Steps to Intimacy Part 4

So…what about disillusionment?  If it is a place where profound intimacy can be built, why are we so hesitant to go to Jesus with it?

One word:  fear.

Most of us have been taught overtly or indirectly that if things are not working in our lives, it is because we are messing up.  It is our fault.  We either didn’t do it right, or we didn’t do enough right stuff.  Either way, we are some way, some how, guilty, so who would go running to the judge for comfort?

The reality is that some of our failures absolutely are our fault, in which case, the sooner we deal with the confession, the sooner He will be on our side helping us clean up the mess.

But the rest of the reality is that a lot of the things that are very painful for us, and are seen by us as failures, are not seen that way by Him.

Let’s take two Biblical examples.

When the disciples came back from their second evangelistic tour, they were pretty excited about how well things worked.  Jesus agreed that they had executed well.

However, on the first trip, there is no record of their having done anything right.  In fact, Jesus was overt in saying he wanted to get them out of Capernaum and away from the crowd so He could debrief and help them process the mess.

It looked so easy when Jesus did it, but somehow the sermons did not sparkle the same when they preached them, and personal ministry wasn’t quite as compelling when they tried it.

And Jesus knew that was going to happen when He sent them out.  He knew they would pretty much wobble their way around, and that was why He wanted to spend time with them apart, so He could help them fail forward.  That is what a mentor does. He was not angry at them.  This was just spring training — not the World Series.  No big deal.  A learning time.

Here is another one.  Elijah was a one-dimensional man.  He hated Baal.  He wanted Israel to worship Yahweh with the intensity and reverence He is worthy of.  This is not a bad goal, but I feel it became Elijah’s cause and not God’s calling.

When the event on Mount Carmel was over, Elijah had not succeeded in bringing about a national revival.  Yes, fire fell.  Yes, people were awed.  Yes, they killed 850 priests.  But it fell short of the tsunami of passion to return to God that Elijah expected as the ROI on the trifecta of miracles he had done.

And I think his disappointment in not achieving the goal he set, brought about the suicidal depression that night.

Frankly, I think God’s goal was a bit more modest and was achieved.  Prior to the Mt. Carmel event, there was no freedom of religion in Israel.  The 100 prophets who had survived the huntress were hiding in two caves.

After that event, we see schools of prophets being established in the open and expanding without government intervention.  Clearly there was a shift.  I think God’s objective for that event was to shift the culture and the government enough for the 7,000 righteous men and women to come out of hiding and go public with their faith.

What if God’s plan was a process, not an event?  What if Elijah accomplished what God wanted for that particular day?

Is he the only one who set out on a grand adventure, assuming he knew what God’s goal was, and he was wrong?  I doubt it.  So when we are deeply shattered and mired in disillusionment over our failure to execute, it is a good thing to go to the King and find out if He is using the same measuring stick we are.

Here are three situations from my life where going to God in my pain proved very positive.

I was in Scotland on December 23rd one year, sitting in a hotel eating dinner alone, listening to the bar fill up behind me with Scots drinking as Scots are known to do.  I had come there under the radar at great sacrifice, and the ministry I had attempted was a real bust.  I was deeply grieved at the financial cost and the loss of time so I poured out my frustration to the King over my inability to hear Him correctly and make wise decisions.

At the end of the conversation, He showed me that I had heard Him. He had brought me there.  The people I had come to see were just a smoke screen and He actually wanted me to deal with a land issue, which I had done effectively.  He was pleased with me.

I left that discussion hugely comforted and with a deeper level of intimacy because I had gone to God, instead of processing my grief, frustration and false guilt alone.

Another time I reached out to help a friend in what was going to be a fairly basic life-giving situation.  It blew up in my face and I ended up picking up the tab for the mess someone else caused.  I was horrified at how such a simple situation could have escalated into a monster mess with a price tag I didn’t know whether I could pay.

I went to Father in my dismay and despair and poured out my shock about the mess and my concerns about the future.  His response was succinct:  “Trust me, Son.”

Apparently it was rigged.  Apparently God was in this from the beginning and He had a good outcome in mind, and had just failed to mention it to me along the way.

Father was confident that the good He had planned for me, in the midst of the mess, was greater than the cost I would have to pay.  I still was not excited about the price I got stuck with, but it gave me courage to go forward with what had to be done, knowing God had my back.

In the end, there was indeed a treasure in the swamp and my intimacy spiked.

Here is a third one.  I took on a project no one else was willing to deal with.  It was hard.  It was big.  I knew it going in, and felt it was right for me to do it. It was in line with my design and my calling.  I was confident of success, although I knew it would be a long, complicated process.

So I played hard and I played long.  I suffered setback after setback for years.  I stayed in the game.  Several times it looked like the whole project was going to go up in smoke but God allowed me to pull it back from the edge on three occasions.

Then we finally turned the corner and started to rebuild.  I was thrilled and in awe of what God was doing.

Then it fell apart.  Awfully.  And in the midst of the mess, God asked me to stand down and walk away from it.

I was horrified and humiliated.  After all I had invested . . .

For several days I was too numb to go near the issue.  Then I went to Father and shared my pain.  This landed hard on my childhood issue of “my best is never good enough.”  Being benched so abruptly and with such finality left me feeling emasculated.  It stripped me of any sense of manhood.  I was reduced to being the naughty kid, sitting in the corner.  The sense of powerlessness was cascading through a garbage bag of other emotions.

When I was quite done sharing how crushing the blow was, He said, “I know.”

And that is all He has ever said about that one.

Frankly, I am still not feelin’ the intimacy here.  Not even a little bit.

But I know one thing for sure:  if I had not moved toward God on this one, the devil would be yanking me around unbelievably right now with every toxic emotion in the book.  As it is, I am still a bit wobbly, but because there is no condemnation from Father, and He is walking closely with me on other issues, I can hold the devil at bay.

And that is a good thing.

Copyright January 2011, by Arthur Burk

From home in Fullerton, CA

This entry was posted in Intimacy, Spiritual Growth. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Steps to Intimacy Part 4

  1. I have felt bad about my “failures”: 3 church splits, 2 church plants that died, a church plant that left its spiritual base, few known people saved. So in October, 2010, I asked Father what He thought about may failures, whether He was ashamed of me.
    He gave me a one-word answer that has greatly comforted me, “Normal.”
    He knows us and does not hold our failures against us, rather He expects us to keep coming to Him and keep trusting and growing.

  2. Kristi says:

    This intimacy series has been amazing, refreshing, candid, and very helpful in inspiring and motivating me to greater levels of intimacy with Father. One question, Arthur. Do you think intimacy struggles/disillusionment, are even across the board – or does our Redemptive Gift have a small (or large) role in how deeply we carry feelings of failure, disillusionment, and/or ease of intimacy? (ie. teacher “perfectionism”) Just wondering… 🙂

    • Yes, your redemptive gift hugely affects how you handle the bumps of life. So does gender, birth order and your family’s reconciliation model (or lack thereof). The only given is that we tend to project onto God a lot of stuff that is not reality. Each one of us dredges up from our background our own flavor of nonsense about why distance is the best approach, while at the end of the day, God is all about reconciliation.

  3. Lynn Ferriman says:

    Hello Arthur,
    It is funny that this is mentioned now. I had a time with God, where I cried out to Him. It was after a ministery session where someone said ” you have blocked you sensuality” and I cried out to God saying ” My Father I have just got to the place where you are my husband, and I truly dont want a husband. I know I was no serving you when I divorced Errol after 25 years of marriage, but I am through this and now its all opened again…I dont know now, what are you doing? what must I do. I trust you Lord, are you saying you want me to marry again?” I felt in a place where I could say this, and made a mistake of mentioning this to someone in my family….”you mustnt get angry with God she said, and I replied I was talking to Him like my Father, like David did.. not right she said…
    I so know why this fear you speak of is so normal in churches. Luckily my little church has been listening to your revelations and learning much about God and ourselves. I felt no guilt and just said OK, knowing this relationship with God is revelation.
    I read Psalm 30 today and laughed out loud, where David says” O h Lord if you put me in the pit how could my dust worship you or declare your truth……saying My Father please dont do that it would really not benefit You at all. Now that is what I call relationship with Father.

    Thank you Arthur

    kind regards

  4. Marionette says:

    This series on Intimacy has been so amazing to work through. With every post, my misconceptions about who God is and what I expect to find when I go to Him have been illuminated. And my heart breaks to think that I still approach Him with so much fear and mistrust, convinced that I’ll find an unbending, unyielding, rigid judge. What I’ve realised as I read this post is that He uses my perceived failures to teach me about His grace and mercy. Every time I come, expecting to find judgment, but finding comfort instead, it breaks down the false perceptions. My failures are a tool in His hand that He uses to teach me about Himself. I despise failing, I despise getting it wrong because I fear disappointing or angering Him. But He is so different to what I thought. Gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and rich in mercy.

  5. Dana says:

    Thank you Arthur! On Thursday my friend and I cut off that familiar spirit of “It’s my fault” which I’ve known my entire life, as I’m sure my mother and her mother and……
    Friday was such a wonderful gift day from Father. Then I got slammed and felt I’d offended Him. I tried to go to Him several times, but it just felt as if His arms were crossed and He was angry with me. Knowing that could not be true, no matter how true it felt, I began forgiving my mother and my father for all the times I felt cut off, for the silent treatment that meant I was bad just because I didn’t give them what they wanted. The Holy Spirit came in like a flood. I began to realize I have never felt totally encompassed and safe. My default has always been high alert and some measure of insecurity. Oh how the Holy Spirit poured into that raw pain and I felt enfolded and encompassed by His amazing love.
    Then I read your blog. Once again the Holy Spirit settled upon me as I read your heart. To have the capacity to trust Him and to run into His arms even when everything in me screams that He is angry with me is SUCH a gift. SUCH a gift of growth, of healing, of truth, of revelation. Father, thank you for the gift. Arthur, thank you for a place to put words to this amazing relationship with our glorious King!

  6. Janel says:

    Sorry this is so long, but reading this reminds me of this summer hearing these both profoundly simple & profoundly deep truths about our [limited] guarantees from God:
    1. Our pain is monitored
    2. It is Father-filtered
    3. And it has meaning.

    When it doesn’t make sense with our finite perspective, when it feels we’ve failed too much for it to be redeemed (God is bigger than just giving you a “do-over” – just keep going!!!), or when it doesn’t even seem like it is the cause we have been fighting for – there He is. Completely aware, completely at peace with the current pain levels, the stage in the process, and absolutely never failing us with meaninglessness. Period. Every time, for every situation. You can’t perform for it or hide from it, understand or predict, but can definitely lean into those truths.

    It also reminds me of the perspective for pain that has melted me back towards & into His heart over and over again. Pain is not punishment. And it’s certainly not meaningless. It is almost a currency required to achieve (not in the sense of performance-based thinking, but just period: it hurts to get into shape or run a marathon or be a parent or do anything of worth).

    But the part that gets me e-ver-y time is that this God, who could have left well enough alone with leaving us in the garden when we left Him, didn’t. And doesn’t still. It was and is worth it to Him to spend in the currency of pain to pursue us, being neglected, resented, and cheated on by each generation in history.

    And today it is worth it to Him to do whatever it takes in my life to know and be known by me, including walking me through any and all pain that includes. As a parent we know how gut-wrenching it is to walk through pain with your children, especially pain you could have alleviated for them. You love them and want them to grow and live life fully and know it’s necessary. But knowing that doesn’t change the ache. It makes me wonder how many times God has almost relented, against His own rock-solid judgment, just because His heart was so moved as he walked through pain or disillusionment with us. That’s when I melt.

    It’s worth it to Him, every time, to not spare us OR Himself the pain that comes with living a meaningful life. Wow.

    • Julia A says:

      Yes, the three M’s have carried me through some rough patches since the last summer!

  7. Deborah Foster says:

    Thank you, Arthur–from a deep core place–thank you.

  8. Joellen says:

    Thanks for this series We so forget that Papa wants us to run to and be with him in every season, emotions, whatever of life. I often forget that he wants to meet me in the painfull, diappointment, fear, joy, confusion, all times go to him.Its a process.. its not a race to the next thing to do .. life with Papa is a relationship a journey a process. oh wow.. hmmm.. would we do this or do we do this with our frends, relationships. only run to them when we need them or only to party and celebrate with. hmmm. yeah i admit i do the same.. i do it with Papa i do it with frends. ouchhh!!. and now i see it time to choose different. Thanks again for this site Arthur.. its good stuff! hard good stuff.

  9. Colleen says:

    Wow! I love it when others are able to use their giftings to articulate the inner struggles most of us don’t want to admit to. I “bravely” held on to scriptural promises I knew the Lord had given me concerning the healing of a degenerative hip for 12 years. I could envision the praise and honor God alone would receive when this miracle happened. All along, I felt encouraged by additional words from the Lord and prayers of other believers who, too, felt that God had a great miracle in store for me. When it became apparent that I would have to have the surgery – or risk loosing all mobility, I struggled again with the apparent “open doors” that the Lord revealed as to the particular Godly surgeon, specific timing, type of hip joint, etc. that clearly impressed me with the tender care that I had always know of my Lord. As the date drew closer for my surgery, I pitched an all-out fit -demanding to know why I had had to endure such pain and limitations for 12 years, when it all came down to this. In the midst of my wailing and kicking, the Lord spoke very clearly. “Maybe its not about you.”

    End of story: My husband took off from both jobs he worked to take care of me for the 6 week recovery time. Our whole family remembers that 6 weeks as some of the best time together we have ever had. God separated us from our church responsibilities (as leaders) and work to re-focus us. He gave us both a new vision of where He wanted us to invest ourselves. Personally, it opened the door of my heart to other disapointments and disillusionment that I wasn’t aware of -thereby drawing me closer to the Lover of my Soul.

  10. Awesome. Thank you for sharing vulnerably. This hit the nail squarely on the head for me today. It brought confirmation of some of my journey over the last 6 years. Thanks again for being who you are – it is more of a blessing than you realize.

  11. Rosa says:

    Disillusionment…doesnt sound quite so much like a ‘bad ‘word when you realize where to go with it,and how you can learn from it. This series is getting printed and put into its very own folder.

  12. Sheila Lawrence says:

    Checking out Plumbline again after quite some time just now, I was overwhelmingly touched by this article. “What if God’s plan is a process, not an event?” I am a very blessed mother of ten children. Two of my older sons, wonderful young men, are charting courses that aren’t courses that “the books” and conference speakers said they would take if we “did it right. ” The grief I have experienced because I have been caught so off guard by some of their heart’s views now honestly coming out has been devastating to me and I still have a houseful yet to raise. I have taken on a whole lot of blame though I have tried to give them Jesus and embrace mothering them as my life’s call. As I read this article I feel like the Lord is saying, I just haven’t understood. I sense grief dissipating. Oh… O.K. Lord I think I get it. You are allowing me to be a part of a process. The interesting thing is that the Lord has shown me some things in prayer that are wonderful about the future of my boys– but I let those hopeful pictures and words slip away because of what the boys say and do at times. I didn’t do enough “right stuff,” so I thought. But now I feel the Lord is loving me with the truth that He hasn’t seen it that way. So thanks for the life-changing encouragement.

    • Mimi Turner says:

      Hi, Sheila,

      Your sons are very blessed to have a mother who will fight for them in prayer and intercession! I hope you won’t mind me offering my experience in hopes that it will encourage you…

      I was 12 years old when I made a decision to turn my back on God because of my great anger and disappointment for some things I naively thought He had ’caused’. I ran hard and far, and did many things that were not only stupid, but down right wicked. However, when I finally stopped running (almost 20 years later) and fell into His arms, I was graced with a knowledge of Him that I don’t believe I could have gotten any other way. I know Him as Savior, and Redeemer, and Forgiver-of-ALL sins.

      I do still regret my decisions, but will be forever grateful for the unshakable understanding I have that He is real, and He is good, and He is Love.

      Perhaps your boys need all the wonderful things you have poured into them during their lives to be tested and tried in such a way that they will know without a doubt that the devil comes to steal and kill and destroy, but God will give us life in abundance…and when they learn that, nothing will be able to stop them from doing great works for THEIR King!

      • Tracy says:

        Yes indeed, Sheila! My personal testimony is very similar to yours. Without a doubt, my faith is greater and more “solid” because I have experienced, firsthand, the GOODNESS of God in that He has stuck with me, chased and loved me all the times I rejected Him. As believers, we easily quote all the scriptures and Christianese phrases we pick up along the way that tell us that “God is Love” and that “God is all good” but too few of us really KNOW this deep down and live it out. I get butterflies when I think of everything my 11 yr old son will have to go through on his way to becoming a man but I also know how God pursued me through my difficulty and rebellion and now we (He and I) have come out more than alright. I pray for him daily and maximise every teachable moment but ultimately, I must release him into the hands of the Father whom I now know for absolutely sure is a great and a truly good God.

      • Sheila Lawrence says:

        Thank you Mimi for your encouraging testimony. The Lord really has brought me from some despairing to a real unquestionable peace. Praise Him!

  13. ruthann777 says:

    That’s so good to hear. Maybe the last situation you mentioned was actually a practice run for something bigger? Or maybe a lesson to learn for some reason, or maybe…..We can’t know His mind can we. I love the transparency in this note. It helps me see that it is good to run to Poppa and let Him comfort me. I fight that feeling of wanting to please Him and feeling bad when I think I don’t. Boy is it better to go to Him than to hide. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had Adam and Eve just fessed up to God and said, “wow did we screw up, we’re sorry, so sorry. Can you help us out of this mess?”. Complete transparency with God seems like a very good place to be in all situations.

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