A.W.Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Especially when the topic is intimacy.
Last week our group talked about the beauty of seeing ourselves as God sees us, as His masterpiece. But Life is messy, and so are we. Is admitting to the mess part of spirituality? At the very least, it’s honest. And that kind of naked honesty is at the core of intimacy. It’s what you’d want from a close friend, or from a love relationship, and it’s what God wants with us.
Do I have that kind of relationship with Him? Well, it’s complicated. My desire for God has consumed me at times. At others, I’ve been self-absorbed and apathetic. I’ve had times when I’ve run from Him, shut Him out, ignored Him, been resentful at Him for what He’d allowed to happen to me and my family. I’ve also missed Him terribly, longed for more of Him, found my center in Him and basked in His love and embrace. What does this sound like but a love relationship? The feelings come and go, but the relationship is constant. Or I should say, God is constant. And He always longs for deeper intimacy with me.
We could talk about God’s love until we’re out of breath. We could memorize verses and take apart scripture, all of which would be good background. But until we experience His love for ourselves and accept it, all we have is head knowledge. Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one, and that we would know God. Not just know about him, but know him. “Knowing” as it’s used in the Bible always implies intimacy, a nakedness of soul that needs no words. It’s only in knowing Him that we find the safety, the comfort, the trust to unveil our truest, naked selves to His touch. It’s when we can abandon ourselves to Him fully that we find that He is not only trustworthy, but the lover of our souls.
But how can we trust Him when we’ve never seen His face?
It says in Genesis, “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Try as we may to think of ourselves as made in God’s image, we tend to make him over in ours. It’s probably an image we know as well as our own family, for we learn to trust first at home, from imperfect people who care for us as best they’re able. Depending on what we’ve learned, we may have little trouble seeing Him as our Rock, our Protector, our Provision in the face of all life throws against us. Even so, we may have Him in a “holy” box, and have difficulty seeing him as part of all we experience. I’ve heard from women who’ve grown up with little nurture, some even with abuse, making it so very difficult to trust God or another person. Many said they viewed Him as benevolent but limited, like a kind but distracted uncle who lives in another city. For others He became both judge and jury — all about punishing sinners and rewarding the righteous. If they saw themselves as sinners, they kept their distance out of shame. If they felt self-righteous, that became its own barrier to intimacy. God may seem unapproachable, aloof, moody, mysterious. Our prayers seem to go unheard, and we may feel abandoned. Betrayed. Where is he when he seems so silent?
The truth is, no one sees the face of almighty God and lives to tell about it. Moses asked to see His face and was told he wouldn’t survive it. In the end, he settled for a glimpse of God’s backside as he passed, and that alone was enough to whiten his hair and make his face so radiant that people had to look away. Scary. The God of the Old Testament – glorious, majestic, righteous and terrible — can seem frightening and impossible to pin down. He appears as a burning bush, is strict, mysterious, vengeful, all-powerful, and his name is too holy to be spoken. He commands us to love Him, yet how can we feel safe with a God like this? He is holy and we know we are not. And so we join Adam and Eve and make coverings for ourselves and hide. A little distance feels so much safer. Who is this holy and unapproachable God? And why would we want to draw near?
If we want a complete view of God, there is another side to Him we need to see, even in the Old Testament. In the beginning, God himself stooped down and got his hands dirty in the act of creating us, male and female, in his image. It says in Genesis, “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
He scooped up some mud and formed us with his hands, put his mouth on ours to give us breath. It was purposeful, intentional, intimate. And very hands-on. Our bodies and our sexuality were intentionally designed in his image, by His own hands. And he declared it all good.
This is a God who is blindly passionate about those He loves, wooing us and pursuing us as a bridegroom his bride. How can we doubt that he wants intimacy with us when here is so much vivid sexual imagery used in both Old and New Testaments? Sprinkled throughout the prophets’ words in Hosea is a picture of a lover pursuing one who’s betrayed and spurned him, one who’s even stooped to prostitution rather than the embrace of his arms. And yet, he loves her passionately and completely. The entire book of Hosea is given over to this same graphic imagery, as Hosea is instructed to marry the prostitute who will betray him. Yet even in his deep hurt, his love for her remains tender and true.
The Song of Songs is all about lover’s passion as they anticipate the fulfillment of their desires and their enjoyment of one another. It mirrors God’s passion for us, overflowing the banks of reason, willing to make Himself vulnerable and to be wounded for our sakes. Love is willingness to give oneself away, to be wounded, even to die if necessary for the one we love.
What does God look like? When the disciples were asking this question, Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” If we want to know what God is like, we only have to look at Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Love dwelling among us. It is my favorite name for God: Emmanuel, which literally means “God with us.”
So what about your view of God? How would you describe your level of intimacy? Do you trust that He cares about your problems, the desires of your heart? Do you believe that he pursues you with passion and tenderness? Or does He seem more like the stern taskmaster, tossing out one challenge after another to further your spiritual growth? If we truly “got” how much God really loved us, what might it change about our other relationships?