them, you know, someplace, it just gives us delight. So for us, that’s something that we do, but I know for other people, it’s poetry, or it’s sports, you know, like, learning and talking about and just find something that the two Have you really like talking about and then be interesting about it and be interested?
So So I guess that’s really helpful because I think when I heard intellectual intimacy, I kind of imagined like, you know, you pulling out your textbooks and talking about stuff, but part of what you’re talking about is like sharing with each other the things that delight you like, What? What do you notice that that stimulates your mind and your thinking and gets you kind of engaged mentally? Like, I love that I can I, I’m, I’m for it. I’m gonna go try that. That’s great.
Yeah. And so I read this quote, that I thought was just beautiful to have someone understand your mind is a different kind of intimacy. And, you know, well, you know, it’s, and it’s and so, you know, some people we haven’t really talked a lot about the enneagram. And I don’t know if this is throwing something in there that that might be a little confusing, but there are different we’re all wired differently. Some of us are more motivated. By our mind, some are hearts. Some are got some bodies and so you know, for someone like my husband who’s really a thinker, like this is a real way for him to feel, you know, cared about and close to me.
I love it. That’s great. That’s it’s powerful, powerful quote, to have someone understand your mind is a different kind of see. That’s, that’s beautiful. Yeah. So I love this next one recreational intimacy. And I immediately when I think about that, I think about some of the early things that I discovered that my wife loves to do, and even before we were married, like I grew up in Colorado, so hiking and backpacking and camping was a part of my my growing up, but it wasn’t something that I I don’t know, I didn’t I don’t think I ever initiated it much and there’s there’s still a part in it’s kind of a little bit whiny about it like the Saturday afternoon like Hey, what do I do? go for a hike and like, like, but my wife loves to hike and she loves getting outside and it’s not just like a knee and during You know, like, it’s like, it’s business like we’re gonna we’re gonna get in there. But that’s but that’s been such a beautiful thing for our marriage and for our for our family, too. I mean, it’s, it’s one of those things that we really, really enjoy. So that’s one thing comes to mind for me. But what what comes to mind for you with recreational intimacy?
Well, you know, how do you have fun together? You know, we haven’t said a lot about fun yet, you know, but wow, fun is an important part of a marriage. And so what do you like doing together? That’s fun. And again, I think, you know, hiking in the woods is a huge thing for us. We have fun doing that. But we also have fun watching movies, like we love watching movies and other other people, you know, love playing tennis, you know, or like, they have other things that they really find, like, Oh, that’s something that you and I can do together and we’re just having fun. We’re just having fun.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think one of my favorite things to do in the world and my and my wife actually, I don’t know that I would have identified this myself. It was after marriage that she was like, this is something I think you really love. I love going out to eat. Ah ha, yes. And, and usually, like one of my favorite things to do is to go out to eat with just one. Like maybe one or two other people. And, and so like I know even for for our anniversary one year, that’s what my wife and I did we and we didn’t tell the other couples our anniversary until after we were out. We didn’t want to freak him out. But it was so much fun. And we both just had a great time. So
yeah, that’s a really big one, Josh that can be so so fun and adventure, a new restaurant new food. You know, we haven’t done that as much lately as we did before kids, that was really a big thing that we would love to do. And so that’s a good that’s a good one.
So, just before we leave that one, I do think we have to To like some couples, this is this is actually a great place for you to begin if there’s a lot of strife and struggle in your marriage. These other categories we’ve talked about are all important. But just one question. You know, what do you what did you used to do? That was fun. What do you both enjoy doing? And if you don’t have the answer to that question, like, well, I like, I like doing this and she likes doing that, like we don’t have at this at the same interests. Then two ideas. One is, can you out of deference and valuing your spouse? Can you go with what the other person enjoys to do? Just to enjoy them enjoying that? And if that’s too difficult, like then really dig in and try to find brainstorm, talk to other people. Buy a book on fun ideas for dates and try some things to see what you might enjoy together.
It’s such a great stress reliever. It really is. And studies bear out the more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship. We’ll be over time. I mean, there’s a very significant correlation between fun and marital happiness. So, you know, that’s, that’s worth noting. Yeah,
gosh, wow. Okay, so last one. And we’ve just got a couple minutes on this one, but spiritual intimacy, which I think is a unique one, because I think that a lot of times we think about spirituality, we think about our vertical relationship by individual issues with God. But spiritual intimacy, intimacy between spouses, and this extends again to, you know, you can have spiritual specific groups of friends too. But spiritual intimacy is actually something that can be horizontal too. So, can you talk a little about that, like, how? Well you
know, first of all, I just, I think that this aspect of intimacy is is in so many ways, just really, really foundational. And different marriages are in different places about their understanding and commitment to God, but in it’s really important If you’re going to have a healthy, mature marriage, that you kind of shared commitment to exploring God, and having aspects of living a life of faith together, you know, Greg and I are spiritual journeys, because he’s wired differently. His journeys look different than mine. But it’s been wonderful to be able to hear about his journey and the way he thinks about God and the way the questions he has, and vice versa. So being able to find some way where you’re exploring God together, is a really important part of intimacy.
One of things that my wife and I came into marriage with was the idea that we really ought to be able to pray together and I know there was a season where we were like, I said, Hey, we’re gonna we’re gonna start praying together on you, I’m gonna lead us in that and, and it was actually very, very difficult because because we found out we talked God very differently, we relate with him very differently. We the way that we spend time with him is very different from one another. And so it’s it was a hard thing. And so eventually we decided, you know what, let’s stop, stop trying to make that happen. But But where we do experience spiritual intimacy includes, first of all, that we both want Jesus to be the first and foremost important thing in our life and we want to live our lives for him. We want our lives to be lived in service to him and in communion with Him. And yeah, so even even as we come up to big decisions in life where we try to figure out things ways we want to proceed with our kids. We’re interested in what God wants, and that’s really important and where we were we I don’t know I just think honestly, I felt myself grateful for that because I don’t know how much I’ve done to nurture that in our in our marriage, but, but it certainly is a foundational important important piece for
Yeah, and I think, you know, one of the cautions, and I certainly we certainly found this in our marriage, I was very guilty of this, I found myself judging Greg and his, his spiritual, you know, how he was relating to God, I thought it should be like mine. And that was such a big mistake, you know, and so to be able to know that he has very different ways, and that’s okay. And again, to learn from each other. And I also think as Christian couples, we think we should be doing this right, we should be doing it like this. We should pray together like that. We should do this, like in and generally speaking, because we’re wired really differently. This, like every kind of intimacy can be really difficult. So if you’re, if you find it difficult to consistently Connect, you know, with your spouse, that’s normal. It’s just like anything else. You got to you know, learn and be open and it takes time.
Yeah. And the good news in all of it is that intimacy, connection, oneness, these are these are God’s ideas. And his heart for marriage is, is that our marriages would reflect in a very basic way that the union of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, He is one he’s made us to be in his image. And marriage is one significant place where that image is meant to be born out. And so, in all these ways, we’ve been talking about including spiritual intimacy, but the other five as well. And what other other kinds of intimacy there may be out there, because his heart is to help us to learn to be one. And it doesn’t mean identical. It doesn’t mean like, like, indistinguishable, but it means it means unified and, and and with each other for each other in the midst of it. So, yeah, okay, there’s been a really invigorating conversation, but why don’t we wrap it up and why don’t you just Pray for the marriages listening Ares to because as we’ve said, over and over intimacy is it can be tough. And so let’s just let’s turn to the Lord.
Lord, You are a God of great ideas. And your idea for marriage is such a beautiful one. And it reflects Lord, so beautifully the kind of relationship that you want to have with us. And so it’s so important. And Lord, I think of a few words as I, as I think about people listening, I think, would you help us Lord, to relax, to have fun, to be intentional, but to also rest in you invite you into our marriages. You are the author and you are the one that can guide us and strengthen us in our individual lives and in our marriages. So, Lord, I pray that we would each invite you into our marriage more and more in every aspect of this. Of these kinds of intimacy areas that we’re talking about that we would invite you into them. Thank you God, in Jesus name, amen.
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