Focus on the Family

What It Means to Be Intimate

by Shana Schutte

"Our souls crave intimacy"—Erwin Raphael McManus

Sometimes singles will do just about anything to get close to someone they find interesting, intriguing or just plain irresistible.

One single woman I know drives through Starbucks daily to get her dose of caffeine. One morning as she approached the speaker to order, she noticed that the man in the truck in front of her looked very attractive. She eyed him through his rear view mirror. Wow! Handsome! Hmmm. . . I wonder if he's single. In a split second she made a plan.

"Hi. Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you today?"

"Well to start, can you do something for me? Will you ask the guy in front of me if he's available?"

"You mean the guy in the truck? Suuuuuure. I'd love to. What else can I do for you?"

After she ordered her half-pump, no whip, soy, Venti mocha, she laughed at herself and thought, What in the world have I done?

She blushed as the hunky man in the truck pulled to the drive-up window. She watched as Ms. Starbucks asked if he was available. And then, in a flash, she watched as he drove away.

When she got to the window, she learned through Ms. Starbucks' giggles that he was indeed, attached, married even.

Sometimes singles—and everyone else on the planet—will go to great lengths and even make complete fools of themselves to get close to the opposite sex.

Why? Is it because our innate desire for sex? Is it because of loneliness? Desperation? Stupidity? Hormones? Of course, it can be all of the above, but the answer I'd like to focus on is: intimacy.

The human desire for intimacy, for love, drives us to do things that we never thought we would. But why, and what does it mean to be intimate?

Being Intimate Means "In-to-Me-See"

One evening over dinner with a friend, we spoke about intimacy and what it means. She shared a cute little phrase with me to remind me of intimacy's true meaning. "It means ‘in-to-me-see,'" she said. Ah yes, it's a blending of our heart with another's, so we can "see into" who they really are, and they can "see into" us.

According to Dictionary.com, intimacy is defined as, "showing a close union or combination of particles or elements: an intimate mixture."

Being intimate involves the mixing of our life with another's, a mingling of souls, a sharing of hearts. This is something we all long for because it's how God made us. We were designed to connect.

Real Intimacy is More Than Sex

Maybe you are wondering about sex. Granted, sex is a part of intimate expression, but it is not intimacy.

In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes:

"Sex can be the most intimate and beautiful expression of love, but we are only lying to ourselves when we act as if sex is proof of love. Too many men demand sex as proof of love; too many women have given sex in hopes of love. We live in a world of users where we abuse each other to dull the pain of aloneness. We all long for intimacy, and physical contact can appear as intimacy, at least for a moment."

When Janet married Ryan, she was convinced that even though they were not emotionally close before getting married, that sex would change all that. After all, she'd seen the movies; she had watched television where two hearts blended into one once they became sexually involved. Sadly, she was heartbroken when the emotional connectedness she longed for didn't show up after she made it to bed.

Real intimacy is not found just by merging bodies in sex. When Jesus said, "and the two shall become one. . . " I can't help but think that He meant more than just the physical. After all, how many couples go to bed at night, share their bodies, but not their hearts? Undoubtedly, many of these people would say they are very lonely. Why? Because just as a garden hose is not the source of water, but only an expression, or vehicle for it, so sex is not the source of intimacy, but an outlet (or expression of) it. No matter how hard you try, if real emotional and spiritual intimacy does not exist before sex, it most certainly won't after.

Real Intimacy Makes Us Feel Known

Real intimacy makes us feel alive like we've been found, as if someone finally took the time to peer into the depths of our soul and really see us there. Until then, until we experience true intimacy, we will feel passed over and ignored, like someone is looking right through us.

Sadly, we can miss out on intimacy that can make us and another person feel known, when we predetermine what we think we should see when we examine their life, heart, personality and soul. When this happens, we will try to mold and make them into who we believe they should be. As a result, we are blinded to their good qualities and love and intimacy are destroyed.

Many years ago, when I dated a young man, my mentor told me, "Shana, if you focus on all that he is not, you'll miss what he is." I've since learned that when we ignore another person's beauty and all that God made them to be, intimacy is lost. Why? Because intimacy flows out of feeling wholly accepted just the way we are.

Real Intimacy Begins With You

Perhaps you are wondering how you can build an intimate relationship. In addition to accepting another person just how they are, (Note: This doesn't mean accepting any form of abuse), real intimacy can only begin once you know yourself. Since intimacy means "in-to-me-see," how can anyone "see into" you and who you are, your fears, dreams, hopes and desires unless you know who you are and are willing to allow someone in? Experiencing true intimacy begins with being connected to your own heart.

Granted, sharing who we are with others is often not easy. All love is a risk. I admit, it can be uncomfortable exposing the deepest parts of ourselves. Thankfully, you don't have to do it all at once because developing intimacy is like peeling an onion—it can happen just a little at a time while trust is developed.

Intimacy With God is Real and Rewarding

Because God made us, He intimately knows us better than anyone can. For this reason, He can make us feel known in a way that no one on earth is able; and in this we can experience intimacy in an indescribable way. Intimacy with God through His Son Jesus has been the most rewarding and life-changing thing I have ever experienced.

My prayer is that you will first experience the joy that comes from having an intimate relationship with God and that out of that love you have experienced with Him, that you will find intimacy with a special someone who will make the load of walking the earth a little lighter.


Developing Emotional Intimacy

Romance and Infatuation may initially require little effort, but experiencing deep long-lasting, intimate love requires a passionate pursuit.

by Shana Schutte

In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes eloquently about intimacy and love. "We are most alive when we find it, most devastated when we lose it, most empty when we give up on it, most inhuman when we betray it, and most passionate when we pursue it."

Most passionate when we pursue it? Hmmm. . . it reminds me of Paul's admonition to the Corinthians in Chapter 14 verse 1: "Pursue love," he writes.

Wait a minute. Isn't love supposed to just find you, like you just "find" a hole in the middle of the street when you fall in? Sure, romance and infatuation may initially require little effort, but to experience deep long-lasting, intimate love requires a passionate pursuit, just like Paul said.

This passionate pursuit sounds vague and for that reason it seems impossible. After all, what does it mean to pursue love? Most of us have never been taught about developing emotional intimacy with another human. We've learned how to tie our shoes, do algebra, balance a checkbook, cook lasagna and maybe change the oil in our car; but no one has ever taught us how to pursue love.

Here are some basic but powerful ideas on how you can pursue love and make an art out of developing deeper emotional intimacy with those who mean the most to you. These principles can help you in your relationship with your boyfriend, girlfriend and even just your friend-friend. If you put them into practice, I'm confident that you'll even find your pursuit for emotional intimacy and true love enjoyable.

Intimacy is Spelled A-C-C-E-P-T-A-N-C-E

There are keys that open just about every door on planet Earth. I have one to my car door, the door to my home and even the door to my jewelry box. Intimacy is the same. There is one particular key to open the Intimacy Door in your relationships: it's called the Key of Acceptance. Because intimacy means that we allow another person to "see into" us and they allow us to "see into" them, the Key of Acceptance must be used. After all, no one wants to allow someone to "see into" their heart who is controlling, judgmental, critical, sarcastic, unforgiving, abusive, selfish or just plain nasty.

So, if you want others to open their heart to you, you've got to give them a safe to do so. Why? Because the truth is that while most of us may act like we're not afraid of anything, in the deepest part of ourselves, our hearts are very tender, fragile and generally fearful of relational pain. For hearts to thrive in intimacy, they've got to feel safe and accepted.

Here are some ways you can use the Key of Acceptance to open the door to emotional intimacy in your relationships and pursue love!

Laugh Together

When Rebecca dated Brad, she often felt like an unaccepted alien. Why? Because whenever she told a joke, he looked at her as if she had three heads. His look said, "I don't like the part of you that is funny." He rarely joined in her humor and if he did, it seemed forced.

You may have heard it said that the shortest distance between two hearts is laughter. If you want to develop intimacy with someone special, it doesn't hurt to find your funny bone if they have found theirs. When they crack a joke, have fun! It will make your friend feel like a genius of humor and it will add an element of joy to your relationship that everyone needs.

Cry Together

I remember the first time someone cried with me when my heart was broken. It moved me and I knew my friend deeply loved me.

When we can cry with another person, and they can cry with us without feeling judged, a deeper intimacy develops. Yes, it takes patience and understanding not to try and "fix" the other person or their problem, but just sit with them in their pain and encourage them. Don't give them advice unless they ask. They will appreciate it and love you more for it!

Disagree

True, intimacy can only be developed when we are willing to accept another person just as they are. This doesn't mean that we never disapprove of their actions, or that we never disagree with them. In fact, a certain amount of independent thinking that leads to disagreements is healthy and normal. (If disagreements are not happening, it generally means that communication is lacking because someone isn't being honest.)

In light of this truth, developing intimacy means that we have learned the art of disagreeing well while still sending the message: I love you even if we disagree. I'll still accept you if you don't accept all of my ideas. I am glad that you can share your viewpoints with me and I am not threatened by our differences, and no matter what, you'll still be my friend.

One of my dearest friends is great at disagreeing with me and making me feel honored at the same time. She knows how to tell me when she believes that I have gone off the deep end, or that I'm about ready to do something stupid. She often says that she accepts me just how I am. For this reason, I never doubt her care for me, even when we argue. I feel secure because she continually celebrates me and cheers me on in life. With that kind of support, our disagreements do not feel like a threat that will destroy our relationship. I do the same for her. We are both free to be ourselves.

Disagreements can lead to greater intimacy because opposing viewpoints mean we are being honest about who we are. However, during disagreements, remember to stay away from insulting your friend's character, manipulating or blaming. Watch what you say because the emotional safety someone feels in a relationship which feeds intimacy can be destroyed in minutes through poorly selected words.

I recently heard of a man who told his wife during an argument that the only reason he ever married her was because someone else wouldn't marry him. She was devastated. From that moment on she never felt entirely accepted and wondered if he had meant what he said.

Words can heal or sting, build up or tear down. They can be the reason for, creation of, or the demise of love and intimacy (James 3:6).

There you have it, three ways you can pursue love and use the Key of Acceptance to develop deeper emotional intimacy in your relationships. Most of all, remember to entrust your relationship to God. He is the One who made love and intimacy and knows how it works. If you want to love someone more, ask Him to help you. That's a prayer He will be pleased to answer!


Idealizing Intimacy

Many singles idealize love and intimacy and make it into something that it's not, nor can be.

by Shana Schutte

When I was in elementary school, my mom purchased the Sunshine Family for me, a group of Barbie-like dolls which included mom, dad and a baby. I can't remember the commercials that were on television for my little family, but if I could, my guess is that love wasn't just in the air in the spring at the Sunshine home, but year round. Love and life never involved arguments, feeling misunderstood or romantically disconnected. In fact, my guess is that for Mr. and Mrs. Sunshine, things always felt just like they did the day they married—flowers, fireworks and fantasy.

Sadly, this picture of the Sunshine family is what many singles have of love. They idealize love and intimacy and make it into something that it's not, nor can be. Sadly, they miss out on much of the beauty of loving another imperfect soul.

Here are three ways that singles—and even married folks— idealize intimacy.

Conflict is Bad

Growing up, I never saw my parents argue; it was done behind closed doors. Also, as a sensitive child, I was never comfortable with anger, so whenever my father openly expressed it, I was devastated. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the road, I made the assessment that anger was wrong and that nothing good ever came from it. I didn't realize how detrimental this attitude was until I hit my 20s and moved out of the house. Not only did I have problems in relationships with college friends, but also in romantic relationships because a relationship without conflict is just like the Sunshine Family—it's just not real.

Granted, to have a normal relationship doesn't mean that a couple will argue all the time, or disagree constantly, but some conflict is a normal part of developing authentic intimacy with another person. If it wasn't, God wouldn't give us instructions in His Word on how to handle disagreements.

In his book, The Marriage Turnaround, Mitch Temple says that conflict is not what kills marriages. Rather, it's "conflict gone wild that kills marriages."

The same is true for dating relationships. Conflict does not always mean that you are dating the wrong person or that it will kill your relationship. In fact, it can be a reason that you develop greater emotional intimacy—if you are both willing to work through your problems.

Thankfully, I have learned this powerful truth and it has been liberating. I no longer worry about making the person I am dating angry, nor do I try to be someone I am not. As a result I am more relaxed during disagreements.

I recently had a conflict with a good friend. We had to find a solution, so I asked her if she would be interested in praying independently about what was going on between us. She agreed. We went our separate ways then came back together for a discussion. I was amazed at how bringing God into our conflict deflated our egos and softened our hearts. As a result, we were able to talk about what made both of us upset. The result? You got it. Greater intimacy. I know my friend now better than I ever did before.

This is the redemptive power of conflict that can also apply to dating relationships. When handled appropriately, conflict can be the reason for greater intimacy. To achieve this, do as God instructs and handle your conflicts with tenderness. Don't blame, yell, scream, insult or give your date the silent treatment. Instead, seek to understand and to be understood. Remember that this doesn't always mean you have to agree.

We Can Only Have the Same Interests

Sandra is an intelligent, attractive and bubbly 30-something professional. Many people wonder why she has not married. She has wondered, too. After careful observation, Sandra's closest friends have determined that she has idealized intimacy. Not because she thinks that conflict is bad, but because she thinks differences are.

When a man who liked to paint asked her out on a date, she immediately made the assessment that they wouldn't be a good pair because he wouldn't understand her affinity for numbers and balancing her checkbook.

When a man asked her out who liked to fish, but didn't like to watch football, she decided that they wouldn't get along because she likes to watch her favorite team toss around the pigskin on the weekends.

Sadly, Sandra is missing the point. It's not necessary to have everything in common with the person you date to have an excellent relationship, nor is it possible. Frankly, I can't think of one person I have ever known that I have shared all my likes and dislikes with, can you? Granted, it's important to share some interests, but not that you share them all. The most important thing is that you enjoy one another's personalities and company; when you do, you will find common interests.

Why does Sandra have this picky perspective? Because she is terrified that her relationship will fail. As a result, and to protect herself from emotional pain, she places high expectations on what it means to be truly intimate with someone by believing that you have to have everything in common. This is simply not true.

I Must Date Someone Who is Hot!

Movies, magazines and music sell the lie that when you think someone is hot, there is going to be instant intimacy. When anyone buys into this lie, whether single or married, there will be disappointment.

Recently, while working out at the gym, I noticed that The Bachelor was on the overhead television. The reality show has one very hot man and a group of gah-gahing women who will do anything to win the Bachelor's heart. I couldn't hear the program, but could tell from the look in one of the women's eyes that she was smitten. I couldn't help but think how things would be for her if she actually won the Bachelor's affections. Would she discover that he is sometimes irritable? Indifferent? Lazy? Self-centered? Unkind? Undoubtedly, she would because no matter how attractive someone is on the outside, we all struggle with sin on the inside.

Unfortunately, many singles have bought into the idea that intimacy will be better if our date is hot like the Bachelor (or the Bachelorette). For this reason, they can miss out on opposite-sex packages that don't look as nice on the outside, but are great on the inside. Don't get me wrong, a certain amount of attraction is necessary for romantic love, however, true intimacy is not dependent on thinking that someone looks like your favorite movie star. If you are hung up on believing that you can only date "hot" men or women, try something different and say yes to someone who looks like the girl (or the guy) next door. You never know, you might just end up loving them.

There are many other ways that singles can idealize intimacy. If you struggle with any of these three things, or another that I haven't mentioned, ask God to help you understand the reason you have bought into these lies. Ask Him to show you if you fear, pride or selfishness is driving you to idealize intimacy. Then, ask Him to give you His eyes for seeing the opposite sex and romantic love according to His design. You'll be glad you did.


Unfulfilled Intimacy: What Do I Do?

Remember that you are not alone; your ache is common to every human on earth.

by Shana Schutte

Last summer I cried. For two weeks, when a fresh longing for companionship erupted in my heart, my emotions were laid waste with want. I ached for emotional and physical intimacy. When I slid into bed at night, my heart yearned for a man to replace my heating pad and a friend to fill my loneliness.

During this short season of intense longing, I journaled like a mad woman, slamming honest, raw emotions onto the page that I am sure would have bled red if they could.

Now, nine months later, my raging ache for intimacy has passed and the sun of God's faithfulness shines brightly once more. Without surprise, He has proven again that I am His precious daughter—single or married. And once more I have surrendered my desire for intimacy to Him which has renewed my strength and hope (Isaiah 40:31).

Now, as a celebration of His faithfulness, I've decided to journal again, but this time in response to my summer entries as if having a conversation with myself. My prayer is that if you are struggling with a longing for intimacy that has gone unanswered, that you'll remember that you are not alone; your ache is common to every human on earth, and that God loves you deeply.

June 18, 2008

It's six months after my 40th birthday. Loneliness looms over me like a cloud that is ready to rain. Today I went to the grocery store and looked at the left hand of everyone I walked by. Most wore wedding rings. "They had someone to hold last night," I thought. I ache for physical touch and emotional intimacy.

Every day that goes by past the "Big 4-0" I wonder more and more if I will ever marry. Should I resign myself to living like a nun the rest of my life? Will the single life be all I will know until I get to heaven? What do I do with my desires? Do I resign myself to the fact that I can have a career, but I can't have a man? Do I throw myself into my work to make up for longing?

Response to Self
Feb. 14, 2009

Dear Shana,

One of the most difficult things to do as time passes and the years roll by with what seems like greater speed is resting and trusting God's plan for your life, when you want to panic because you wonder if you'll ever find someone special.

Sometimes you joke that your uterus is an antique and that you're going to join a convent if you're not married by the time you are 50. Underneath your funny comments there is an ache, but do you want to marry more than you want God's plan for your life? Absolutely not. In fact, you have often told Him through tears that if I you have to choose between marriage and fulfilling His calling, that you choose His way. Do you see how this pleases God because this is an expression of faith? (Hebrews 11:6).

Remember that God loves you with agape love (the kind that has your best interest in mind—John 3:16) and that He can see the beginning of your life from the end (Psalm 139:16), therefore, He knows what is best for you. Dear daughter of God, rest in the present and do not fret about the future (Matthew 6:34), which will steal moments and days that you can't recover and make you unproductive. You would never want to finally meet your mate, then regret that you had wasted so much time complaining, would you?

June 21, 2008

Maybe it would be easier to deny my heart. After all, I know what it's like to shut down desire. I've done it before. I stop watching chick flicks because they prick at something deep inside of me. When I watch two lovers kiss, it's almost more than my heart can stand. I start watching dramas and documentaries. I focus my attention on the news, earning a living, following God's vision for my career, traveling and socializing with a wide circle of friends. These are the areas in which I feel competent. But in my most transparent and honest moments, I wonder if anyone will really see the beauty inside me.

Although I know my desires are God-given, I don't want to be desperate. So I put my longings in a closet and only let them out at night when no one can see. Like David, tears stain my pillow and I only allow small controlled bits of my ache to show in public.

Still, I ask myself, "Aren't we all just a little desperate?" Truth be told, yes, we are. People who say they are completely in control without any broken places have become detached from their hearts, which they left somewhere in the past when someone—or something—deeply wounded them.

Response to Self
February 15, 2009

Dear Shana,

Remember that the grief, desperation and longing that you sometimes feel are not bad. Like passion, when you will allow it, all three have the power to move you from passivity to action, from not leaning on God to crying out to Him, "Lord, help me!" In this, you glorify God, strengthen your resolve, and show others that He indeed, is real. Remember to turn to Christ in the middle of your grief and let Him bear your burdens as He has promised to do (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28).

Do you remember that one of your favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you"?

This verse shows that what you think about and focus on will affect how you feel, specifically that your thoughts will affect your level of peace. If you focus on not having a mate, complain about how life is not good because you are single, then you will miss out on the peace that could be yours and you'll live in emotional torment. Also, others will miss out on the joy you could give to them because you'll be self absorbed. However, if you focus (keep your mind "stayed") on the goodness of God and the truth that He is trustworthy—no matter your marital status, you will experience peace and others will be blessed.

Remember that your life is not all about you.

A true test of spirituality, trust and belief in God is to have peace within while there is none without (in your circumstances), to usher the kingdom of God into your heart through the steady, consistent concentration on the faithfulness of God.

Keep in mind that truly trusting God means trusting Him without an agenda, whether He brings you a mate or not. Be willing to do whatever He asks of you, because this is what He has called you to, to be a faithful servant. He is in on the throne of your life; you are not.

June 22, 2008

Sometimes I hurts that I've been labeled a "weirdo" by some and rejected by men because of my non-sexual lifestyle. Even Hollywood produced a movie portraying a virgin as an idiot without a brain, charisma or sex-appeal. I'm confident that I have all of the above, but sadly, many men (even self-proclaimed Christians), have swallowed the lies of our society about sex. After discussing my values, one man asked me, "What's wrong with you?" and even one man once said, "You're not normal. I don't know one woman your age who isn't sexually active."

Still, I realize there is absolutely no other way because I love God desperately. If I decide to give in to the ways of the world, I would kill my heart and wound my relationship with Christ, the One I love most. To become sexually intimate with a man without being married would not only be disobedient to God's Word, but it would be like committing emotional—and spiritual—suicide.

Response to Self
Feb. 16, 2009

Dear Shana,

In this world, right has been labeled wrong and wrong has been labeled right. Just because others have sometimes labeled you "weird" does not make it so. Even Jesus was ridiculed for following His Father's plan. Do you see how your obedience is pleasing to your Lord?

Remember to focus not on what is temporal, but on what is eternal, because the things that you can see are passing away (2 Cor. 4:18). One day, you will stand before your Lord, the only One you have to please. Remember that you are living your life for an audience of One and not for the approval of others. Those who have bought into the lies of the Evil One who would tempt them to go the way of the world lose. But you, you are blessed, and you are like a vine planted by streams of living water (Psalms 1:3) because you have guarded your heart, which is the wellspring of life (Prov.4:23).

Dear daughter of God, hang tight to hope and keep trusting your Lord, the one who loves you more and better than any man ever could.


Intimacy With God: The Way to True Fulfillment

Having an intimate relationship with God means realizing that abundant life will never be found in another person.

by Shana Schutte

I have a confession. I really like chick flicks, movies in which Mr. Right meets Miss Right, they fall in love, experience a crisis that rips their relationship apart, then make up with a kiss.

I like these movies because they speak to a place deep inside me that longs for romantic love. However, I know I will never find total satisfaction even if I could experience the romantic love of the movies because it's not the highest aspiration of mankind or the zenith of fulfillment. If it were, then a scriptural command to love romantically would be our greatest calling. Instead, it's to love God most (Matt. 22:37-40). In His love, we can find fulfillment that no human can provide.

Take these steps to help you experience an intimate love relationship with God.

Step One: Embrace the Truth That Intimacy With God Has No Contenders

One of my girlfriends was lonely and frustrated that God hadn't delivered her greatest desire: a husband. Never married and 40, she was tired of praying and waiting and waiting and waiting, but most of all she was convinced that her life was somehow less-than. "Being single is not the abundant life!" she stated emphatically.

I certainly identified with the sometimes heart-wrenching emotions of feeling like the only girl without a date to the prom. I empathized with her loneliness, her cries late at night when only God can hear and her zillion prayers for a man she wasn't even sure exists. But the absence of abundant life?

Our conversation sent me running for my Bible where I found John 10:10.

"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full."

The word life jumped off the page. I had to look up its meaning. In the definition, I found the prescription for my friend's sickness of heart: God Himself is the abundant life that both she and I seek—not relationship with a man. The Greek word for life is zoe (the original language) and means:

"life, referring to the principle of life in the spirit and the soul. (emphasis mine). [Zoe is] all the highest and best that Christ is, which He gives to the Saints. The highest blessedness of the creature."

Life. Inside of me. Inside of you. In the spirit. In the soul. God-given. The highest blessing we can have this side of heaven. Christ Himself.

The first step to developing an intimate (and fulfilling) love relationship with God is to admit that the abundant life He promises will never be found in another person. Instead, as the definition of zoe (life) shows, true abundant life is internal and it's found in Christ alone.

Don't get me wrong; God created us to experience human love, and romance can add a wonderful dimension to life. But romantic love will never be able to trump an intimate love relationship with God. Frankly, God likes it this way because He doesn't want any contenders for your heart; He's jealous for your affection (Ex. 34:14).

Step Two: Accept That a Fulfilling Intimate Love Relationship With God is Personal

Some things with God are so personal, so intimate, that they cannot be described with words, they can only be felt with the heart. This is how true intimacy with God is; we feel that no one else can really understand the special bond that we share with Him because it's altogether personal.

This describes my relationship with Christ. He has comforted me as I have cried, directed me, taught me, rebuked me, guided me and loved me. There have been times when I have thought that my heart would burst with emotion for Him. Who could understand the depth of my relationship with Him but me and my Savior? This is true intimacy with God: when we feel that no one else would totally understand, even if we tried to explain, because relationship with God is personal.

If you haven't ever committed yourself to a personal relationship with Him, it's not fraught with difficult requirements and religious duties. He doesn't ask that you change yourself before you commit yourself to Him; He just asks that you come as you are, confess your sin to Him, recognize your need to have your sins forgiven and accept His gift of forgiveness that He has offered to you through His death on the cross (Matt. 27:1-66, 2 Cor. 5:21). After you have done this, you can begin a life-long conversation with Him which is part of the abundance of zoe.

Step Three: Talk With God

Just as close relationship with another person requires conversation, so relationship with God is the same. Conversing with Him happens through reading the Bible (His main way of communicating with those who love Him) and prayer (a two-way conversation between you God).

When you pray, God is not asking for a formula; He doesn't want you to pretend to be something that you are not. He doesn't want you to only praise Him, never ask Him for anything, or to say particular phrases to make yourself sound "religious." Instead, He just wants you to tell Him what is on your heart and mind, just as you would with a trusted friend (1 Peter 5:6-8).

As you pray, you will learn how to hear God's voice, just as Jesus says those who know Him do (John 10:27-29). However, remember that it takes time to learn how to accurately hear Him. Sometimes you may know He is speaking to you through the Holy Spirit, other times you may not be sure. But the more you understand who God is through His Word and your mind is changed, the more you will be able to discern when He is speaking to you and when He is not (Rom. 12:2).

Step Four: Spend Time With Others Who Believe in Christ

When I look back on my relationship with Jesus since I came to know Him over 20 years ago, I'm not sure where I would be without other precious believers who showed me a picture of Him.

One woman befriended me and taught me a tremendous amount about Christ. She showed me His love; read the Bible (His Word) with me, encouraged me and prayed for me. Without her care and concern, I'm not sure how I would have handled many of the adversities I faced during one particular dark season.

Because being in close relationship with others who know Him is a vital part of developing an intimate love relationship with Him, Jesus prayed that those who know Him would experience the same kind of unity that He experiences with His Father. I experienced this with my friend.

If you don't know anyone who you can develop a close relationship with in this way, reach out. Ask around for a spiritual mentor, become a part of a Bible study at a Bible-believing church, or join a Christian discipleship group.

Step Five: Be Patient

Lastly, remember that just as developing intimacy with another person takes time, so it is with relationship with God. As you grow to trust Him and believe what He says in His Word more and more, your love affair with Him will become increasingly fulfilling and the abundance of zoe will grow inside your spirit and soul.


Next Steps and Related Information

Additional resources addressing preparation for marriage

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