Read: Jeremiah 32:35-41; Psalm 106
• Get unstuck by cultivating intimacy with God & each other
• The small things are big things
Before I married, Clint and I went to pre-marital counseling where this word “intimacy” came up so often I felt like I was missing something. But the more I searched for a definition, the more confused I felt.
Intimacy is closeness.
Intimacy is sex.
Intimacy is what married folk do.
It didn’t jive. I could get naked and stand near my husband all day long, but I never felt intimate. I might feel warm, excited, or fulfilled, but in my experience sex was not intimacy. Sex was sex. Anyone can have sex, but not everyone who has sex is intimate. Nor is anyone who lives together, sleeps in the same bed, or pays their taxes together intimate. They are physically near each other, but not necessarily intimate.
So when Clint and I began having sex problems pretty early in our marriage and then speaking the unthinkable D-word five years in, that word “intimacy” resurfaced. Everywhere I researched “how to feel attracted to your spouse when you don’t” or “how to fix a marriage” was “intimacy” again.
I wanted to scream.
But then I remembered a time in college when all I wanted was to feel closer to God, but the more I tried the more separated I felt. I worked so hard to win God’s approval with my daily Bible reading, volunteering and service, holy thoughts, and spending all my time with other Christians. I prayed long platitudes of grace and salvation, begging God to do big things in my life.
Yet each day I sank further away.
And one day it happened. On the brink of a breakdown, I had a breakthrough.
I was in my room on my knees pouring out my usual fervent prayers of thankfulness for what God has done in my life, talking on and on about how much I don’t deserve God’s gifts, and using lots of holy jargon, like “sanctification,” “salvation,” and “propitiation” when it happened.
I opened my eyes and said, “F#$% it. I don’t feel like this at all,” and proceeded to lay it all out there. I told God my doubts, my fears, the ugly thoughts I would never say out loud, my real desires for substances and/or sex, my accusations, anger, and frustration about the fact that I’d left everything to follow him and this was my life. I let him have it thinking, “I’ve ruined it now, but I can’t keep this charade up any longer. Take it or leave it God.”
I fully expected this to be our breakup.
But a funny thing happened instead.
I felt relieved. I felt alive. I felt peace. I felt God’s spirit for the first time - not as the emotional high I chased and felt after conferences or retreats - but as a deep sense of presence, knowing, and connectedness with God, the earth, and people.
I felt intimacy.
As I recalled how that moment transformed my life, I realized the truth.
Intimacy is honesty. Intimacy is trust. Intimacy is the willingness to be open and vulnerable and brave. Intimacy is the willingness to expose the ugly parts about yourself as well as the pretty ones. Intimacy is empathy. Intimacy is all the small things, not just the big. Intimacy is the willingness to be yourself - who you are right now - instead of who you think you should be.
Each day I told God the truth, “I don’t know about this man, but I trust you and I am still here. That’s all I’ve got today.” And then I thought, if God is faithful, maybe Clint could be too. It was worth a shot. We had nothing to lose at this point.
So I began letting my guard down with small things, always prepared to put it back up at the first jab. I told him what I really thought about sex. I told him the quirky thoughts that popped into my head, things I would never share with anyone. I told him some of my doubts. Each time I knew this would be the time he would reject me.
Instead, I learned that the small things aren’t so small after all.
The more we practiced intimacy, the more we drew closer together instead of driven apart. He fell in love with me all over again. And I with him.
Today we relish the small things, like the evenings where we sit on the couch for hours talking about nothing and everything at the same time. The peace, presence, and connectedness we have can’t be bought or given, only earned through two people practicing intimacy day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year.
This is true of any relationship, whether your marriage, your BFF, or your relationship with God.
Entrusting other people with your truth feels scary because you are exposing yourself with no guarantees. You could be hurt. You could be rejected. Your loved ones may not understand and have their guards up when you first begin.
But I promise you this, your conscience will always be clear and you’ll always know you gave your best when you practice intimacy. No regrets. No resentments. No second-guessing.
God never asks us to do anything he hasn’t shown us how to do. The whole story of the Bible is God continually practicing intimacy by putting his heart on the line. The passage from Jeremiah is a perfect example. Even though the people have offered their children to idols, something God says “never entered into his mind” for them to do, he goes on to tell how he will do good to them “with all his heart and all his soul.”
Talk about putting trust in us. I don't think God banks on our continual failings at following his will, like many preachers claim, so that we constantly need rescuing. Can you say codependency? I think each rendition of God's covenant with us is an act of intimacy - God putting himself out there without guarantees of how we will respond, whether we will accept or reject him. He knows we are capable of success, but he wants us to choose it through trust, faith, and taking the next right step.
If God can do this, he gives us the strength and courage to practice intimacy too. And where our strength isn’t enough and we admit, “God, I can’t do this. I don’t have it in me,” he says, “Finally. I’ve been waiting for this. Where your strength ends, mine begins.”
Today I invite you to adopt a holy mindset by cultivating intimacy with God and each other.
Today I invite you to share with God the truth of how you feel right now, in this moment, no matter how “bad” it is, no matter if you’re “failing,” no matter if y’all haven’t talked in awhile.
Today I invite you trust God with your holy habits, your weight, and your setbacks, even if you don’t trust yourself.
When you do this you realize God and the people in your life don’t love you in spite of your weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings. They love you because of them.
And so do I.