Prior to marriage, Tracy and I went through a time of courtship in which we displayed the best of our behavior. During this period the birds were always singing and the sun always shinning. We spent every available second absorbing and learning all we could about each other. This wonderfulness continued through the first six months of marriage, and then, as the honeymoon ended, the reality of the relationship, both its strengths and weaknesses, became obvious to us both. We realized that to make it we must have consistent communication.
As we faced difficulties and trials that newly weds face, we soon learned a valuable lesson – “Reliable communication permits progress” (Proverbs 13:15 TLB). The NIV is even more direct, “Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.” God’s Kingdom rests upon understanding while Satan’s depends entirely on misunderstanding.
As is the natural tendency during trials, the last thing either of us wanted to do was communicate, or said more honestly, communicate properly. The purpose of this writing is not to extol the virtues of our marriage or to portray us as poster children for marriages, that we are not, but we have come to an important understanding that has an enormous parallel with our relationship with the Father. Communication is the essence of life between any two living beings – stop the communication and death begins.
If we do not spend time with each other, listen to each other, and communicate what we want to see out of each other, we soon see the aforementioned death creeping into our life and marriage. As a direct parallel to this analogy, I can say with equal emphasis, that the same is true with my relationship with the Father. If I do not take the time to be with Him, to hear Him and His direction for my life, I soon see the inevitable death that is so sure to come. God desires us to spend time with him, to communicate and have fellowship with Him, and like all spouses, He likes to be worshiped and adored, and also like all spouses, He does not like to play second fiddle to other Gods (things that occupy the bulk of our time).
Dickie Welch, a member of our small home group church, recently pointed out that while many of us have been focused on the improper traditions (old wineskins) that besiege most modern churches, the greatest tradition that we as individuals battle are those in our own lives, especially in our own homes. Interestingly, he pointed out that there are 168 hours in a week, of which, most of us spend 40 at work and 40 sleeping. He further pointed out that most of us spend an average of 4 hours in church each week, leaving 84 hours for other endeavors. He reasoned that we probably average 3 hours a day on chores, errands, and other responsibilities leaving 60 hours of time devoted to other things. He then posed the question, “How much of the 60 hours do we use to spend with God?”
With some exceptions, most of us, if we are totally honest, will have to admit that the traditions we need to attack the most are those within our own life, those that take up most of those previously mentioned 60 hours. I can only speak for myself in saying that I have been quick to attack the traditions of others, but perhaps need to get the log out of my own eyes first. Only discernment can properly distinguish where hard truth begins and tolerance ends. Incidentally, it is here that the prophetic ministry will often offer confirmation of the Spirit’s direction in us. For instance, I felt in early December 2002 that the Lord was saying to His Body that 2003 was to be a Mary year, and not Martha year. Though this was said to me individually, I felt it to be for the Body and have since heard it on other occasions from other prophetic voices.
When I am in fellowship, I am in a flow in which there is joy and strength – that flow can only come by spending time with the Father, getting His specific direction for my life. From that intimacy comes joy and life and once it has been experienced, nothing short of it will do. I know when I am not spending enough time with the Father; the first thing to go is my joy and strength. Communication breakdowns are often a result of one party or the other not communicating or not listening. God never fails, so again the failure in this communication is totally mine, most notably because of my unwillingness to spend the quality time needed to produce intimacy.
As with a married couple, true intimacy is impossible without a continuous flow of good communication. I recently felt I heard the Father say to me that he was not a prostitute to whom remuneration could be paid for favors. While I was quick to see this as a strong indictment of traditions within the modern church, especially with the tithe and prosperity message, I was taken aback when the Holy Spirit said, “I am speaking to you Clay! You want intimate knowledge, favor, and understanding without having an intimate relationship; you want the reward without the responsibility.” Any husband who has demanded intimacy from his wife without an ongoing proper relationship knows of what I speak.
If I will take the time (ascend) to the Father, He will cause me to descend to this world with substance for my life, and occasionally, for the lives of others. It is not those times that I refer to here, but rather the times in which I need and/or demand God’s favor when there has been no continuous intimacy. In His infinite goodness however, He has always granted me what I needed, even when I was not close to where I needed to be. For this I feel conviction to change, a conviction that is not to be confused with condemnation, for I feel no condemnation but rather a Godly sorrow.
The voice of the Bridegroom is calling to His Bride. It is a call to communication, a call to intimacy. It is here that the heart of the Father is birthed in men.