|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
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ARE YOU WITH ME?
WHAT INTIMACY IS
To know and engage with someone intimately is always a crossing of a border, always fraught, even if you've been married fifty years.
Once upon a time, in a suburb far, far away, I thought I was going to be the greatest husband anyone had ever seen.
And then I got married.
Back then, I thought I knew everything there was to know about intimacy, but I had no idea how emotionally immature I was. I believed that intimacy was a feeling of closeness into which I would effortlessly fall as soon as the pastor said, "You may now kiss the bride," and that everything would then be a fantastic, blissful Hollywood musical. The idea that intimacy was something I would actually have to work at never occurred to me. As you might expect, that led to a few problems.
When Nancy and I were first dating, she would occasionally say or do something I didn't like. Maybe she would disagree with me too vehemently in front of other people or say something that struck me as bossy or too opinionated. Ironically, part of what attracted me to her in the first place was the fact that she was a person who loved to talk and had strong opinions. And she's always been that way. At her very first evaluation in kindergarten, her teacher said, "Nancy is adjusting well, but she does have a tendency to chat during nap time." So even though I was drawn to her outgoing and expressive personality, for some reason it also bothered me.
And I didn't handle it very well.
Whenever we had a disagreement, instead of being able to talk to Nancy about it, something inside me froze up, and I pouted. A lot. It was my spiritual gift. In fact, if I were a superhero, pouting would be my superpower. I would just pout the bad guys into a deep sense of guilt and remorse that would make them want to turn themselves in.
Pouting may be a great (though admittedly unconventional) superpower, but it's also an intimacy killer.
On the night of our rehearsal dinner, I was upset with Nancy about something — I don't remember what. But instead of telling her what was bothering me so we could work through it (you know, like two adults), I became politely withdrawn and distant. Of course she noticed, and as a result, what should have been a time of great joy was actually quite painful.
The next day, without ever resolving our differences from the night before, we arrived at the church, got married, and left for our honeymoon.
You always hear about how your honeymoon is going to be perfect, and I — being the perfect husband — had the perfect plan. Nancy was a California girl born and bred. She has always loved the ocean and the warm coastal climate. So naturally, for our honeymoon, I took her to ... wait for it ... Wisconsin.
I thought, This is going to thrill her!
Yeah. Not so much. Go figure.
Not surprisingly, our honeymoon was an emotional roller coaster. If Nancy said or did something I didn't approve of, instead of talking about it, I brooded and withdrew. One afternoon we were sitting by the pool (it was a beautiful day for pouting), and I was reading a book as a way of distancing myself from my bride. (That's right, I not only brought a book on my honeymoon, but I was reading it out by the pool.) I had waited my entire life for a honeymoon. Ever since puberty, I had lived for my honeymoon. And now here I was, at a beautiful Wisconsin resort, and instead of building intimacy with my wife, I was reading a book. And not just any book, but a biography of Sigmund Freud. (No, I'm not making this up.) As you may know, Freud mostly wrote about sex. So I could have been having sex, but instead I was reading about it.
What would Freud have said?
What would Jesus have said?
Here's what Nancy said: "Put down that book!"
Actually, that's the sanitized version. In reality, she used an adjective to describe the book that was the kind of word you would use if you hit your finger with a hammer. It was a very non-Baptist word.
Oh, man, I thought. We're still on our honeymoon and she's already using bad words.
See what I did there? Instead of engaging with Nancy's frustration, I simply criticized her means of expression. In other words, I totally missed the point.
By telling me to put down my book and pay attention to her, Nancy was inviting me to intimacy (in her own non-Baptist way). And I was missing it. I thought of myself as someone who — by virtue of my background and training in clinical psychology and ministry — was an expert in intimacy. But I was, in fact, severely intimacy-challenged.
Somewhere along the way, in the minds of a lot of people in our culture, the word intimacy got all tangled up with sex. But even though there is a connection between the two words, they are not interchangeable, and one is not necessarily dependent on the other. We don't need to have sex to be intimate with someone. And we don't need to be intimate with someone in order to have sex. In fact, the vast majority of our intimate relationships have absolutely nothing to do with sex. Intimacy also applies to our relationships with our kids, our parents, our friends, our coworkers — and even with God.
Intimacy is not simply a feeling. It's not a mysterious experience that some people are born for and others are condemned to miss out on. It's not restricted to certain temperaments, or to married couples, or to "feelers" on the Myers-Briggs continuum. And it's not something that mystically occurs the moment we say, "I do."
The best definition of intimacy I know of — and the core of our journey together in this book — comes from my friend Dallas Willard.
Dallas was the head of the philosophy department at the University of Southern California. There's an old saying that if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. Dallas was always in the wrong room. He also knew the Bible better than anyone I'd ever met. People wanted to be around him because he constantly said unforgettable things that could not have come out of any other mouth. Things like these:
The Kingdom of God is never in trouble. Neither are the people in it.
Reality is what you bump into when you're wrong.
Christians are people who are better off dead.
But even greater than his capacity for wisdom was his capacity to experience life as an unhurried gift — and to share this experience with others.
One time, a friend of mine was serving as a teaching assistant for Dallas during a two-week intensive class for ministers. They stayed together in the same home, and in the evening Dallas would change from his more formal teaching clothes into Bermuda shorts and a white T-shirt, but he would leave on his brown wing-tip shoes and brown socks.
One night, they were channel surfing and they landed on a Spanish-language program where people were doing a salsa dance, and Dallas said, "That looks like fun. I should try those moves."
The thought of Dallas Willard — a middle-aged, rural-Missouri-born, Fundamentalist-Baptist-raised expert on Husserlian phenomenology — doing salsa moves wearing Bermuda shorts and brown wing-tips is just priceless, and almost as unforgettable as his teachings.
Anyway, he once told me, "You are an unceasing flow of experiences. To be alive is to have the capacity to experience reality."
This sounds deceptively simple, but it helped me give a name to the craving of my soul. I love to have life-enhancing experiences — the first cry of my newborn child; riding a wave at Cowell's Beach; the beauty of Jean Valjean singing "Bring Him Home"; talking deep into the night in front of a crackling fire with someone I love; watching the Pleiades in sleeping bags on the deck with my children while Don McLean sings, "Starry, starry night ..."
"Intimacy," Dallas explained, "is shared experience."
Think about it. If our lives consist of our experiences, then to some degree the quality of our lives reflects the quality of our experiences. Our experiences shape our perspectives on life and help to inform our understanding of the world. If you stop to consider how you became the person you are today, it's easy to see the role of your experiences in determining who you are.
Sometimes, we use our cell phones to take pictures of ourselves enjoying these experiences because we want to capture and preserve the good times. Of course, we don't take selfies of moments we want to forget. Nobody captures the moment they flunked a test, got dumped, got fired, or belched on a first date. We take selfies at a ball game, on a hike, at a concert, or even while driving. (Now there's a frightening thought!)
Here's a fun fact I dug up along the way: In 2015, more people died taking selfies than from shark attacks. It's a little surprising that no one takes a selfie during a shark attack.
Not only do we revel in our experiences, but we also have a deep need to share them. When we share experiences with other people — the good times, the bad times, and all the mundane in-between times — we're sharing our lives with them. And that builds connection, which is another essential component of intimacy.
On our honeymoon, Nancy wanted to connect with me. She was angry because I wasn't focusing on her. She was angry because I wasn't making myself emotionally available to her. She was angry because I had dragged her to Wisconsin for our honeymoon. But mostly, she was angry because I was not sharing the experience of our honeymoon with her. What I had failed to realize — at that critical juncture of our relationship — is that shared experience is what intimacy is all about.
Every time we connect with someone in a shared experience, we have the potential to build intimacy. If you're not a planner or overly sentimental, you may think you're doomed to miss out on intimacy. But you're not. Intimacy isn't built on grand, elaborate gestures. It doesn't have to be something deep or dramatic — an elaborate, romantic getaway, a dramatic self-disclosure, or sentimental words. Rather, it's made up of a thousand tiny, everyday moments of interaction.
It's asking your kids how their day went when they get home. It's asking — and caring about — what your spouse wore to an event. It's listening to a joke. It's remembering someone's favorite wine, book, or television show. It's a head butt on a football field. It's noticing a downcast face and offering a word of encouragement. It's a private wink to a stressed-out colleague in a fractious meeting that says, "We've got this." It's putting down a Freud book to listen to a disappointed spouse on a Wisconsin honeymoon.
A single note of music is an insignificant thing. But if you put enough of them together in the right way, you get Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Likewise with sharing our experiences. A single encounter may not amount to much, but if we share enough experiences with someone ... that's how we build intimacy.
INTIMACY REQUIRES PRESENCE AND TIME
If my honeymoon is proof of anything (aside from the fact that Freud rarely "heightens the mood"), it's that intimacy does not automatically result from being in the same place at the same time with someone. We can share physical space without actually sharing the experience.
There's no such thing as one-way, self-generated intimacy. By its very nature, intimacy must be mutual. Consequently, the basic building blocks of intimacy — whether with God or with other people — are shared experiences that build meaningful connections. For the most part, intimacy grows when one person invites another to share the many ordinary — and sometimes extraordinary — moments of everyday life and the invitation is not only accepted but reciprocated.
In order to share an experience, we must be fully present — we must engage with the other person. We have to talk about what we're thinking, feeling, and experiencing, and we must actively listen when the other person does the same. Otherwise, we're just two people who happen to be in the same place at the same time. If my body is here but my mind is distracted — if my thoughts keep drifting back to the stock market or work problems while you're talking about your day — we're not actually sharing the experience.
Two people might sit together at a meal, see a movie, go for a ride to the store, or even face a tragedy such as losing a child, and yet instead of growing more intimate as a result, they may actually lose intimacy.
Not long ago at dinner, my body was at the same table with Nancy, but my attention was on the screen of my cell phone. A few minutes into the meal, I got a text — from Nancy — that read: "I'm sitting right here." Screens are useful, but we can forget their place. Screens are made for man; man is not made for screens.
Is texting together quality time? No. Is checking e-mails together? No. Is watching television together? Well, it depends on what's on. The real-life drama of an NFL play-off game where you're experiencing the ups and downs together — yes, of course it is. If it's The Bachelor, that's unbiblical, so use discernment and common sense.
A striking dimension of Jesus' capacity to love was his ability to be totally present with people. In all the Bible, Jesus never says to anyone, "Huh? What did you say? I wasn't paying attention. I was distracted with all my Messiah work." Jesus was constantly aware of how his friends were doing.
Of course, being fully present requires a commitment of time.
Time is precious to us because it is such a limited commodity. We can make more money, but we can't make more time. That's why giving someone the gift of our time is such an intimate act. It's something we can never get back.
Pursuing intimacy means making our top relationships the top priority of our time.
I once had a conversation with Nancy about our relationship and how I was spending my time. I asked her, "Am I working too much?"
Her immediate response was, "It's not terrible."
Granted, that's better than "terrible," but it's kind of a low bar. Jesus didn't say, "By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if your relationships are not terrible."
Here is the key challenge with time: There's always something else you could be doing. There are always more e-mails to be answered, more stuff to be done, more projects to be finished. But rarely do your kids say, "Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. Why don't you go and work on your presentation for the office for the rest of the evening."
When it comes to time, you're bound to disappoint someone eventually. Don't let it be the people you love the most. Because at the end of the day, our relationships — our shared experiences — are what really matter.
I have yet to hear anybody say on his deathbed, "Bring out my résumé so I can read it one last time. Let me review my financial portfolio. Let me tick off that list of impressive achievements I've accomplished."
Time and presence. They are the stuff of shared experience. We can't experience true intimacy without them. And there is no greater gift that we can give to those we love.
Speaking of gifts ... years ago, my wife and I took our preschool-age children to have a family picture taken at one of those shopping mall photo places. I wanted a happy portrait to send out at Christmastime, so everyone could see what an intimate family looks like.
I don't know who managed this photo shop, but whoever it was should be locked up for a long time, because it was an ugly experience. Basically, a stranger behind a large camera held up a series of odd-looking shapes that frightened the kids until they cried.
Now, I'm no expert, but I'm fairly certain that if you send people a Christmas card featuring three small children crying their eyes out, it's not a good thing. Especially if you're a pastor. So we went through a series of phases as we tried to get the kids to smile for their pictures.
The first was the "happy phase," in which I cheerfully said, "Hey, kids, this is going to be fun! You're going to enjoy this."
That didn't last long before we moved to phase two — the bribery phase.
"Kids, there's a Mrs. Fields just a couple of doors down. If we get a good picture here, with lots of smiling faces, you can go to Mrs. Fields and get a double fudge brownie chocolate chip cookie — if you just smile."
So we moved into phase three, which is basically a series of threats.
Excerpted from "I'd Like You More If You Were More Like Me"
Copyright © 2017 John Ortberg.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Table for One? ix
1 Are You With Me? 1
2 Let's Get This Straight 19
3 Born to Bond 55
4 Your Bid 67
5 Me, Myself, and Lies 77
6 The Joy of Jury Duty 93
7 We Should All Be Committed 109
8 Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Wall 131
9 Naked and Unafraid 157
10 The Deep Down Dark 181
11 This Time It's Personal 203
12 Houston, We Have a Problem 221
13 Who Will Cry at Your Funeral? 241
14 At Last 261
About the Author 277