Our teaching team hopes that you will be able to use these materials to take further the experience of learning God's hope for you.
If you have any questions, e-mail Steve Whitby, Pastor of Creativity.
Last summer, I stood by the sliding door in our kitchen, looked out into the woods beyond our yard and really let God know everything that was on my heart. That last phrase “on my heart” can be tossed about with Christian cliché regularity, but, personally, I’d confess that I’m not sure how often I plumb to the level of my heart in prayer or conversation with God. And so, as I stood there, I questioned, I accused, I begged, I pleaded, I made promises; I laid my agony and my doubt before Him—sometimes I threw it at Him.
This moment stands out to me as a time of naked intimacy with my Creator. Nothing—not my attempt to “pray the way I’m supposed to pray,” not my fear over being heard, not my careful consideration of whether or not I was worthy of Him—nothing prevented me from laying myself bare before him. This moment fell into a lonely category. I rarely get naked with God.
Intimacy requires vulnerability. Face to face, up close and personal, unflinching vulnerability. And so, if I maneuver around such a thing with God, it’s really no surprise that I do the same with others. The irony here is that as a writer, I’ve stood on a stage in front of hundreds of people and read, out-loud, of some my deepest failures, sadnesses, and hopes. I throw my vulnerable thoughts into the laps of strangers without hesitation via the world wide web. But when it comes relationships with people—those face to face, up close and personal, vulnerable spots—I hold back. I keep the worst or most complicated covered. And if I operate out of clichés and checklists with God, I function with quips and sweet smiles in many of my relationships.
We lost our intimacy with each other when we lost our intimacy with God. I love how my son’s children’s bible puts it, “A dove flew from Adam’s hand. A deer darted into a thicket. It was as if they were frightened by something. A chill was in the air. Something strange was happening. They had always been naked—but now they felt naked, and wrong, and they didn’t want anyone to see them. So they hid.” Among the many consequences from the Fall is this loss of intimacy. We hide from God. We hide from each other.
A few weeks ago, I left dinner with a friend and wrote this in my journal, “Being with her makes my soul feel at rest.” It’s true. We gabbed, we joked, we shared, we talked about the past and we talked about the future, and when I drove away, I felt refreshed, spurred on, and more like me than I did when I arrived. It’s a relationship which remains different from others simply because I’m myself deeply, vulnerably, and wholly. I don’t pull any punches. I can’t try to impress her or put on a show—she’d call me out if I did. I don’t have to hide. And I don’t want her to hide.
Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of teenage girls during a program on Christian-based abstinence. I begged out. I pleaded ignorance. I even aired some my dirty laundry in an attempt to disqualify myself. None of it worked. And so I found myself facing these young women—plan-less and word-less. I decided to be a little bit honest about my own sexual past and then found myself faced with this question, “Does it matter now?”
How can you be anything less than vulnerable in the face of that question? And so I answered, “Let me put it this way. When God told me not to give myself away to anyone else, He wasn’t trying to take something away from me. He was trying to prevent me from losing something I might get to experience later—something I couldn’t even imagine at 18 or 20. So yeah, it matters now. Because I know what I gave away then and what I have now.”
Kurt used Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount this morning: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV) We accept this saying in other versions—you can’t get anything for free, life’s not easy, don’t follow the crowd. But hearing it as Jesus puts it is harder for me. I’m trusting, though, that life (freedom) even if it requires a tenaciousness I’m not sure I can produce, is better than destruction (captivity).
So where do you go from here?
> Look at Andy Stanley’s series titled “The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating”
> Ask questions of people you know are doing intimacy well.
> Talk to your spouse. Discuss it together.
> Initiate a conversation with someone in leadership at Warehouse 242. We’re opening this can of worms because we want to have the conversation.
> Pray—intimately. Don’t be afraid to throw it all out there.
We’d love to hear from you. Please share with us below your thoughts and insight. We would love to see Take it Further be a place where as a community we dialog, and together we all take the conversation further.
*Note: If you wish, you can look up this and other Bible passages online at youversion.com
Copyright © 2012 Jessica Ramsey