For reflection: What is hard about your relationship with God?
Our relationship with God will only be strong and growing if we understand the reality of the world you actually inhabit. These words of Jesus have always captured my attention:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
John 17:3 ESV
Eternal lifeis not a location where we go after we die but instead a quality of life. This life from above is marked by “knowledge” of Jesus and his Father.
The Hebrew idea of knowledge has to do with embodied experience. It is personal knowledge. It goes far beyond information and involves relational intimacy—the mingling of persons.. This is why the Hebrew word for sex and knowledge are the same word.
Jesus’ vision for you and me is that we would have deep, ongoing, personal relationship with God. We are uniquely created (imago Deo) for such relationship.
For reflection:In what ways is your relationship with God intimate? What would make it more intimate?
Marriage is the window
One of the primary metaphors used to describe our relationship with God is one of husband and wife. So, we can look at a biblical marriage and begin to build a vision for what is possible for us.
Ephesians 5, written by Paul, is grounded in a biblical vision of Divine relationship framed in marriage.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV
The mystery of marriage is that it points to what is possible in our relationship with God.
At the beginning of a romantic relationship there is attraction, pursuit and the mutual sharing about the self. Before this generation, the man was the initiator of this dance. He had to win the right to love. If successful, the woman began to open her life to him.
In intimacy with God, God is the ideal pursuer: ” “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace”
(The Song of Solomon 4:9). He pursues us. Our relationship with God is based upon his relentless pursuit. He finds us beautiful. He loves us, not in some abstract way, but with passion and fire.
For reflection:What keeps us from believing and living in the reality that God pursues us with the kind of passion of a “captivated lover” (Song is Songs 4:9)?
From his pursuit, we depart the familiar and join him:
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Departfrom the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards” (The Song of Solomon 4:7-8 ESV).
What does it look like you to depart what is familiar and yours to be with God?
Finally, we reciprocate his love:
let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. (The Song of Solomon 7:12 ESV)
Thus, intimacy with God can be described this way:
- Pursued by his love
- Leaving the familiar
- Loving him
These seasons happen over and over again throughout life as we live. They are not one time events. This is the primary story of life and eternity.The work of intimacy is always about livingin this story.
For reflection:Is this your story? Why or why not?
The need for honest self-assessment
Unfortunately, we all were born and live constantly in other stories. These stories are shrouded in self-reliance, other “lovers” and infidelity.
For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Hosea 2:5 ESV
For reflection: Our work is to be honest about our current condition. Where are we in the story?
The Foundation: Silence and Solitude
We have bought into the lie that activity is the ground of intimacy. We stay busy doing religious things but forget the true story—who He is and who we are.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”Psalms 62:1
Dallas Willard writes:
Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence. We practice these by finding ways to be alone and away from talk and noise. We rest, we observe, we “smell the roses”—dare we say it?—we do nothing. This discipline can be used of God as a means of grace. In it we may even find another reminder of grace—that we are saved, justified by His redeeming power—not by our strivings and achievements.
In drawing aside for lengthy periods of time, we seek to rid ourselves of the “corrosion” of soul that accrues from constant interaction with others and the world around us. In this place of quiet communion, we discover again that we do have souls, that we indeed have inner beings to be nurtured. Then we begin to experience again the presence of God in the inner sanctuary, speaking to and interacting with us. We understand anew that God will not compete for our attention. We must arrange time for our communion with Him as we draw aside in solitude and silence. (“Personal Soul Care”, Dallas Willard)
This work is fundamentally about actively being quiet and alone. God will meet us, we will (super)naturally enter the right story.
The need for a plan
Such extended times must be planned for, they are costly. Some can find times during the weekend, others early morning while others must practice, “the watch of the night.” Being quiet and silent must be practiced until we feel different, we have an internal sense that we are in the right story. It will take some time at the beginning, but only here can we hear, “Come away with me” (Song of Songs 8:14).
Next week: Living in Joy: keeping our mind always on him