He walks through the kitchen, pauses behind me as I reach into the pantry. Catches me as I turn back around: “So, what are you doing right now?”
I giggle all flustered, murmur something about a million little things, and dodge.
Later I am the one passing through the living room, pausing to enjoy a moment of his TV show on my way to settle at my computer. Fingertips brush my side, reminding me of my option to spend time and attention on the one my soul loves. Again I flinch, casting about for a suitable reason to decline.
After nearly fourteen years, intimacy still sends me into shy and awkward territory. Not sure why; my younger self didn’t expect my today self to respond this way. No skeletal remains of my past to blame here; I think it is just an ongoing challenge to completely bare my self before another, body and soul.
To come to that encounter, I need to cast adrift the web of interconnected thoughts about children, tasks, problems, and dreams constantly whispering in my subconscious; to fully and intentionally engage in this moment, here and now. And that, my friends, is hard to do, especially as a woman. But still oh-so-necessary.
In chapter 6 of God in the Yard, L.L. Barkat proposes that prayer is God’s way of seeking the kind of intimate relationship with us that we see modeled in the intimate marriage relationship. Put another way, prayer is like good sex. He desires our time, focus, and effort to put aside everything else to spend intimate, unguarded time with him.
As I compare my decade-plus of halfhearted responses to my beloved’s gentle invitations, and my lifetime of halfhearted responses to God’s gentle invitations, I feel small, humbled. Because when I search my deepest thoughts, I realize I don’t really want to put in the effort to release that beautiful interconnected thought web. With my beloved or with God. Far easier to shield my most vulnerable self from being exposed, if I pretend to be busy elsewhere. Or if verbally I agree to the encounter, but fill our time together with idle talk and tangents.
Since baring my soul seems to come at such a cost of intention for me, sometimes I attempt to build a habit of intentionality, hoping that the doing will eventually lead to feeling.
My beloved and I recently resolved to pursue intimacy every day for a month. I still feel awkward and shy, but I am getting better about being in the moment. The more I practice letting down my guard, the easier it becomes. And as it grows easier, I begin to enjoy myself more, and find myself wanting more. There might be hope for this awkward church girl yet.
Practice can help develop intimacy in the God relationship, too. I set my alarm and most days get up early with intention, to read my Bible and talk with God. It’s still awkward at times, but these moments of pursuing God still seem to be growing me. And the more I pursue intimacy between God and myself, the more my desire grows to continue to pursue him.
Question for you: What challenges do you face in your prayer life?