Steps to Intimacy Part 5

What is the difference between working like a Hebrew slave and being in Marine Corps boot camp?  Only one important thing:  Dignity!

The new recruit who is being yelled at to push harder when he is already sure he has used the very last drop of vitality in his entire being, is probably suffering more than the Hebrews did in Egypt, but his mindset is different.

While the Marine might well question his sanity in volunteering for this abuse, the overall picture is that this is a necessary process to position him for excellence in the future.  He has been filled with stories about the heroic deeds of the Marines and knows that in order to do something heroic in the future, he will need to massively increase his physical stamina and learn sundry skill sets in boot camp.

Ironically, the same was true for the Hebrew slaves.  It is my opinion that God was giving them two critical lessons during the season of bricks with no straw.  First, they had to learn time management.

Any time someone is working against their will, their efficiency tends to drop off significantly since the passive aggressive attitude kills creativity and initiative.  So one could assume that the Hebrew slaves had gotten sloppy in their thinking.  They were producing as many bricks as they had to, but were not excelling in efficiency.

This of course, needed to be addressed before they hit the desert and had to take down their tent and pack all their possessions every day for another forced march.  So, God did it.

Second, they had to get in shape physically to be able to survive the rigors of life on the road, after a lifetime of living in the hood.

So both groups were being prepared for the future.   The Marines knew it and although they did not like the pain, they walked through the hardship with dignity.  The Hebrew slaves had not come to grips with HOW God was going to rescue them, so they could not see any sense in their suffering.

And, because the could not see the point of their suffering, it alienated them from God.

Here is another picture.

It was a college football team.  One of the players botched a play and the coach assaulted him verbally for the mess.  As he left, the player mumbled to his best friend, “I wish Coach wouldn’t be so hard on me.”

To which the friend replied, “Oh, no you don’t!  The coach is hard on you because you are first string.  I’m fourth string and he doesn’t even know I exist.”

There is an honor to being chosen for the championship team.  It means you will have the biggest challenge of your life, but you lean into the pain because you can see the purpose of the pain.  AND it produces intimacy between you and the one who chose you because you can seen that he or she believes in you.

So when pain visits us unexpectedly, we have to decide whether this is unproductive pain which we must get rid of as swiftly as possible, or whether it is productive pain that we need to lean into with dignity.

When we can see or sense that God is behind our pain, it increases our intimacy with Him.  As long as the enemy can persuade us that God has abandoned us, our sense of intimacy goes out the door and our pain becomes even more crippling.

Here are a few stories from my life of productive pain and the absence or presence of intimacy.

1)     When I left home, I wore quite a collection of labels.  They began with messy, disorganized, scatter-brained and then generally branched out through the thesaurus with variations on those themes.

The labels were, alas, quite accurate.

So my first four bosses suffered significantly by my lack of efficiency on the job.  Eventually, I decided that working for other people who just didn’t appreciate the natural brilliance resident in me was for the birds, so I did the All American thing and started my own business.

There my natural inefficiency in the field and in the office ate my lunch and my capital and my business folded after a miserable year.

God arranged for me to get hired at a job where I was paid for piecework, instead of hourly.  I gladly took the job because this would be my opportunity to make a bundle, since I knew I was such a hard worker I could out perform the masses.


The first week I earned $163.  And that was precisely because I was messy, disorganized, scatter-brained and all those other good things.  Well, a little math revealed that in three weeks I was going to be in a whole lot of trouble.  So, I reached deep and began to learn how to organize my tools, my materials and my time to make more money.

By the time I left that company I was making top dollar for that trade, and had a huge amount of dignity for having left behind those deficits from childhood.  Today I run one super efficient operation with joy because of the lessons I learned then.

Back then in the Dark Ages, my theology had no room for intimacy.  My relationship with God ranged from minus infinity to +1, but I was able to see that God placed me there to grow me and that it worked.  While I lacked the ability to say He was pleased with me, I could at least say He was not mad at me — for a moment.

And it all was because I could see His hand in the pain, and knew it was for my good.

2)     That was not my only economic debacle.  For 25 years I struggled with finances, mostly in a losing struggle.  And there was no dignity and no intimacy during that time.  I was convinced that I was a loser and that the reason I could not break even financially is because I was inept as a man, and that God was most assuredly unhappy with me.

In that place of shame squared, intimacy was not even a fantasy.

Eventually, God gave me the revelation of the seven curses on finances which has revolutionized my life and the lives of thousands of other people.   AFTER He gave me insight and breakthrough, I could look back with amazement and see His hand in the whole process.

There was intimacy then, and in retrospect I still feel amazed that God would entrust me with this bundle of truths.  There is also the awareness that God wanted me to earn the right to be able to confront people who are whining about the cost of their call.

Why did He wait 25 years to give me those insights?  I don’t know, but I do know that it is quite common for people to have to invest a long time in moving toward their calling.  I did not know this at the time, therefore did not have the dignity and intimacy that I could have had during the long wait.

3)     Sometimes God takes us through situations to allow us to grow in spiritual authority — in areas we don’t even know we need.

This was the case in my ministry to women. Now you need to understand — I grew up in a stream of the faith that was quite chauvinistic.  Men and women sat on opposite sides of the church.  And we often rehearsed 2 Timothy 2:2 which emphasises that we are to pass on our wisdom to “faithful men.”

When Plumbline started, there were definitely more women than men.  And this most assuredly bothered me, but I was certain we would restore God’s order quickly.

Wrong again.

Not only did God keep on sending me women, I could not even finesse the verse by pointing to the “faithful” quality of the women.  An awful lot of them were pretty chewed up when they came to me, mostly by men!  Imagine that.

I struggled with that for a decade, wondering why it was so hard to be obedient to the clarion call to minister to men.  I did not have perspective and therefore I had no dignity and little intimacy around this topic.

Eventually I saw the bigger picture.  One of the places God has called me to minister is in a city which held some unsavory records for CDV — criminal domestic violence.  And I would have had no authority over the spirit of male violence there if I had not had thousands of opportunities to treat women with dignity.

God was carefully grooming me for effectiveness in that city, and I was fussing all the way because I had no idea where He was taking me.

4)     In the last three months, I went through a bizarre experience where I lost my joy.  One of the popular models of the human brain suggests that a key component of our joy has to do with being connected to people.  When I am glad to see people and they are glad to see me, there is joy.

I know that kind of joy well.  I have a whole lot of friends the world over and enjoy keeping in touch with them by phone, e-mail and occasionally in person.  I do friendship well.  And, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, there actually are some people out there who like me too.

But suddenly, it was as though my “like” software was uninstalled.  I simply did not care about people.

Now this was not depression.  I cared about the company and about my relationship with God.  I got up, worked hard, enjoyed the fruit of my labor, but felt no flicker of excitement when I saw an e-mail from a friend.  I was flat lined.

We looked at this from every point of view and came up with a great big blank.  The whole thing was beyond bizarre because that was when we were developing the website and when it came out, people commented over and over again about the amount of joy in it.

I marveled that I could be stripped of personal joy and somehow produce a website full of joy. Go figure!

A few days ago, the software was reinstalled.  I knew the day it happened, and have watched with pleasure as my joy in connecting with people has systematically come back.

I still have no clue what on earth that was good for.  I am reasonably sure that this was not the result of sin on my part, therefore I have decided not to wallow in shame.  I can’t see that I have learned any deep spiritual truth through it.  I am not sure what spiritual authority I might have gained.  I don’t see any character building that took place.

But . . . even though I lost all interest in humanity, I am pleased to report that during this time I maintained intimacy with the Lord.  I didn’t and don’t have the perspective to know what it was about, but I knew it was Father filtered, and was therefore good for me somehow, so the weirdness of the experience didn’t drive us apart.

I guess there is hope for me after all.  I was beginning to wonder if I would ever go through pain without losing my connection.

But enough already about me.  What about you?  Where is the pain in your life?

Any chance it is God, trying to do something really good for you?

If so, you could make the pain be less painful by walking toward Him instead of away from Him.

Copyright February 2011 by Arthur Burk

At home, at the end of a mellow day

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18 Responses to Steps to Intimacy Part 5

  1. Pamela says:

    Enjoying an intimacy moment or two because of noticing this series from 2011 and how timely it is for my world right now.

    Had another yesterday when in the car on the way out from work, I heard the hymn “Crown Him With Many Crowns” ringing through the entire town from the widely accepted and very loud church bells that sound every hour (I don’t think they play at night). I was lost in the glory of what its like working in a town with a mayor who is so adamant about the King reigning over this little city. What a beautiful picture to me and I don’t even live there!

    I can hardly wait until this evening when I spend some time chatting with a friend about this very topic knowing that she will absolutely come alive as we talk. It does something to me every time. I can only imagine how it stirs HIS heart.

    Its raining outside and I’m overjoyed that my passion fruit vines are getting a drink of water! I’d read that after you plant these, it could take a year or more before they flower much less produce fruit and yet my King caused them to multiply and grow from a foot tall to somewhere around 12 feet… and to go from two vines to 20! I’m astounded at how He’s (I so know it was Him!) caused all the dozens of fruits that are hanging on it to develop as they are! Woah how COOL IS THAT G-D!!! He did that and I really think He did because He knew it would knock my socks off. I visit them daily and I’m always wondering how much they will have changed from the day before and I’m always freaked out by just how much!

    He is SO NOT LIMITED in His expressions. I don’t want to miss a single one.

  2. Grace Julia says:

    …”you could make the pain be less painful by walking toward Him instead of away from Him.”

    You read my mail with that one.

  3. Zac Maré says:

    Dear Arhtur, Although we have not met in person, in the physical sense, I have become so fond of you being so real! Once during a tour in Israel a Pilgrim commented that my teachings makes the Bible so real. Now I can say to you that Father have given you the ability to make life in this present world so real in Biblical context! The new blog is a delight to follow and explore! Well done for following the prompting of His Spirit despite the pain in excecuting it! That brought immense yoy to Father’s heart and now to ours!!! I bless you with a even deeper experience of wallowing in the joy of knowing Father’s immense love for you! I praise Abba Father for His infinite wisdom and love and guiding us to meet up with a brother named Arthur!

  4. Margie says:

    Egads, Arthur-The Lord uses your transparency to heal, encourage and grow us all up further. This line in particular GRABBED MY ATTENTION:
    “Sometimes God takes us through situations to allow us to grow in spiritual authority — in areas we don’t even know we need.”

  5. Debi Jeter says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blog. It has been so helpful. I know I’m
    closer to Father because of it.
    Blessings to you with grace, Debi

  6. Natalie says:

    I have struggled most of my life about not having joy at connecting with people that I have known. It is a spiritual thing and is part of a program I think. In any event, it reminds me of the story you told in one of your videos about losing your ability to love. And you said that it was a bizzare spiritual attack. I believe that means you are reaching someone with the problem like myself. It means you are effective. Thank you for being honest.

  7. Debs says:

    Thank you, I love it… The thought of trusting God in bringing on just the perfect preparation for all the challenges in the future is great. Actually, it really makes me feel very excited about it: If God is going so deep in his preparation, then for sure REALLY amazing things are going to happen in my life! 😉

  8. cindy says:

    wow thanks to your openness I am able to lean into this pain and walk toward God

  9. Jacq Wallace says:

    I’m having a hard time this morning because my husband and I have to re-establish the boundaries with our 3 nearly 4 yr old daughter and it’s taxing. I was told to do this last year with a great life coach and I’ve been avoiding it, I don’t know why, perhaps because I know the hard work involved and even saying that sounds terrible. I have tried before only to find we weren’t on the same page and here I am again, thanks to your article I can see this is a great God thing and an opportunity for great intimacy not to mention gain authority. I feel the pain and I’m determined to breakthrough this time. TY

  10. Grace says:

    So you tried out Facebook during the time you were lacking joy in connecting with people? That seems odd. Please tell us why…were you seeking that joy in different places? I know you ended up saying Facebook wasn’t a good fit for you. Do you think that was because of this odd spot in your journey, or did your joy software reinstall during your facebook time and you still didn’t like it? I’m curious at what was concurrent on the timeline, and if you think one had any effect on the other.

    • I tried Facebook on the advise of a business consultant. And no, I don’t think where I was in life affected my connection with it. The values and culture on Facebook are simply diametrically opposed to who I am and how I work.

  11. Cathy Bealer says:

    Thank you for this blog. It encourages me, inspries me to continue on this journey, and this one particularly hit home. None of us like pain, but I have come to realize that more often than not, God is using it to advance us towards our destiny and helping us to leran lessons from it. Through some of the tools you have given us, I am becoming better at discernment about the pain I go through and am working toward being able to know if it from the Lord or from the demonics. i appreciate your insight!

  12. Irina Rivera says:

    After our conversation this week, I was very aware that I have a long learning curve ahead of me. In the past, this realization usually brought with it a deep sense of isolation and abandonment. I was still kind of feeling as if everyone else was driving ahead at 60 mph and I’m crawling at 5, but interestingly, I didn’t stay there. I guess He’s worked a sense of dignity inside of me. Pain at seeing my own lack of progress, or not being where I thought I was, isn’t debilitating. The change is not shutting out God. This sounds so obvious, but it’s taken a long time to be the first place to go. I think it goes back to going to Him first with my emotions. This is the greatest discipline. By learning to do this one thing (at least for me), it was fairly easy to find His Hand whereas before, it would feel like groping for it.

  13. Susan Reeve says:

    Thank you Arthur for your transparency. I asked God to see the reality of my life – which He did. I thought I was going to die. But I haven’t and with all that I have learned from you and God, I am still moving forward. By speaking about your failures you have given me hope and dignity in mine. Thank you.

  14. Madeline Campbell says:

    Praise God that He stays with us whether we see His plan, recognize His hand, acknowledge His discipline, or accept His reign … or not!! I have just come out of a 4 and 1/2 year season of pain with amazing victory and intimacy with our Father!! You, Arthur, have described exactly how it felt. Fortunately for me, I attended a conference in the summer of 2006 (just after Katrina) in Slidell, Louisiana where a rather unique individual presented his revelation to us, and God worked this blob of clay into one ready for His gently shaping, loving hand. In other words, your conference on the blessings and curses opened up my eyes to finding the treasure in the trial, that I am not powerless in Christ, I do not have to be tossed and thrown about, that I have authority in Christ to speak to the sea, that when I reach the shore, I will be stronger in more ways than I can count…. Praise God!!
    And thank you, Arthur, for sharing what God has done in you. I find a likeness in your spirit that awakens mine! Praise our amazing God!!!

  15. Erica says:

    A very needed reminder that God’s intentions and grace for us are so much more encompasing than I often imagine. There are several areas of pain that I am often confronted with and some times I come to him and some times I feel the shame of “here we are again.” And then I wonder if I ever really received the life and joy I thought I had received from him the last time. I want final resolution on some issues, mostly so I don’t have to keep feeling crapy, or wondering about my motives all the time, or if I really love Him. ahh., I suppose the reminder here that I am trying to hold onto is a longer view of my lifes history and His presence in it.

  16. Bob McGready says:

    I didn’t know where we were going when you began this blog entry, but I sat back and was surprised with each each bend in the road as it revealed new vistas that I was not prepared to see. Revelations of my own heart and the journey that were hidden from me in a forest of futility and the tangle of vines and thickets of efforts unrewarded. To read the very last line and see the single word, “mellow”, overwhelmed me and I am still recovering. Thank you for being real.

  17. karen ford says:

    Arthur, What a delightful blog… your observations are encouraging… and I am so glad you kept in intimacy with Father God during your bewilderment over disengagement with humanity… God Bless your day! karen

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