Reclaiming Intimacy With a Date to Target

It was around 1 p.m. on Saturday when she called, and I was a little pissed off.

We were supposed to talk around 11:30 a.m. CT (7:30 p.m. her time).

I don’t know if you know this, but communication is important in a relationship. And although I “thought” we were talking at 11:30 a.m., I never really communicated that to Ashland. I also knew she was trying to be present with her team and friends at dinner and trying to break away as soon as she could so we could talk. She was loving me so well from afar.

But I don’t like it when my plans don’t work out—even when it’s totally my fault for not communicating them with Ash. It’s like I was upset at her for something she didn’t even know she was doing. Sound logic, huh? A reminder that I need grace—loads of it—every day.

For those keeping score at home, there’s a theme beginning here: these blog posts are often born out of my own brokenness. I’m far from perfect. But I think in shining light on the dark places of my heart it allows the truths of Jesus to ring truer and louder over the voices of shame, so I (and others) might find hope amidst the peaks and valleys of life.

As surprising as this might seem, long-distance dating isn’t always easy. You’re learning and re-learning how to do the thing you spent months working towards. The premise is still intact though, we are still pursuing and living life alongside one another (albeit on different continents).

I feel often that Ashland and I live in this pressure-cooker in our relationship these days. No longer is it easy and convenient to pursue one another. We have to put a bit of elbow grease into laying aside our egos, selfishness, and general exhaustion when we reconnect with one another.

Maybe that’s through a periodic iMessage or when we FaceTime twice a week. It leads me back to this daily reminder: loving someone is as much a feeling as it is a choice we make, and it’s difficult to put into action daily.

The Christmas section at Target is a big deal when you live in West Uganda.

To truly love someone—in action—means to do the hard things, which often are just doing the everyday things. It’s grinding through life and leaning in when you want to bow out.

I experienced the goodness that can come from leaning in last Saturday.

Going on “dates” these days is no longer as easy as it once was. I say this all with a grain of salt because the technological wonder of FaceTime and iMessage are simply incredible. I mean, I can see Ashland’s face and hear her voice simultaneously as she treks through the Rwenzori Mountains in East Africa. That’s bananas. Steve Jobs, I owe you one, man.

But there’s a level of intimacy that gets built up from simply spending time with a person. It doesn’t have to be structured “date” time, just time—making dinner, running an errand on a Thursday night, going on a car ride to grab lunch for friends in the office. That stuff adds up. It makes you close, even when you don’t realize it’s happening. You pick up on one another’s mannerisms.

Intimacy, I think, is doing the things you normally do as someone else gets to join you in the journey.

We’re both striving to keep one another close. But what if we stopped and simply rested in what’s been spoken over us and what we know to be true of one another?

Ashland and I have been reading through Psalm 139 this week, and much of the language David is using in the chapter harps on the intimacy God desires with His people. Look at the first six verses of the chapter below.

1. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

As much as this season of separation reminds me of my own loneliness and sadness, I’m also made keenly aware of the ways God is fighting for my heart. He wants to know me deeply! He’s not keeping me away from Ashland to watch me suffer, he’s doing what a loving Father does: giving me what I need instead of what I want. He’s helping me learn what it looks like to love Ashland out of my relationship with Jesus. He’s setting the structure for what a healthy relationship looks like. What makes a father “good” is his ability to do what’s loving, not what’s easy.

Here’s the good news: intimacy can be reclaimed. That’s the hope we rest on. But anytime we talk to catch up via FaceTime I’m feverishly working to not only update Ashland on my life and hear about her adventures, but also trying to cultivate and sustain the intimacy that fades a bit as you live 7,000 miles apart.

But I’ve also found a solution. Are you ready?

For those wondering what’s the best way to recapture intimacy, I think I’ve found the answer: go on a date to Target.

I’m not kidding. Go find your person, heck, grab a perfect stranger, and go on a date to Target. Do it. Right now.

Sift through the $1 bins, grab some Archer Farms salsa, riffle through the old Halloween costumes and bags of Reese’s Cups that are marked down to dangerously cheap prices.

So when I walked through the retractable doors of Target last Saturday, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a good while: joy. I didn’t feel caught in the haze of heaviness that has often defined this season of separation with Ashland. I felt hopeful. I felt encouraged. I felt seen, known, and loved again. I felt like we picked up where we’d left off.

The face I normally get after making a terrible pun about kitchen supplies.

She was able to witness the good, bad, and ugly once again of my life. She heard a few of my cheesy dad jokes, she saw me roll my eyes in frustration at other shoppers dominating the aisles with their large red carts (I mean c’mon, people, share the aisles).

Maybe my favorite moment happened when we checked out. I placed my phone in my pocket but kept my earphones in as I placed my items on the conveyor belt. As I talked with my cashier, I had the joy of getting to explain this eclectic bunch of items I’d just bought (the largest Nalgene bottle known to man, two cans of Pam cooking spray, four boxes of Starbucks via packets, a set of stainless steel measuring cups, hand soap, etc.).

“What’s all this for?” she asked.

“Well, it’s for my girlfriend in Uganda,” I replied, my voice tailing off.

**This always catches others off guard**

So then I had the honor to tell Ashland’s story once again. Why she is in Uganda. What her hopes are. What my dreams are. And, most importantly, how God has been gracious to both of us through it all. Two of my favorite things in life are getting to brag on God’s faithfulness and Ashland. I got to do both.

As I walked out, full buggy in tow, I couldn’t help but note how good it felt to make another memory together. So often I think we can get bogged down with the serious. And for good reason—this is a weighty endeavor. It’s not easy. It is hard. But that doesn’t mean it has to always be overtly serious and heavy.

I think, ultimately, we’d forgotten to have fun.

That’s why you link arms with another human in the first place—because they bring out the best in you.

We love because to love and be loved brings us joy.

To experience that joy means to lean in, even when it’s tough. Let me encourage you though; it’s worth it.

Be joyful, smile big, make a fool of yourself, live with abandon, go on dates to Target, and don’t forget to enjoy the little things.

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