THE KEY TO A GREATER LOVE-LIFE

Okay, I just had an impromptu sex talk with my 23 year-old daughter. LOL!  No worry, she doesn’t read my blogs!  We have talked some before, but today she  came in from college and she agreed to sit and listen for a minute. We talked about the value of authentic intimacy; that there is a difference between sex and love; that sex is more meaningful when it is the capstone of relational intimacy and love. Here’s what I showed her.

 

 

Intimacy begins at the SOCIAL level.  We meet the other person for the first time at a party, or at a social gathering of some kind.  In this environment we are free to be ourselves (hopefully) and no one is thinking of impressing a love-interest.  Maybe we part ways, but meet up again in a few weeks or months at another social gathering. An interest in the other person begins to grow effortlessly at this level.

But when a man asks for a woman’s number; when he texts her after the party; when he calls her the next day— these behaviors are now moving the relationship to the next level, the EMOTIONAL level. This is the level where we are now connecting more intentionally: talking, eating out, going to the movie, meeting up at church, escorting one another to banquets, weddings or crawfish boils.

It’s at the EMOTIONAL level where we first hold hands and touch, where we hug good-bye, where the first kiss happens, and where that “look” is made with one another, eye to eye, heart to heart. It is at this level that most couples get too close, too soon.

However, if this relationship is going to grow in intimacy, then both parties will find themselves impressed with the RELATIONAL skills of the other person.  The man will say to himself, “I like the way she treats her friends; they all seem to appreciate her so much; I like it that she is a thoughtful friend.”  The woman might think to herself, “I like the way he treats women; I like the way he talks to his mom on the phone; I like the way his friends respect him . . . and I think I do, too.”  At this level there is admiration and appreciation for how the other relates to important people in their lives.

However, if this relationship is to keep growing in intimacy, then the next level of intimacy must be the INTELLECTUAL level.  At this level a couple likes the way the other speaks their ideas; they like what the other person is reading; that the other person has even read a book in the last ten years!; that the other person votes the same way; thinks about work and recreation in a compatible way.  At this level both parties appreciate the compatibility of their  home values, life values, and life goals. 

Intimacy is continuing to grow.

If both people are spiritual Christians, then the next level is critical. SPIRITUAL intimacy means that the couple is finding agreement about where to worship, how to worship. They both show the same appreciation for God working in their lives as individuals and as a couple; they share similar values toward Scripture, evangelism, missions, ministry and calling in a way that inspires togetherness.  Spiritually, they both can see that God has brought them together.

Intimacy is continuing to grow and the man is now thinking about buying a ring, calling the pastor to set up pre-marital counseling, and he is thinking about where and how he will ask her to marry him.  After the wedding, according to God’s design, the couple is invited by God to step up into the final level of intimacy: SEXUAL INTIMACY.   

Sex is like a gift from God.  It’s like a reward, a reward for doing the work of building intimacy at the first 5 levels.  If you cultivate intimacy that is mutually rewarding at the first 5 levels, then sex is fulfilling, meaningful and beautiful. Sex should be the expression of two people who enjoy the intimacy of being together socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  This is why sex is called “knowing one another” in the Old Testament.  Sex is the coming together in “Oneness.”

Yet, most couples first have sex at what level?

Yes, usually at the EMOTIONAL level. This level is so exciting, titillating, arousing and, it can be, quite sensual.  It’s not hard to wonder why sex is often engaged in at this level.  Strangely, sex can just as easily ruin a relationship at this level.  Sex can bring such confusion, guilt, or manipulation, and even make one partner feel used.  It can become so casual and usual that the couple never climbs any further up the mountain of intimacy.This is how a relationship is hurt before the wedding

In marriage a healthy couple still starts at the bottom of the mountain, and climbs every day together.  Most wives do not want to have sex with their husband if there has been no intellectual or spiritual interaction all day.  Men, you can’t take a helicopter to the top of the mountain and expect sex if you have been a boor all evening, and have not helped with the kids, the chores, or cleaning the kitchen. Come on, man!

Pass this on to your children or grandchildren.  Sex is getting cheapened today by porn and the casualness of it in our culture.  In God’s worldview, sex is a reward for building intimacy.  Go build it.  Then enjoy it . . . in the will of God.

 

-Carter

CONVERSATIONS THAT HEAL; When Punk’d Ain’t No Joke

We had another life-changing Pure Heart Weekend this past . . . well, weekend. We had seven women meet with Christ in the stuck places of their hearts, and receive His comfort and His transforming grace. We always have beautiful women who look like all the women you know at church, coffee shops, and Bible study groups; faithful in attendance, smiling easily, agreeable and helpful to everyone around them. Yet, when we guide our Friday discussion at the weekend to the invisible matters of the heart, everyone begins to realize that there are hurtful episodes in our past that are choking out the joy of our salvation.

            “Good homes” are, upon further reflection, actually homes where little girl’s hearts were trashed or neglected. Fathers were actually quite hurtful with their silence or their secret porn. The improper sexual touching by older persons around the home always led to a hidden, diminished sense of value. Adolescent body image issues were actually more painful than we want to acknowledge. Then, attempting to find comfort or acceptance through teenage sex always brought such scandal in the heart, which turned into shame around mother, and worse, unworthiness around God and His people.

            But what does God bring to a Pure Heart Weekend?

            Renovation Grace.

            That’s the kind of grace we receive from the Lord Jesus Christ when we enter into dialogue with Him about those difficult memories. Deep spiritual transformation comes from a deep inner journey into the wounds and empty places of the soul. God’s greatest work in our lives comes from our greatest conversations with Him. In this vein, John’s Gospel begins with telling us that The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) To have a conversation with us God sent forth the First Word.

            I once read that Erasmus translated John’s verse like this:

 

In the beginning was the Conversation . . . and the Conversation was with God,

and the Conversation was God.”

 

            God made us dialogical creatures, and every time He came to earth to engage humans, He started a conversation. He started a dialogue.

            You see, it’s not just that you are angry with your sister; it’s that God wants to dialogue with you about why you are angry with her. No, it’s not just that she said what she did; it’s why you are so easily provoked by her words. It’s about a long-ago history with her and the way she treated you at home.

            You see, It’s not just that you ignore your wife; it’s that you won’t acknowledge that you are scared of her. No, it’s not that she’s mean, but that you have a fear of her strength.

            You see, it’s not just that you have a hatred of men, because your father and/or husband have hurt you. It’s that you’re not addressing specific father/daughter wounds in dialogical conversation with God. These wounds remain unhealed, and your husband is paying for it.

            You see, it’s not just that you have a quick temper at work, and that your management style is abrasive on occasion —even though you can be funny in the conference room at the birthday parties for employees. It’s that you were “punk’d” as an adolescent, and that you grew up being marginalized and minimized, so that when you feel slighted at the office, years worth of anger comes spewing out. But you won’t connect these dots in an honest conversation with God.

            We know that some of our modern-day behavior is wrong (even though we justify it), but we never acknowledge that this behavior is a pattern, or part of a sequence that grows from a root issue from earlier days in our lives.

            For this reason so few people ever change meaningfully. We are addressing the fruit but ignoring the root.

            One man came into group meeting one night and said, “Boy, my wife can really torque me up!” He asked me why she was able to always do that to him. I replied, “Because you are so torque-up-able. The problem is on your end. You are not dealing with old childhood memories of being emasculated or marginalized.”

            It is about our EARLY HISTORY that the Great Conversationalist of the Universe wants to dialogue with us. James says, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas 4:8) We purify our hearts through meeting God in conversation about those events. It’s not merely my sins of today, but it’s that these behaviors stem from earlier shame, wounds, losses, emasculations, molestations, rejections or disappointments. Your healing comes from Renovation Grace, through dialogue with God about your early story.

            Then God will change you at the level of Identity.

-Carter

WHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP STRUGGLES, ASK THIS.

Have you ever noticed how often we grant one another such flimsy apologies?

When Cindy and I went through our difficult season years ago, our earliest work led us to examine more closely the issue of forgiveness. Today, as a result of that work, I use a 7-point outline to help men write out a full and adequate apology to their wives when these men have brought trauma into the marriage. No flimsy apology will do here.

Last week’s blog introduced the idea that one person can change the culture of a marriage. Even if the other person doesn’t desire a change, a well-placed question can initiate a dialogue that will change the atmosphere in the home. The change has to start in the heart of the person who has been offended. This person has to adopt a redemptive heart toward the marriage. This spouse must see the greater purpose of God in the marriage, and be moved by The Spirit to pursue the deeper matters of the heart.

This week I have another question the redemptive partner can ask.

We offend each other. We hurt with our words and actions, and most if not all of it stems from our attitudes. Our attitudes give rise to hurtful words and actions, and we damage the intimacy of our relationships. Then what follows?

The offended party raises objections and complaints, and the offender gets defensive and angry. Both sides raise their banner of righteousness, and a standoff ensues. Eventually both parties withdraw from one another, emotionally if not geographically. This separation sometimes works for the good, as it can give the offender the quietness to hear from God. When the offender is gently rebuked by The Father, then there can be a move toward reconciliation. Here’s how it can happen.

The offender approaches and says, “I’m sorry. My fault. I guess I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds adequate. It’s what we all do. I own it. I acknowledge my part. Then I go for the closer and ask for the magic wand to be waved over me, and forgiveness to be granted. Verbally. So I can hear it and be sure it is spoken. Then I will know I’m off the hook.

But here’s where another powerful question can emerge. Here’s where the offended spouse can change the climate and intimacy of the marriage. The offended person should now say something like the following,

“I do forgive you, but I have a question for you: Why did you do it?

“I do forgive you . . . but what made you do that?”

. . . what made you say that?”

Did you want to hurt me? Did you know that would hurt me?

Are you angry with me? Was that payback for something I did?

This line of questioning is, of course, more threatening. However, it is seeking for more revelation, and with more revelation will come more vulnerability. Vulnerability is a key to intimacy. So, by asking these questions, the offended person is seeking to redeem the relationship out of the potential for the same episode to happen all over again another day. She is stopping the crazy train. She is seeking a deeper answer, and is asking the offender to move from the Shallow-Hal-apology to the deeper place of self-awareness.

You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.

Does the offender know why he did it/said it? Is he in touch with the intentions of his heart? His greatest spiritual breakthrough is on the verge of happening when these questions are asked. For great spiritual breakthroughs come from deep inner journeys into the motives of the heart. Great transformations come from great inner awareness. When the offender is forced to look beyond his words, and beyond his actions, to begin to see the attitudes at work in his heart, then the offender can see what is motivating him.         

Is he angry?

Is he frustrated with her?

Has he been hurt, and he’s not recognizing it?

Was he hurt earlier, and this was payback?

These questions, following his apology, will lead to a redemptive conversation, hopefully. If the offender is willing to listen to his heart and listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, then he can see his own need for the healing and renovation of his heart. He can see his need for the fuller work of the cross in his own soul (his flesh).

And God can change him at the level of Identity.

 

-Carter