Intentional Intimacy


By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC
 
            Recently, Ichiro Suzuki slashed his 4,000th hit in professional baseball.  It was also revealed that he has the most hits in his 13 year major league career than any player has EVER had during a 13 year stretch.  That is amazing, considering how many incredible hitters there have been in the history of the major leagues.  Ichiro is supremely talented as a baseball player, blessed with great hand-eye coordination, blinding speed, and a rifle arm in right field.  However, one doesn't get to 4,000 hits just because of talent.  Ichiro has also been a tireless worker in honing his craft.

 

            I heard a great story about Ichiro.  It referred back to when he first came to America from Japan to play with the Seattle Mariners.  He and his wife informed the Mariners that they were looking to purchase a 3-bedroom apartment to live in.  The team was well aware that they had no children at the time and so they advised the newlyweds to look for a 2-bedroom apartment instead.  Ichiro refused.  He indicated that they had to have 3 bedrooms; one for them to sleep in, one for houseguests and family who would come to visit, and one where he could practice his swing. 

 

            I love that story.  Ichiro was a major-leaguer.  He could have had access to multiple, top-flight facilities to practice his swing.  But he was so committed to excellence that he wanted to have a place where he could practice anytime he wanted, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is that kind of commitment, combined with his natural ability, that led him to knock out 4,000 hits and beyond. 

 

            This kind of story is not unusual for the all-time greats in any sport.  I have often heard stories of how many shots Larry Bird would put up every day in practice, the middle-of-the-night workouts of Kobe Bryant, and the workout regimen of Jerry Rice.  Those who want to excel in anything are willing to put in the work it takes to get there.

 

            The same is true in our walk with Christ.  I am not promoting a "work-for-our-salvation" mentality at all here.  We can do no amount of work that would pay the debt we owe to God for our sin.  What I am talking about is being intentional about walking deeply with Christ.  This type of spiritual intimacy does not happen by accident.  It is not based on natural talent, as if Jesus only wants to draw near to those who are spiritually elite from birth (as if those people exist).  True spiritual intimacy takes time and effort, commitment and devotion.  It is not something I have mastered yet.  I am not writing this piece because I am spiritually putting up 1,000 shots a night or because I have an extra bedroom so I can meet with God all the time.  However, I know people who do these kinds of things and they walk closely to our Lord.  I know people who have kept prayer journals regularly for over thirty years; their shelves are teeming with intimate conversations with God.  I stare at those journals and I want that.  I know guys who wake up at 3 or 4am every day to meet with the Lord.  I stare at my alarm clock and wonder why I don't do the same.  I often wonder why there are times when I feel like God and I are walking in step and then, at other times, that He is a million miles away.  I believe it is because I'm not being intentional enough...and that has to change. 

 

            A scripture that has always concerned me is Matthew 7: 21-23:  "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord!' We prophesied in your name and performed many miracles in your name.  But I will reply, 'I never knew you.  Get away from me, you who break God's laws."  (NLT)

 

            Jesus emphasizes that we are to be in relationship with Him...and any relationship takes intentionality and time.  Any healthy marriage is one where the partners make time for one another.  The best friendships are those where each person carves out space in their schedule for the other.  It is a simple fact that intimate relationships do not just happen.....they happen because those involved make the relationship a priority.  This is never truer than it is in our relationship with Christ.  Satan would deceive us into believing that there are other things that deserve our attention far more than God does.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God may not need our attention but He desires it.  God does not need us to be God.....but we need Him more than anything.  We need Him to make it through this fallen world.  We need Him to endure the crucible of suffering that this life offers us.  We need Him to save our very souls. 

 

            And He offers us these things.  Because of Christ's suffering on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, we are offered relationship with God Almighty.  In a world where nothing is sure, where anything can change in a moment, we are offered a relationship with a God who never wavers and is always there.  There is no greater offer to be had.  And yet......to seize that opportunity, we must be intentional.  We must make Him the priority in our lives. 

 

            To do that, we've got to put in the time.  We need to start putting up 1,000 shots a day; we need to clear a separate room just for Him, we need to hit off a tee until our hands bleed.  We've got to be intentional about our time with Him.  It's not easy.  It certainly is much easier to NOT be intentional.  I know it is for me.  It's easier to skate by on rote knowledge learned from years in Sunday school.  It's simpler to fall back into the "religious" speak learned from growing up in the church.  It's easier to settle for being a .280 hitter than to put in the work it takes to bat .300 in my walk with Christ.  But I look at guys like Ichiro and I want more than mediocrity.  I want to know and walk with God as intimately as I can. 

 

            I hope you want that as well. 

 

            But it's not enough to want it......we must act.  We must spend time with the Lord in prayer, in reading His Word, in learning to listen.  We must be intentional about our intimacy.  And when we are, amazing things will happen.  When we put in the time, we give God permission to do what He wants in our lives and the results will be fantastic.

 

            So, Ichiro......thanks for not settling on 2 bedrooms.  I'm not going to settle either.

 

 

 
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Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist.  He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world.  He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”.  For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.



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