On Risking Intimacy

Intimacy has been on my mind more than normal the past several months.
Not intimacy in a romantic way, but intimacy in friendships.

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Intimacy is something rare, precious, and beautiful. Obviously it can take time to forge, but it also takes something else that people so often distance themselves from: vulnerability.
Yet, as so many of us know and C.S. Lewis so eloquently said, “To love is to be vulnerable.”

It means that at a deeper level, I want to share with you who I really am.

I want to share:
My flaws,
My hang ups,
What makes me deliriously happy,
My dreams for the future,
My discontentment with things in my life that I wish were better,
What God is teaching me,
What God is really trying to teach me, if I am truly honest,
Where I’d like to be in 5 or 10 years,
What things hurt me the most,
and more…

There is so much to be said that goes past the noise and the cacaphonic clatter of small talk and perpetually shallow topics.

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But do you want to know the hardest part about intimacy? The part that is even harder than raw vulnerability…?

Intimacy at its core – every single time – must be consensual.

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I cannot be singularly vulnerable and raw with you and suddenly we now have intimacy.
You cannot pour your heart and soul out to me, while I am holding back and expect to feel the deep connection of an intimate friend.
Unfortunately, this is what makes intimate relationships so rare.
It is also what makes it precious and beautiful.
How cheap would intimacy be if we handed it out freely to everyone?

I have had maybe a handful of people in my life with whom I have shared a deep, intimate connection in friendship.
Those friendships have been and, in some cases still are, some of the most precious treasures of my life.
To connect on a real level means to be known, to be understood, and to be loved exactly where you are and for who you are.

Lately, I have found myself wanting more with my friendships in KC.
I need those deep, intimate connections.
Because of being new the area 4 years ago, it took some time to get to know people first.
Now I know and have quite a few friends and I am still finding it difficult to usher in the intimacy that I crave.
I crave it because I have experienced it before and anything less just seems lacking.

I need friends that I don’t just get together with when we have cook outs or birthday parties or game nights, but friends who I can text at a moment’s notice and bare my heart. Friends who can ask me how I am and I can respond, “Well, actually lately I feel like shit and I think I am battling some kind of temporary clinical depression.” Friends that I can ask, “What is going on?” or “How are you?” and they will tell me the things that affected them deeply over the past week, month, or year. Friends who are honest and friends who listen honestly.

Being vulnerable is so difficult because it literally leaves you open and raw to deep hurt. You have to choose wisely who you let in, but once you find someone you love and trust – don’t hold back!
They may be able to have access to the deepest parts of your heart, leaving you open to potential hurt, but by having access to those deep places of your heart you also invite the opportunity for deep love and deep connection. It is unimaginably worth it.

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Many of my friendships are beginning to scratch the surface towards this type of intimacy and I love it, but some are holding back in certain ways.
I can tell.

  • The first group of friends that are holding back don’t want to share. They’re great listeners and I know, in that moment, they are there for me, but they don’t want to expose their true hearts or thoughts in return.
  • The second group of friends share with me freely and vulnerably, but find it difficult to listen to me when I have something I need to share.
  • And sadly, the third group of friends show a desire for a close, connected friendship and then suddenly disappear altogether – lost in the flow of life and busyness and responsibilities.

To the first group I say this: When you’re ready, I am here. I am willing and ready to hear your heart and accept you for exactly who you are. You can trust me with your innermost thoughts and feelings. I am a great listener, 100% non-judgmental, and loyal to a fault. Take all the time you need.

To the second group I say this: I need you to listen because I may not have many people I trust to share my life with. I need it more than you might know. I am sorry if some of my struggles seem repetitive, since some of them I have been struggling with for a long time. Please give me a chance to share anyway. I love you honestly sharing your life with me; let me share mine in return.

To the third group I say this: You’re so incredibly busy and you may not realize the extraordinary benefit of an intimate friendship. It can bring so much joy, peace, reassurance, and even clarity to the pandemonium of your life. You don’t have to have this deep connection with me, but please find someone in your life to share a deeper connection with. You will be amazed at how taking the time for some deep, connected friendships can bring harmony to so many areas of your life.

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To you reading this blog post.
Share your life with someone!
Find someone to trust and really trust them.
Be real and honest and vulnerable because without those things, what is the point?
Find someone you can cry in front of without embarrassment.
Find someone who stops everything they’re doing to listen to you.
Find someone you care for and listen to their heart with nothing but a smile, a hug, reassuring words, and love to give back to them.

Love people.
Be vulnerable.
Find treasure in intimacy.

 

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The Answer to Why: When We Cannot See Clearly

One of my absolute favorite moments in the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is found in the book “The Horse and His Boy.” The voice of Aslan is having a conversation with Shasta about who He is and some circumstances that had transpired:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.”
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

It may seem strange that this is one of my favorite moments in the series, but it so beautifully captures the multi-faceted nature of God and how little our understanding is of the bigger picture of our lives. God is the God who binds and heals and we love that side of God. Yet, on the other side of the coin, God is the God who wounds and “tears to pieces” so that He may heal us. Not just the God who “allows bad things” but a fierce and passionate God who actually wounds us in order than He may heal us to become more like Him.

Oh, how I am learning this right now!

I don’t know about you, but when you’re going through the very middle of a hard time all you can think about is your pain and start grasping at ways to make it stop. Did I do something to bring this on myself? Is this a punishment? Why is this happening to me? What sequential steps should I take to make it stop? How long will this pain last? 

It is easy to lose hope when the circumstances of your life seem to become a perfect storm that threatens to drown you forever. I am convinced that the absolute hardest thing to do is to face your difficult circumstances head on with a heart that is aching from exhaustion and tears streaming down your face and remember that God is good.

We don’t know why life can get so painful for us sometimes and not ever seem that way for others, but this is your story – not someone else’s. Whether you’ve always struggled with things people seem to manage so easily, or whether you have always struggled financially no matter how hard you’ve tried, or whether you’ve been single for so long and feel so lonely when you’re a great catch who just wants someone to share life with, or whether you suffer from a physical sickness and don’t feel like you did anything to deserve it, or whether you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one and losing them seemed and felt so utterly pointless, or whether – like me – you long for a child of your own when it seems like every drunken teenager and drug addict you encounter is getting pregnant these days. But there is a bigger picture. You don’t know someone else’s story and neither do I.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as God sees us, knowing him directly just as He knows us!” – 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

Isn’t that the ultimate prize? More than the financially stability we wish for, more than the spouse we long for, more than the baby we ache for – to know God and have a deeper, more committed personal relationship with Him is the answer to everything we’re searching for and the ultimate goal of this life. This life and all it’s blessings are temporary and just a shadow of the One who made us and calls us to know Him.

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I spoke recently in Florida with a friend who said that looking back she was grateful for their struggle with infertility. She said she never would have even pictured herself saying such a thing when she was going through it. She always just wished it away and yearned for a pregnancy/baby to take away her sorrow and struggle. Yet, during that time, she explained that she grew closer to God than she ever was before. Her struggle with infertility deepened her faith and has become part of her testimony. Now that she has come through it and is out on the other side, she said she wouldn’t go back and change anything because knowing God and trusting Him more was worth every tear, every dark night of the soul, and every disappointed hope.

I’ve never heard something more beautiful and more encouraging.

In contrast, the countless people who have told me to just “Stay positive,” “Don’t stress,” or “Believe you’re healed and you will be” – that advice, although laced with good intentions, fell short of doing anything more than isolating me further. How can you paste on a smile while you’re choking down tears? Is that even normal? How do you not stress when every single deviation from normal in your body makes you wonder if you’re pregnant? And despite my unwavering and solid faith that God is The Healer, it doesn’t mean that 24 cycles of wishing and hoping with no resulting pregnancy have simply been a result of me just. not. believing. enough. That’s ridiculous.

How much more beautiful is it to simply respond to God from the reality of exactly where we are…. our anger, our pain, our bitterness, our weeping, and my poly-cystic ridden, hormonally-jacked-up body that betrays my greatest longing every single month. The invitation to cry out to God in our pain and confusion, confess our despair and faltering faith, and beg for peace and a greater faith despite circumstances is what drives us closer to Him and brings Him the most glory.

We only have our story to live and we won’t always understand it or know the answers to our biggest question: “WHY?!” – but God is still good. He sees the bigger picture and invites us to wait, to hope, and to trust.

Lost the Plot

I’ve been in a mood lately. Well, actually I have been in several varying moods lately, but this one in particular has been to listen to a lot of the music from my childhood/teens. Most of the music is Christian stuff, since that is all we could listen to when my Mom was monitoring. 😉

But thankfully, growing up in the mid-late eighties and nineties means Christian music was actually pretty good (at least I think so!) and contained, in my opinion, some pretty amazing, revolutionary lyrics depending on the song/band. My personality tends to be drawn towards sad stories in books, music, and movies – but I am also drawn to really serious, heavy stuff. Not heavy metal music, but heavy lyrics. Lyrics that call unto the deep places in us that we bury and hide and distract ourselves from far too often – places that when sparked produced butterflies in our stomach and a tightness in our chest.

One song that popped up on my playlist today from 1996 was exactly like that. It touched a deep place in my spirit as a 13-year-old girl and it continues to reach me as a nearly 30-year-old woman: Lost the Plot by the Newsboys. Despite this band having way too many cheesy or funny songs, this song (and handful of their others) is powerful and moving and leaves me with a reverent and healthy fear of the Lord once again.

Have you heard it?
No?
Remember the song, but not the words?


(Below are the words, since that is the whole point.)

With all the media hype surrounding political and social changes, it can become confusing why we’re really here. Our happiness, the American Dream, and society’s acceptance of us are not the point of the story we’re here to live out. Though Christ calls us to love, he calls us to direct people to Him.
He is the story.
He is the plot.
He is the happy ending.
Allowing ourselves or others to live in our comfort and sin leaves us comfortable, distracted, and apathetic. Grace is a means to enter the throne room. God’s kindness is so we can be led with grace to repentance.

Grace is not our reason to live comfortably, while we ignore the voice of our Shepherd for the lure of our culture.

May we not be so easily distracted.
May we remember the greatest story ever told.
May we not become a free-range sheep.
May we remember that Christ is not Santa Claus – our happiness is not the plot.
May we remember his sacrifice.
May we remember the joy of our salvation.
May we remember our first love and count the days until His glorious redeeming return.

When you come back again, would you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just got comfortable here.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
I’m a little distracted.
What do you want?
Headaches and bad faith are all that I’ve got.
First I misplaced the ending then I lost the plot.

Out among the free range sheep, while the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a time we stuck with the Shepherd, but you wouldn’t play Santa Claus.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little distracted.
What do you want?
Once we could follow, now we cannot.
You would not fit our image, so we lost the plot.
One we could hear you, now our senses are shot.
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.

Yeah when I saw you for the first time, you were hanging with a thief and I knew my hands were dirty and I dropped my gaze. And then you said I was forgiven and you welcomed me with laughter. I was happy ever after – I was counting the days.
When you come back again, we’ll be waitin’ for ya.
When you comin’ back again?
We’ll be ready for ya.
Maybe we’ll wake up when – maybe we’ll wake up when – you come back again.

LIES.

Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little unfaithful – what do you want?!
And are you still listening?
Cause we’re obviously not!
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Why you still callin’?
You forgave – we forgot.
We’re such experts at stallin’ – now we’ve lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot…

When you come back again, could you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just.
got.
comfortable.
here.