by John Ortberg, 2017
Highly entertaining book about intimacy and how important it is to be intimate and how God is our ultimate example of true intimacy. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He tells many hilarious, adorable stories of his family, like how his wife comforted their infant daughter by saying, “Honey, honey, I know, I know,” and when their daughter was a toddler, they heard her in her room comforting herself with those same words. How adorable!
He starts out describing how everyone wants a place at the table. We all want to belong and have our own place at the table. Each chapter ends with the Gospel, describing how Jesus surrendered His ultimate power and authority and came to us as a tiny, vulnerable baby, because of His love for us, that is our ultimate example of how to love others. Jesus always had time for people. He never had to say, “What did you say?” He was always listening, always “fully present.” He shared experiences with his disciples and for us to have intimacy, we must share experiences with others, such as walking together, eating together, learning together, doing favors for each other, resting together, boat rides, mountain climbing, praying, fishing, and car rides – that was a joke – “the apostles were together in one accord.”
The 10,000-Hour Rule is about as much time as Jesus spent with His disciples. Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, talks about how long it takes to master something challenging – 10,000 hours.
Ortberg reminds us that now, today, God is always here for us. We need only to seek Him out, call out to Him, spend time with Him. Ask Him for help when you need it and then pay attention. Thank Him when there is goodness or beauty in your life.
He talks about how we have a hard time being intimate with God because we can’t see Him, but actually it’s because He has always been there, like water to a fish, that we’ve never known what it is like to be without Him.
He talks about little babies and how they are programmed to attach and they learn attachment through the spoken word. When a baby cries and his parents respond, it develops their brain. We don’t have to be 100% accurate, as long as as we are there and respond even 30% of the time, the child learns attachment and intimacy. We can do this with our friends and spouses, too. Look for their cues and respond. Keep at it and intimacy becomes deeper. Attachment disorders happen when “infants whose parents fail to respond to their cries for help learn to act as if they don’t need their parents. They don’t cry when their parents leave, and they don’t seek them out when the parents come back. (Internally, however, their heart rate and blood pressure reflect the anxiety their faces have learned not to show.) When parents are wildly inconsistent in responding to their children, the children become deeply ambivalent about attachment.” Our Father in heaven is the perfect parent and He is always present, always watching. Even when the world rejects us, He won’t. He is always there for us.
In the Chapter, “Your Bid…“, he discusses how there are almost daily invitations to intimacy and we can either accept or reject, or ignore them. When we reject or ignore them, a little bit of intimacy dies. God gives us daily invitations to intimacy – the song birds, the weather, the beauty of nature, the people around us. Every day, we can experience closer intimacy with God if we listen and look and accept them and thank Him. Jesus’s invitation to us is, “Follow Me.” If we accept it, we can know true intimacy. We don’t have to be perfect at it, either – look at Peter, who betrayed Jesus 3 times. Jesus still invited him to follow Him, and Peter did – he accepted Jesus’s invitation.
The Golden Rule of Intimacy is, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We can pray our honest feelings to God. He won’t reject us. We can listen to others with an ear to how they are feeling.
He tells a story from Henry Nouwen about trapeze artists. The flyer has to completely trust the catcher. God is our catcher and we can completely trust Him to catch us – just stretch out our arms and fly. “Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.”
In Genesis 15, God and Abraham make a covenant and Abraham wants to know if he can trust God. An animal is cut in half and God as a blazing torch and firepot walks between the two pieces alone, meaning God will never violate the covenant even if man does. Christ dying for us fulfills this commitment. Christ dies for us to redeem the covenant broken by us.
In the chapter, We Should All Be Committed, he describes how Dallas Willard was asked what should a person do to grow spiritually. Willard answered, “Do the next right thing you know you ought to do.” I like the list of possible next right things:
“-Work with diligence and cheerfulness.
-Encourage someone next to you.
-Include a playful phrase in an e-mail to brighten somebody’s day.
-Notice what the expression on another person’s face is telling you about his or her heart.
-When you’re late for a meeting because you didn’t allow enough time to get there, refuse to blame it on the traffic.
-Let someone merge in front of you on the freeway.
-Be patient with a difficult person.
-Don’t blow up at your kids.”
In the chapter, Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall, he describes different walls people use to block intimacy: The Wall of Ego, The Wall of Technology, The Wall of Hostility (The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are Criticism characterized by sarcasm, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling), The Wall of Comparison, The Wall of Pseudo-Intimacy, The Wall of Too Much To Do. We need to Be Still. Try a tech Sabbath – no computer, cell phone, TV. Take a walk, read for pleasure, have long conversations, pray, play the piano.
Here is John Ortberg’s description of his job: “My job involves trying to help people live more closely connected to God by teaching under the authority of Scripture with as much diligence and skill as I can muster.”
Intimacy consists of Authority and Vulnerability. To be truly intimate, you have to be vulnerable. “Actually, God created human beings to have both great authority and great vulnerability.” We were created to rule over the fish and birds and creatures but we are also totally dependent on God. Regarding bone and flesh, strong and weak, hard and soft: “Intimacy thrives on the paradox between bone (hard, rigid, strong, powerful, and mighty) and flesh (soft, pliable, frail, weak, and vulnerable).”
“Sin promises authority without vulnerability; it leads to vulnerability without authority.”
“But true intimacy grows only when both people in a relationship are living in genuine authority and vulnerability with each other.”
God gave Jacob a limp when they wrestled. It made him vulnerable. That may have been why Esau forgave him when they met years later – Esau could run to Jacob and Jacob could not run, he could only limp. God put our tear ducts in our eyes so that others can see our vulnerability. We also learn to hide our vulnerability early on – we learn to lie. He tells the adorable story about seeing some boogers on his little child’s headboard and asking where those came from and his child answering, “A birdie did it.” But true intimacy can only come when we “expose our weaknesses, our insecurities, our true selves.”
“In the beginning, in Eden, human vulnerability was exquisite.
“Then came the Fall, and hiding, and shame. And it became excruciating.
“Then Jesus entered into our vulnerability, so that one day it might become exquisite again.
“That is our hope.”
In The Deep Down Dark: The Intimacy That Comes From Suffering, he starts with a quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, from Lament for a Son: “It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is splendor.” I had turned the book back in and remembered something deep and went back to the library and they got the book out of the book drop for me and I wrote down that quote. It’s a major paradigm shift to think God takes all our sorrow and that is why we can’t look at him and live.
Ortberg then recounts the story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2000 feet down in the earth for 69 days. They prayed together, they confessed their sins to God and each other, and they formed the tightest bonds. In their suffering, they truly cared for one another. They saw the futility of living for pleasure. “They formed a bond that never would have grown between them without the suffering. When they were cut off from the pursuit of pleasure, money, and alcohol, they saw the folly of living for those things.” “God meets people in suffering. The Deep Down Dark is the place where you know you can’t make it on your own. The Deep Down Dark is the place you realize you need God.” When they were reached by the drillers, who had also been praying for Jesus (‘the skinny guy’) to lead them as they drilled, their bonds evaporated with the lure of possible fame and fortune. “God meets people in suffering.”
Our face communicates our emotions better then words can. To be intimate, watch and empathize with the emotions others express in their faces. And don’t be afraid to show your true emotions to others. Like Joseph when he is reunited with his brothers. He wept so loud his whole household heard him.
There is a difference between groaning and grumbling. The groaning of the Israelites moved God. Their grumbling did not. “…whereas groaning is commanded, grumbling is forbidden….In a nutshell it’s this: Groaning is complaining to God; grumbling is complaining about God.” People groan on their knees before God. People grumble in their tents, thinking they are hidden from God. “…in groaning we view suffering in a larger context of others who have suffered. In the Bible, groaning includes an awareness of our own sin–which is why psalms of lament often include confession. Groaning includes the call to be my best self, and the honest struggle to cling to God when it’s difficult. Groaning is God-centered, even when God seems absent.
“In human relationships, if there’s a problem between us, groaning means I commit to talk to you about us, not talk about you to somebody else.”
He talks about what sensitive people do to help another person: ‘They watch the kids, bring a meal, clean the house, run an errand, don’t wait to be called, don’t comfort prematurely, don’t pretend to have answers, allow the dignity of suffering and watch for surprising moments of gratitude.’
Then he talks about shame. Intimacy and shame cannot coexist. He tells the story about recovering from mono in his sophomore year in high school and playing a varsity tennis match in which he double-faulted and the coach yelled at him across the entire complex so everyone could hear. Then, in the locker room afterwards, he yelled at him again and slapped him across the face. Wow, how awful. Shame and condemning another are so very, very hurtful. God, forgive me for doing that, even in my mind. Help me not to do that ever, not even in my thoughts.
Jesus to the Samaritan woman names her shame (you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband) but he doesn’t condemn her. Condemnation is an observation combined with malice. “From a broader perspective, the Cross is is the ultimate symbol of humanity’s rejection of God.” Even though we shamed God, rejected Him, condemned Him, He does not repay us but instead takes it on Himself and dies for us and takes God’s wrath on us and redeems us to Himself. God, help me to be like Jesus, like You. “The great story of the Bible is this: God makes world, God loses world, God gets world back.”
In Houston, We Have A Problem, he says little ruptures happen all the time. The key to maintaining relationships is how we talk about them. Ruptures happen. First, stop when your emotions start racing, get away for a moment, simmer down, take a walk. Then, ask what is going on with you – what do you want, what are you afraid of, what is at the root of your anger. Then, caution as you begin to talk about it because the first three minutes will define the outcome. Then, yield by being honest about how you feel and what hurt you and really listening.
“When a relationship is ruptured, both sides have three choices: move away, move against, or move toward. To move toward is to seek repair and reconciliation, even at considerable cost.
“When our relationship with God was ruptured in the Garden of Eden, God chose to move toward humanity to seek repair and restoration.
“This move was called the Incarnation…”
Every day, we have beginnings, reunions, affection – take those moments throughout the day to make intimacy grow. Shalom is the “webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.” We can be with one another, like rowers in a boat working together – “love, encourage, enjoy, know, and challenge each other so deeply that they become better together than either one could ever be on their own.”
People who give of themselves, like Dorcas, are truly blessed and are truly blessings. He pleads with his church to give:
“It’s not your fault, but you can do something. You have access. You have privilege. You have gifts. You have a chance to make a difference. Who knows but that you have come to your position for just such a time as this.”
In Jesus, God became real. He was born in the “same bloody, messy, and vulnerable manner as the rest of us.”
“In Jesus, this distant, untouchable, unapproachable, unattainable God became real.”
The last two pages of the book:
“When Jesus became human, he did not become real. He just brought a tiny little slice of reality to our fake, phony, phantom world…He showed us what a real human life looks like.”
In Revelations, we learn we will each be given a white stone with our name on it.
“There’s the love.
“You don’t know your name yet.
“But one day you will.
“Then you will be his.
“Then you will be real.
“Here’s the best part: “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”