The Cost and Choice of Intimacy

IMG_0462Posting this a little later in the day than I normally do as I am thinking, writing and living on Colorado time for a couple of weeks. We are away in the mountains to minister to couples through Q1 at Legacy Lodge and the lines between giving and receiving are blurred. There is so much to gain and grow in related to how I relate that I find myself in the middle of fresh pursuit of deeper knowing.

Julie and I didn’t have the easiest flow of communication over the months leading up to this time. Expectations weren’t met and intentions weren’t appreciated. We were assuming the worst of each other at times, even though we were openly talking about it and trying to re-set that faulty lens.

Intimacy is difficult and, for me at least, it’s not a default place where vulnerability comes at the cost of comfort. Intimacy won’t happen, for me at least, without intentional sacrifice of selfish insulation. Intimacy is, for me at least, an intentional choice of investment and depth.

Intimacy isn’t only vulnerable, it is absolutely sacrificial. It is absolute in its sacrifice because where there is intimacy there will be hurt. Intimacy costs the intentional sacrifice of emotional hurt because close proximity with another, any other, will bring hurt, disappointment, misunderstanding and other unpleasant emotions. These emotions can be managed or avoided by isolation and isolation can be maintained in a crowded room or marriage relationship.

Intentionally running into hurt requires the sacrifice of our soul that is otherwise self-protective. Without acknowledgment and attention to the emotions that come with exposure, we will eventually develop habits of avoidance and callousness of the very heart we are asked to share. Hurt is temporary when we submit to the Healer. Healing starts on the inside and it is a benefit of knowing God, whose very name includes the declaration of His healing.

I spent the first part of my life protecting myself from any real exposure and the result was easy, but shallow. Marriage doesn’t negate that possibility, it simply affords the opportunity and possibility of depth and living beyond the restriction of isolation. For me at least, I can only hope to walk in intimacy when I allow the Healer to tend to my soul. With His healing and restoration, I can wake up to die to me again.

Crown of Excellence

BE79D041-D581-475A-BE95-284916E944FAIt’s good to be good and right to be right. It’s rewarding to win and satisfying to succeed. Good, right, winning and success, however, are meant to be viewed through a different lens than the American dream tends to suggest. We want it for us and those that come with us get the benefits of our provision. We show them we love them by the stuff that we buy them despite the cost of what we have taken from them in time and attention diverted to the mechanism of our success.

We chase the crowns of accomplishment at the cost of relationship. We give of ourselves to things other than them and are indignant when they don’t value the cheap crowns we offer as evidence of our competence. It’s them, our wives, that are the value that we sacrifice for the shiny objects that lure us from actual wealth.

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” (Proverbs 12:4)

At first glance, this Proverb is about how a wife conducts herself, but if we look deeper, we’ll see a husband behind her. She’ll go where he makes a way and she’ll falter where he abandons her for him. Some might bring shame, but it’s a manifestation of his rottenness played out in her life and their relationship.

Today I celebrate an anniversary of marriage with my crown, Julie. She is excellent and of great value; greater than any other thing I could strive to attain. I am thankful for her and for our years together and our family. Her excellence is yet another picture of God’s grace as I have been rotten at times, yet she has not brought me shame. She brings me joy and love and incredible humility when I consider the treasure she is to me and our family.

I love you, Julie Ann, and am thankful for you. Happy Anniversary.

The Power of One

man and woman

Sometimes it’s good to do something a little different. The contrast provides fresh insight into why you have been doing the things you do and context for how those things fit in the bigger picture. Recently I took a trip that was different from the trips I am used to taking and the contrast and context were refreshing.

I am accustomed to men’s ministry events where I have the honor of serving men as they seek the heart of God. Recently, I was a part of a team which included my wife that served a similar event except that it was a ladies’ event. So about 40 women and 5 men got on a bus and headed out to draw closer to Him. The male/female interaction was guarded and orderly and the power of the dual voice was evident. In the five days that we were gone, a few very broad and general things that impressed me:

  • The hurt that many women have been subjected to at the hands of men is beyond what most men typically consider. For some of these ladies, it’s a wonder they aren’t curled up in the corner somewhere given what they’ve experienced.
  • The healing that is needed is powerfully delivered through the male voice when it is presented in a healthy, humble and redemptive manner.
  • I was reminded of the feminine nature of God. He is “He” and “Father” and “Son” so we can get caught in a mindset of believing that “she” is something different from His nature. She’s not.
  • Men generally tend to want to skip or suppress the emotions of an experience. That’s an unhealthy processing that fails to inform the reason they want to lean on. Women generally embrace the emotions of the experience and can sometimes be prone to not choosing to submit those emotions to the reasoning they are intended to inform. Neither is healthy and the was we can compliment each other is to call out the strengths in the other while encouraging healthy processing in the blind spots.
  • The dual voice is a powerful picture of the fullness of God. When working in concert/unity, there are possibilities for impact that exceed the limitations of a single gender presentation.
  • Male leaders in the church don’t need to be effeminate to connect with women; they are fully capable, willing and even hungry for input from the masculine voice when it is offered with the appropriate empathy.

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Church

iron sharpens ironSometimes it’s just not about you. We can get so enveloped that we reduce the whole equation down to the cause and effect of a given situation to how it impacts us. There is family, friends and community all around us that we interact with not only for our own benefit but for theirs, also. It’s about us, but not in the singular sense.

There was a time a few years ago that I was serving at a men’s ministry event and things were going well. We were at the end of a powerful week of encountering the love and power of God and I was winding down. I had served and ministered and poured out and it was a time of refreshing and filling up. There was an opportunity for me to be selfish as I sought Him for me.

As that was unfolding, He moved me to share something with one of the other leaders of the group. The prompting was to share about an argument that Julie and I had been in several weeks prior. I had said ugly things and acted like a jerk. Following that time of my exposed depravity, I had turned away from that behavior and repaired the relationship with Julie. I had confessed it to others and was not living in solitude, putting on a mask of apparent perfection. It was over and behind me, so why was God prompting me to share it now?

After some back and forth of hesitation and reservation, I finally went outside and found this man by himself. He had just gotten off of the phone and I began to share the thing that I felt I was to confess to him, embarrassed and put out that this was even happening. As I finished, he took a couple of backwards steps and sat on a nearby ledge with a look of amazement.

“I was just on the phone with my wife,” he said. “That’s exactly what just happened between us.”

Wow. I wasn’t sharing for my own healing or transparency or accountability or growth. It was about him. It was about us. We talked and prayed and he called his wife and made things right. It was iron sharpening iron even with the first iron didn’t want to tell the second iron that there had been any dullness. It was radical obedience and miraculous redemption. It was real and raw and sweet and hard. It was church.

Ashes, Ashes . . .

Some things matter, no matter how much society refuses to acknowledge the depth of their impact. The Homer Simponization of fathers and sitcom disintegration of families works out in 30 minute segments, not so much in real life. The devastation of individual lives in the wake of fatherlessness will continue to be felt in the lives of children and grandchildren for generations following the abandonment.

DominoI spent time with a young lady recently as she told her story. It was a life riddled with drugs and destruction culminating in a long prison sentence and the loss of her children. It all started, according to her, when her parents split. She recounts with great detail that the pain she felt as a pre-teen was so intense that she chose hard drugs over even the hope offered in attempting a rehab. Note that was “pre-teen.”

Later in the same day I met a young man who had been suffering seizures since his dad walked out. Literally, the night that his father left, he seized for the first time and has suffered seizures many times since then. Same night. Coincidence?

Fatherlessness breeds heartache at a level which is not comprehensible. The emotional and even physical reaction to the abandonment by the one that was intended to watch over our soul cries out for relief. We cannot easily compensate for the trauma of the leaving.

The children of the first lady that I described were already having physical and emotional problems. One of them had an “anger problem.” Of course he does. And it started with the leaving of his grandfather impacting his mother and now effecting him because of her bad choices made from a broken heart.

Some might read this and dismiss the connection or anecdotally explain that they came from a broken family or absent father or something similar and “look at me, I did what I needed and turned out just fine.” Well, maybe, but maybe that isn’t as easy for others. Some are just wired to feel differently, maybe even feel more. Some are just designed to lead with emotion and passion rather than logic and reasoning. The value of that type of creativity is self-evident but the pain is felt that much more intensely.

There’s only one Cure, there’s only one Remedy. Jesus restores us to the Father that none would be orphans. He takes the broken patterns of destructive relationship and replaces them with His promise of reconciliation. He softens the hardened hearts of the broken-hearted and restores the health of their soul to align with the adoption initiated by His Spirit.

Glory in the Beauty on Display

My friend, Richard, has told me something on several occasions that took me by surprise and caught me off guard the first time or two that I heard it. He would see Julie at one place or another and tell me that she was “radiating.” He was not being inappropriate in any way, but recognizing the presence of God within Julie in her countenance and demeanor. He was right.

It wasn’t that comment that caught me off guard, though, it was what followed. He said to me, “well done.” He said that when she is so obviously prospering, it is to my credit. I wasn’t sure what to make of that at first, but he is right, and that’s not arrogant. When we put our brides on display, we are presenting them for the Glory which has been fostered within them. The opposite of that is a defeated wife where there is no radiance, just dullness from disappointment.

The Bible says that our wives are our “crowns” (Proverbs 12:4) and our “glory” (1 Corinthians 11:7). In Ephesians 5, Scripture describes how Jesus treats His bride like this: “Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. (MSG)”

Julie and I were at a gathering of pastors the other day and she was one of only two women in the room. She was asked to pray at the end and, I mean to tell you, she called down heaven. She spoke to the Father on behalf of the men in that room with familiarity, conviction, declaration and authority. She blessed us with the prayer that she spoke over us in a way that was tangible. It brought me to tears and I was not the only one.

I was so honored to know that I have been given the privilege of making a way for her. It’s not stealing her glory, as her glory is my glory. She was, and is, appropriately on display that the beauty of the Lord shines through her. She stands before a church of people almost every week in similar fashion and I step to the side with great appreciation for the gift she is.

The only thing I could think about when Richard first told me “well done” was that I had done so much to screw it up so how could I get credit for the Glory in her? That only shows me another glimpse of the fullness of His grace, for which I am in awe.

Husbands, take a look at your wives and consider whether or not your bride reflects His glory . . . thus, your glory.