Another Thursday Lesson–Deepening Intimacy

Sometimes, on a Thursday, dreams come true. And sometimes, on a Thursday, dreams fall apart.

I remember that first post from a little over a year ago. It was about the book Scary Close, Donald Miller’s heartfelt look at what true intimacy means. As I read, I remember the conviction I felt over how I made my life work—weighing relationships, constantly analyzing the risks I took, extracting payment from those who disappointed, withdrawing my heart when I feared it would be left or hurt.

I always bore the responsibility for my relationships. I would trust to the extent you had performed well. I would work tirelessly to close distance. I would measure every word before it came out of my mouth.

I rarely had to entrust my fears to the people I loved; I could control those fears myself.

That was not the woman who removed her engagement ring a few Thursdays ago.

I wrote that first post wanting to say “yes” to intimacy, rather than moderate it. I write this second one with a heart tender to what an intimate life asks you to surrender to faith.

Storyline Conference Chicago 2014. The guy with his arm out to the right is Bob. The girl slightly cut off beneath his hand is me.
Storyline Conference Chicago 2014. The guy with his arm out to the left is Bob Goff. The girl slightly cut off beneath his hand is me.

This past November, I attended Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference. The conference was designed to help each participant live and tell better stories. My ex-fiancé Aaron came too. If I were to boil down who I’ve become between that first post and this one, I’d pick a moment at that conference, way up high in the balcony, while Bob Goff spoke on what love is willing to do for another.

We all carry secrets. We all hold the ace for what we believe makes us unlovable or what we fear will make us unworthy. Aaron and I were no exception. And it was up in that balcony, right before Bob took the stage that we shared an intentional conversation revealing some of our deepest shames and fears, it felt like we both spilled out all over the auditorium carpet. Holding the weight of it all, we each wondered if we had enough for the other. We both felt the fear of being known and then rejected.

Bob began to speak and we hung in the balance of his words. He was kind and inspiring, filled with the love that has changed him. And if you’ve ever heard love speak, you know that it is powerful.

Bob’s words and Aaron’s courage were the invitation I’d been waiting for. I wasn’t going to be the girl with the relational scorecard, the risk analysis graph, and the intimacy Gantt chart. I didn’t feel my fear more than I loved Aaron. I wanted him, and I wanted to be loved by him. He was worth it.

Love is a life-altering choice—giving it, hoping in it, waiting for it. That moment in the balcony, life got a lot bigger for me. I felt more alive and more foolish, more connected and more exposed. I still struggled with the same patterns, but time and again learned that trust and honesty wouldn’t kill me. In fact, they were the key avenues through which Aaron and I came to give and receive love.

I know for Aaron those avenues eventually got blocked. I know the fear from waiting and hoping he’d risk opening them again and not get lost. I know the choice of believing in his heart. I know the disbelief of hearing him ask for a ring back.

Intimacy means you let someone choose to love you. So it also means you let them choose to stop, even if it blisters your heart in pain.

That’s why it’s so scary…you have to let a person in all the way, hoping in their choices rather than dictating them. It’s the ultimate risk.

I’m going to be different again. The first Thursday changed me; the second one will too. I could look at what happened as the perfect evidence for why all of my relational systems were so effective. The betrayal by Aaron would never have happened to the more controlled me.

But I love who I was that day up in the balcony. I loved getting to love Aaron. I love how cherished and wanted I felt because I opened my heart to him. I wouldn’t trade that woman for the more managed one. And I hope when the waves cease crashing, I’m a more confident version of her.

Whatever happens, it does appear that life, death, and dreaming still come for me on Thursdays.

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 26 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart.  Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day.  For now, she shares her thoughts here.