5 Steps to Embracing the Intimacy We’re Both Terrified of and Longing for

Are you ready to go deep today? Because in this post, I’m going to talk about what we all want and desperately need, but we’re all terribly afraid of. Deep down, sometimes way down there, we all want intimacy. But how can we embrace the intimacy we’re simultaneously longing for and terrified of?

Intimacy == Into Me See

 

We all want to know and be known. We were created in God’s image, after all. God is a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He’s in relationship with and within himself. We were created for relationship, with him and with others. And in relationship we reflect his image much fuller than we do individually (especially in a marriage, but in friendships, too).

We long to live out who we were created to be, but because of our wounding, we’re often terrified of it. We send conflicting messages like “come here, stay away!” Or maybe “come close, not that close!”

Because of our heart-wounds, often very early in life, we make judgements and believe lies about ourselves, about the world, and about God. Judgements and lies like:

  • “Men can’t be trusted.”
  • “People will reject me.”
  • “I’m dirty.”
  • “Emotions are bad.”

Then, in a desperate effort to protect our heart, rather than trust God with our pain, we make inner vows to protect our heart, in our own strength.

  • “I don’t need anyone. I will take of myself.”
  • “I’ll reject people before they reject me.”
  • “I’ll be what anyone else wants me to be so I’m accepted.”
  • “I won’t have emotions.”

Yes, we’re keeping ourselves safe this way. But we’re doing it by chaining ourselves into a dark dungeon of our own making. And living in a dark, dank dungeon brings its own pain, which we live with as the price for safety. Like a boat safely raised in dry dock, we never risk setting sail on the adventure we were created for.

How tragic is that! Fortunately, God has something better for us, and Jesus made a way with his sacrifice on the cross. Here’s 5 steps to escape from this prison we’ve made for ourselves.

1) Talk to your heart. We can discover these inner vows by, when we’re feeling afraid of a relationship, talking to our heart. Maybe the fear is masked by anger or rage or some other bad behavior to keep people away. But at the root, it’s fear, and if we’re honest with ourselves in a quiet moment, we know it. So find a quiet place, and ask yourself, “Heart, why are you afraid?” Then hush up and listen.

Now our mind, wanting to be helpful, will often jump in and answer the question with lots of rational reasons. If we’re getting words, rather than impressions or emotions or pictures or memories, it’s probably our mind and not our heart. You have to tell your mind to hush up, too. You can literally tell yourself, “Mind, thanks for trying to help, but I was talking to Heart. So just be quiet now and let Heart speak for itself.” Then listen. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart.

We’re not used to listening to our heart, so this can take a while sometimes. Maybe even a couple days or weeks. But keep asking your heart. And keep asking the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart. Some of us have buried our heart pretty deep. And often our heart doesn’t speak in words, so it can take some effort to figure it out.

2) Identify the benefit. Once we know what the lie is that we’ve believed, and what inner vow we took to protect our heart, we need one more piece of information. What benefit did we get from the inner vow? Somehow it’s protecting us from the pain (although causing us worse pain). Again, ask your heart, and ask the Holy Spirit.

3) Get the opposite of the lie. The next step is to ask God what’s the opposite of that lie for us. If we’re familiar with the Bible, he will often pop a scripture into our heads. The Bible is a promise book, after all. Pastors and other spiritually mature mentors can be tremendously helpful with this. The game here is to replace the lie with God’s truth.

Now we have a choice. We can keep believing the lie, falsely believing we’re in control. Or we can surrender control to God and accept his truth. It’s up to us.

4) Forgive the person who hurt us. Nothing keeps us in prison like unforgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending they didn’t do evil to us. It’s coming to the place where they are not the evil they did to us. We know we’ve finished forgiveness (which is a process, not an event) when we can pray blessing over the person and mean it.

5) Replace the lie with the truth through repentance. Finally, repent of that vow and break it. We need to repent of the vow, and renounce the benefit we’re getting from it. Replace the lie we believed with God’s truth. Here’s a sample prayer. Use this as a template and make it your own.

Lord, I forgive _____ for _____. I repent of believing the lie that _____, and I repent and renounce the inner vow I made, _____. I renounce the benefit I got from that inner vow of _____. I’m now trusting you with my heart instead trying to protect it myself.

This is how we start living in freedom and embracing intimacy with God and others around us. But freedom can be scary, because we’re not in control anymore. We’re living by dangerous faith. Yes, it’s dangerous. Living this way will change us. But don’t worry, it’s good. It is so worth it.

What do you think? Does this resonate? Please tell us in the comments and share it on social media. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Knowing Means Experience

It’s story time again. As Saul of Taurus found out one sunny day outside Damascus, one experience can trash years of theoretical study. In the Hebrew culture and hence in the Bible, “knowing” means “experiencing.” The ivory tower head-knowledge-only that we’ve come to value so much is from the Greeks and Aristotle. The Hebrews had a word for someone with academic and theoretical knowledge only without experience, and it’s used all over the book of Proverbs. The word is “fool.” (No wonder so much of what Aristotle taught was just flat out wrong!) Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story.

 

“How dare they? How dare they claim this dead heretic Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee of all places, is the Messiah?!? I have no patience or kindness for them. I dragged them out of their beds from their houses in Jerusalem and into prison, and I will do the same to them in Damascus. I have letters from the chief priests in Jerusalem, giving me the authority. We ride there now!

“I am envious of their confidence, even to the point of their death, in their false Messiah, and I hate them all the more for it. But what do they know? Taught by a bunch of unrighteous fisherman and tax collectors!

“But I, Saul of Tarsus, will boast of my own faultless legal righteousness as I have good reason for such confidence! An Israelite of Israelites, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day according to the Law of Moses, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Pharisee of Pharisees! Of this I have a right to be proud,” I exhort my companions as we ride along. My righteousness will certainly encourage their zeal!

Nathan interrupts me, “Look, Saul, we’re almost to the city gate!”

“Quiet, Nathan, I’m monologuing!” I retort. How rude!

“You don’t have to rude,” Nathan mumbles under his breath.

I continue to inspire them: “I have sought hard my own advancement among the Pharisees, and have advanced further than any of my contemporaries! My anger was easily aroused by these heretics, and I shall keep a record of every one of their wrongs! I delight in seeing them arrested, and will never rejoice in their heresy.”

“Alas, that we cannot always protect our people from such heretics! Our trust in our Sadducee leaders fades, and our hope diminishes under every stroke of the Roman lash. We cannot always persevere, and sometimes we fail, but always …”

Right in the middle of my big finale, a most inconvenient thing happens. Lightening appears all around us, on a perfectly clear and sunny day! The thunder booms simultaneously and my horse throws me to the ground and bolts. I land flat and hard with a thud that knocks the wind out of me. And still this light is everywhere, even when I close my eyes! I can’t see anything else!

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” says a voice from all around me. A voice like I’d never heard before – like a mighty waterfall or rushing river – the sound of many waters.

“Who are you, Lord?” I ask rather sheepishly.

“I am Jesus, who you are persecuting,” replies the voice. Now this is awkward.

“Get up and go into the city, and I will tell you what to do,” the voice continued. “I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness to what I have shown you and will show you.”

I find my companions, or rather they find me. The light never goes away and it’s all I can see. I always thought blind people saw just blackness, and maybe they do. But my blindness is different. All I can see is white light everywhere, even when I close my eyes! My companions lead me by the hand into the city. 

 

It’s been three days here in Damascus, at the house of Judas on Straight Street. Nathan is trying to encourage me to eat. Again. “Saul, here, smell this fresh hot bread! You have to eat something!” But I just push it away. “At least drink something, it’s been three days, you’re weak, and you look terrible. Come get your strength back.” He puts a cup of clear, cold water to my lips, but I turn my head and refuse to drink.

“Nathan, thank you for all you’ve done for me, and all you’re trying to do. You’re a good friend,” I tell him. “But I can’t eat or drink until the Lord Jesus restores my sight. He me told so.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says in frustration, as he continues in his Australian accent, “and some guy we don’t even know named Ananias is going to come, somehow find us, pray for you, and restore your sight. Right. You’ve been telling us that for three bloody days, mate!”

“The Lord Jesus showed me in a vision,” I remind him gently.

“In a vision!” He throws up his hands in frustration. “And will you stop talking about ‘the Lord Jesus’ for Heaven’s sake? Those nut jobs are the bad guys, remember? Dead heretic from Nazareth in Galilee of all places, letters from the chief priests, going to drag them back to Jerusalem to stand trial… Any of this ringing a bell?”

I pray silently for Nathan, that the Lord Jesus would open his eyes as well.

“Ok, look,” Nathan continues, “you had a nasty fall there off your horse, and you landed really hard. It’s understandable you’re shaken up a bit. It was just some really bright lightening… on a completely… clear… sunny day…” he trails off. “Ok, I admit that bit’s a bit hard to explain, alright? Maybe it was just a reflection off the Roman shields up on the city wall or something. But, look, we don’t know anyone here in this whole city named Ananias.”

“The Lord Jesus will bring him here,” I say softly but confidently.

“Well apparently ‘the Lord Jesus’ has trouble reading a map. It’s been three bloody days, mate! He could have walked here from Jerusalem by now! Where is this Ananias bloke anyway?”

There’s a loud knock at the door. “Judas,” calls Nathan, “get the door, will ya?!? I’m trying to talk some sense into him.”

After a moment, Judas comes in with a stranger, and says in his southern drawl, “Um, Nathan, this here’s somewhat awkward. This here fella’s name is Ananias, and he’s here to pray for Saul, to restore his sight.”

I would give anything to not be blind and see Nathan’s face at this moment… Priceless!

 

After Ananias prays for me, and scales or something fall off my eyes and I can see normally again, he tells me, “Saul, I must admit I was more than a little afraid of coming here and seeing you, after everything I heard about in Jerusalem. But the Lord Jesus told me, and I think you should know, that you are his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles and their kings, and before the people of Israel. And he said he will show you how much you must suffer for his name.”

I thank and embrace Ananias. We part as friends, no, as dear brothers – I, who rode here with hatred in my heart for him and all the brothers, and he, who knows this and still extends the hand of friendship and brotherhood to me.

How shall I respond to my Lord, who in love revealed himself to me, took off all my hate, and now in love calls me to share in his sufferings?

Now I understand love. Now I know love. Now I’ve experienced love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

How shall I respond to love? By loving him back, serving the one I love, and the ones he loves. It is an honor that I don’t deserve, chief of sinners as I am. But I will gladly, expectantly, suffer for the sake of the Name of Jesus, and the loving relationship he started with me through this experience.

How about you? 

– Based on Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-19, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Galatians 1:13-14, Philippians 3:4-6, and 1 Timothy 1:15.

 

Experience is not an end in itself, it needs to be consistent with scripture (i.e., the exact experience doesn’t have to necessarily be found in scripture, but it can’t contradict it). But if we only know about God without actually experiencing him, then we don’t really know Jesus.

How about you? Any of this resonate? If so, please share on social media (convenient share buttons below) and leave us a comment. We’ve love to hear your story of experiencing God!

The Love of the Father

HeadShot Janet 100x100

Our world is starved for love and intimacy. We are made for love – to give and receive love. In the beginning God walked in the garden with man (and woman) in the cool of the day. It is the Father’s heart to spend time with us and to commune.

We don’t have to look far to find that love. We have a father in heaven who cares about us. This Father wants to be in such a relationship where we can rest in the knowledge that he has it all under control. He wants us to have faith like a child who says “Abba” or Daddy.

When we look at Jesus we look into the face of love. Love that stepped down from the throne to pay the gruesome price for my sin. No other religion speaks of a God that wants relationship. Any other religion requires some kind of earning our way to heaven. Not Christianity. The price was paid for at the cross.

I recently gazed on a bright red woven cross. To me, it spoke of the blood of Jesus. No where can we find the power to wash away the filth of our sin. Yours is no worse than mine. It all cost Jesus his life. But he laid it down willingly for you and me. How precious and how profound.

In our sophisticated, busy lives today we desperately need to know that love and forgiveness that Jesus bought. Our God is a God of second chances. We’ve all blown it. Over and over and over. But I can always climb back into my Daddy’s lap and know His love and acceptance.

Do you relate to God as your Daddy, or is that hard? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

I Like Winning Banners

HeadShot Dave 100x100

In Song of Solomon 6:4, the Lover (Jesus) calls his Beloved (you and me), “majestic as troops with banners.” Armies carry banners to celebrate battles they’ve won, and to show off to any potential future adversaries how BA they are.

In the next verse, Song of Songs 6:5, the Lover (Jesus) says to his Beloved (you and me), “Turn your eyes from me, they overwhelm me.” The Lover is saying to his Beloved, “Don’t look at me like that – the love in your eyes for me is overwhelming me with emotion and I might lose it,” while he smiles and looks away, so she can’t see he’s blushing. Jesus is blushing!

When you don’t feel like you’re winning at all, when life has the better of you, when you’re sure you’re going down for the last time, when you can’t feel his presence, but you still choose his ways and choose to trust him instead of give place to fear and anxiety – in those times when you felt nothing but chose him anyway, he felt everything! You just won a majestic banner, and he blushed.

I like winning banners. Out of his overwhelmingly great love for us, he puts us in those situations where we feel overwhelmed and don’t feel him at all. So we can win a banner. So we can choose to trust him instead of dwelling in fear, out of our love for him, and it makes him blush!

On that Day when we finally see him face-to-face, the walls of our mansion in Heaven will be decorated with the banners we won in this life in those moments when we trusted him instead of ourselves or something else. Wow.

What situations have you been through where you won a banner? Are you going through an opportunity to win one now? Tell us in the comments.