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Service Versus Intimacy

Service Versus Intimacy

I’m at a crossroad in life. I think I’m going slightly crazy, but others assure me it’s normal—whatever normal is. I keep longing for something better in life and more often than not, spend too much time thinking about the future rather than focusing on the here and now. More than anything though, I long for my relationship with Christ to be bigger and better, more intimate.

I really stink at intimacy. I would much rather listen to someone else’s problems than share my own. I would much rather read the Bible than sit in silence and wait for God. After all, life is safe that way. But, unfortunately, that’s not how we are called to live.

I recently attended a conference simply because I was looking for direction and newness and wanted to learn how to live an intimate life. While there, it was solidified that I too often use servanthood as a replacement for intimacy with Christ. It’s happened without me realizing it. I thrive on busyness because when I am busy, I don’t have to think about my problems, about what I could do differently; I just have to do. I would much rather do something for someone else than have someone see me in need. I enjoy being a servant, but it’s so easy to hide behind the busyness of service instead of waiting for God in solitude.

A speaker at the conference shared about a time he had to discipline his 5 year old son, the sensitive son who cried at a frown. After asking his son what he thought was a deserved punishment for the crime at hand, the son promptly quipped, “Mercy.” The father thought about it and said, “I’ll tell you what: I won’t punish you, but you have to let me do one thing. You have to let me hold you for as long as I want.” The son looked at him strangely, not understanding the request. That option though, better than punishment, was agreed on. The father took the son in his arms and held him tightly to his chest, resting his chin on his son’s head, stroking his hair, crying. The first two or three minutes, the son squirmed and tried to push his dad away, for the closeness was too uncomfortable. After a few minutes though, the son began to relax, holding his dad just as tightly as he was being held.

How I identify with the son. Being so close to my Heavenly Father is scary, knowing the punishment I really deserve. It’s so difficult to rest my head on His chest, trusting He won’t push me away, but instead bask in the tender stroking of my hair and the promises and blessings that flow freely with His loving words.

It’s much easier to be Martha, running around, worrying about what I still need to do to earn Jesus’ love, instead of sitting at His feet like Mary. “Martha, Martha … you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10.38-42). Mary chose a relationship, intimacy, the one thing needed, over confused servanthood.

I think if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that it is difficult to spend even 10 minutes in prayer without falling asleep or being bored to tears. It frustrates the heck out of me, but I am beginning to realize that my prayer life is becoming more exciting because I am experiencing intimacy with Christ. I am finding out what He thinks of me—I read it in the Word, ask Him, wait for Him throughout the day. He loves me, even likes me, delights in me. Intimacy in a relationship with God is like intimacy with humans—too much at once is overwhelming. God enlarges our hearts just enough for the moment so we can experience Him to the fullest.

It’s puzzling, and there are longing pangs that come with the gift of intimacy, for once you have a taste of real intimacy, there is no substitute. To make intimacy easier to grasp, I sat down and looked at Scripture to see how it is attained, and this is what I found: Intimacy with Christ comes from knowing Him; knowing Him comes from a holy fear of who He is; fear of the Lord comes from obedience; and obedience comes from a hatred of sin and a love of righteousness.

The key to intimacy is persistence—pursue, pursue, and allow yourself to be pursued. Take the risk of being hurt and being seen for who you really are. The truth is, you will find that you aren’t as bad as you think. Seek His face, trusting that the intimacy you long for will come in His faithful timing. “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). When we gaze upon the Lord (in other words, look at Him with no shame) on a consistent basis, He will respond. We are His bridegroom. The Father God, the Husband of the Church, supercedes all manmade notions and expectations. He will not cast us out because of our pasts, our heritage, the little quirks that shape us. “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love in compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. ‘In that day I will respond,’ declares the LORD … I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people;’ and they will say, ‘You are my God’” (Hosea 2:19-20, 23).

[Lyndee James lives in Louisville, Ky., and loves reading, coffee and thinking about the future.]

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