I remember when my daughter started to walk. She was just over a year, and she so desperately wanted to walk. She would take a step, fall, take another step, fall… Thankfully she usually just fell on her padded bottom so she didn’t get hurt. Learning to walk took practice – lots of it. I admired her tenacity – when she fell, she got up. She carried on practicing walking. It was so funny that when she mastered walking enough to go on her own, she would walk round and round our dining room table; over and over and over again… just because she could.
Intimacy at the start of a relationship is relatively easy. Sure, your personal circumstances may be different, but for the most part most of us are on emotional highs, we have hormones raging through our systems that are pulling us closer together and the thought of sitting up all night talking is exactly what we both want to do.
Fast forward a couple of years, and now instead of talking all night, we barely acknowledge each other before crashing to sleep and moaning when we wake. Okay, I moan because I hate getting up early, hubby enjoys getting up early so he can cycle.
Being as it may, something happened to that intimacy that we used to share so intensely in the early stages of our relationship. Whether it is because we’ve grown so accustomed to each other that we don’t feel the need to share so personally, or we don’t have the time, or we’re just too rushed off our feet looking after the kids, keeping a home and trying to work… Things get pushed aside, priorities change, life happens.
Let’s be honest – for the most part, we know what we need to do to build a strong marriage:
Communicate more, be more loving and forgiving, have more sex, have more fun, talk about the big issues in life more, talk more about the little issues, etc, etc, etc…
I recently finished a little gem of a book called Calm my Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow and in there I discovered a little nugget of wisdom that I have not come across before. In fact, I didn’t really come across it when I read the book – it was only afterwards as I was pondering all the truth and wisdom contained in the book that this truth was brought to light.
Who likes to practice? I don’t… If I can’t master something straight on then I’m usually not interested. But, God has been working with me on this area in so many different ways.
Firstly, getting fit: When I first started running, I couldn’t. A friend said let’s go walk around the park, which is about 2km and I couldn’t do it. It was so embarrassing that a simple walk around the park landed up with me almost fainting because I was so unfit and so out of shape. I decided I needed to do something about this and so I started walking more and more. When I felt walking fit, I slowly started running for 30 seconds and walking for four and a half minutes. When that felt comfortable, I then started slowly running for a minute, and walking for four; then running for a minute and a half, and walking for three and a half minutes; then up another 30 seconds and walking for three minutes. I did this over a number of months until I was slowly running all the way around the park. In fact, it took me almost a year to get to the point of being able to run the whole way around the park.
A whole year…
And that was with practising almost every day.
And even now, though, I still sometimes have to walk, and I have since run a few 10 km races (and surprisingly enough thoroughly enjoyed it). My point is that I have to continue practising – and training.
Secondly, my anxiety – I have been feeling so frustrated because I still have these anxious laden thoughts bombarding my brain at the most inconvenient times. I was praying about this the other day and asking God what more I need to do to move beyond anxiety once and for all and very clearly and very distinctly the world “practice” came to mind. You see, even though I know what to do now with regards to anxiety (cast my cares onto God, trust in the Blessed Controller, live in the now, etc) I’m not really putting any of this into practice. I know cognitively what I need to do and where I want to be in life, but I need to put into practice. I get frustrated when I still feel anxious, but I haven’t really put what I have learnt into practice.
Thirdly, intimacy – my husband and I fell off the bandwagon big time after Baby Girl’s arrival. She quite literally rocked our world and we battled. I know what to do to regain intimacy with my husband – I just don’t always do it. Why don’t I always do it? Because it’s not second nature to me. I haven’t truly practiced intimacy with my husband (and God) in a way that is producing fruit.
How can I expect to move beyond anxiety if I don’t put into practice what I have learnt EVERY DAY. I mean, actually act out what I know to be true? Emotions and thoughts are far more fickle than learning to run, so if it’s taken me a year to get to the point of running 2km’s, then how much longer will it take to practice healthy and productive thoughts and emotions?
Philippians 4:8 NIV: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
That fact that Paul exhorts us to think about what is excellent or praiseworthy means we have a choice. If we have a choice it means that it is something we can practice doing – as he tells us to do what he has done:
Philippians 4:9 NIV: Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Emphasis mine)
Now, back to intimacy: whilst we mostly know what do to do to create an intimate relationship with our partners, how often do we actually practice those things? By going round and round the coffee table, over and over and over again, until it becomes second nature?
And even when it becomes second nature, you then continue to practice – and train your mind, body and emotions – you don’t stop. If I stopped running now, I would lose all the hard work I have put in and the abilities I have now to run 10km. then, in just a few months’ time, I will need to start all over again. The fitness I have now gained will be lost.
So it is with the battle with anxiety.
And so it is with intimacy – I practice until it becomes second nature, and then I continue practising. I don’t ever stop – because it is then that I become unfit and sluggish and needing to start all over.
Galatians 6:9 NIV: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Tenacity – never giving up. Keep on keeping on; day by day; one step at a time.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Every day, in every way, practice.
23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The Need for Self-Discipline
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
MY WORD FOR THE YEAR – 2016 / Intimacy – Time / Intimacy – Climbing a Wall / Intimacy – that one move! / Intimacy – Talking / Intimacy – Saying Sorry! / Intimacy – that one word / Intimacy – touch / Intimacy – those awkward moments / Intimacy – a sacrament… / Intimacy – Resting / Intimacy – Seven Red Flags / Intimacy – being separate / Intimacy – Never Giving Up / Intimacy – Honour / Intimacy – God / Intimacy – A new day… / Intimacy – Being True / Intimacy – Changing You / Intimacy – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly / Intimacy – Letting go of Fear / Intimacy – Rest / Intimacy – Knowing / Intimacy – A Gift / Intimacy – healing / Intimacy – Cleaving / Intimacy – Love Casts out Fear / Intimacy – Feelings / Intimacy – Attitude / Intimacy – Acceptance / Intimacy – Boxes / Intimacy – His Precious Marbles / Intimacy – Humility
The Baby Mama