My wife and I recently marked a “relationship” milestone – 35 years of marriage.
35 seems like a meaty number on paper. Even so, it sure doesn’t seem like we’ve been married that long. We read in the Bible how Jacob reflected about the years he devoted to “earning” his wife Rachel didn’t seem long either.“So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.” (Genesis 29:20, NLT)
Recall the “price” Rachel’s dad Laban set for Jacob? Seven years of labor in Laban’s fields before he allowed Jacob to marry Rachel. Fortunately, love has a way of making time and trial dissipate.
I didn’t have to do hard labor to win my wife Cindy but we’ve done some of that together since we’ve been married – laboring through the trials life has brought. Trial has a way with relationship too, ruining or seasoning. Cindy and I? We’re seasoned.
A definition for relationship:
re•la•tion•ship (rɪˈleɪ ʃənˌʃɪp)*n. 1. a connection, association, or involvement. 2. connection between persons by blood or marriage; kinship. 3. an emotional or other connection between people. 4. a romantic or sexual involvement.
Seems a bit light for constituting a 35-year marriage, doesn’t it? So I looked up “intimacy.”
in•ti•ma•cy (ˈɪn tə mə si)*n., pl. -cies. 1. the state of being intimate. 2. a close, familiar, and affectionate personal relationship. 3. a close association with or deep understanding of a place, subject, etc. 4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity or affection: the intimacy of using first names. 5. a sexual liberty. 6. privacy, esp. as suitable to the telling of a secret: in the intimacy of his studio.
That’s more like it.
I just finished a book that has a lot to say about relationship and intimacy. Except the book was not about marriage but about prayer. Author Paul Miller says prayer is an intimate relationship with God.
“When Jesus describes the intimacy he wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner.” (See Revelations 3:20). **
And during times of uncertainty,
“When you persist in a spiritual vacuum, when you hang in there during ambiguity, you get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships.” **
For Cindy and I, intimacy has grown as we persist together through trials when the promises of God that we read together each day in our Bibles seem to dangle “out there” just beyond our reach. We want God to fix our challenges so we can get on our way but we persist through the ambiguity. I notice how my own persistence is greatly bolstered by hers.
In addition to all that attracted me to her in the first place, I now see a woman who is persisting for me and our children in the midst of all the ups and downs live brings, for each and all of us.She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her (Proverbs 31: 25, 28, NIV)
God works this way too. He permits difficulty into our lives than lingers with us as we negotiate our way through the whatever. Along the way we get to know him, ourselves and each other better. That wouldn’t happen if he was the solutions vending machine that we generally want him to be.
Today, people describe their relationships as something they are either “in” or “out” of. Don’t we have similar expectations from God too? That relationship with him is about benefits for us, like fixing our messes?
Author Miles McPherson offered an explanation about lust and love that fits here. “Lust desires to please self at the expense of others because lust wants to get. On the other hand, love desires to please others at the expense of self. Love wants to give.” ***
Ins and outs, quick trysts and instant fixes don’t jive so well with intimacy. Intimacy is giving focused. Intimacy requires time, perseverance and consistently choosing each other over ourselves.
Not like “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.” More like lingering over a meal together….Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:10, ESV) I have loved you with an everlasting Love. I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV) Love each other as I have loved you. (Jesus, John 15:12, NIV)
* Definitions from Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
** From the book, “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller, pages 20 and 192
*** From the book, “I don’t want your sex for now” by Miles McPherson