The practice of intimacy with God is something I feel passionate about, but find difficult to put into words. I think this is because it seems to be one of the least talked about aspects of Christianity.
We talk about belief in God, worshipping God (almost always as it pertains to music), and praying to God about our wants and gratitude, but rarely is the concept of intimacy with God directly addressed. Yet, it is the most important aspect of Jesus’ spirituality.
Without being actively intimate with God, our faith inevitably turns in on itself and becomes about self-preservation, which is the antithesis of Jesus’ spirituality.
Think of the intimacy Jesus is directing us toward when He says, “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).' This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.” Is love not an intimate thing?
Another way to look at it could be, if I study facts or beliefs about Shawna without spending time with her myself, our marriage would be painfully hollow. She would not know me. And I would not know intimacy with her. My studies may help change my behavior and give me insights, but it would not be the same as loving her with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind.
Sadly, that is what the religion of Christianity has been reduced to for many. We try to love God with our beliefs, opinions, and certain behaviors, but leave the whole of our hearts, souls, and minds out of the equation. And it robs ourselves and the world of the reality of the Gospel.
The first step to intimacy with God is realizing, accepting, and understanding how Christ is already intimate with all of us:
All things were made and came into existence through Christ; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.
– John 1.3/4
Life is Christ. When we are numb to the wonder of life, we will be numb to the closeness of Christ. Waking up to this reality is one thing; staying awake to it is something else altogether. When we see intimacy with God as something far off and to be attained to, we make it all about ourselves: What am I doing to get there? How am I behaving in a way that will attain it? But the whole message of the Gospel is that there is no divide except for the one we’ve accepted in our own hearts.
If we see God as being far off, we will not experience the intimacy of life with Christ. It is very possible to be a professing Christian and yet still live a life devoid of Divine Intimacy. At once though, when we see the closeness and permanence of Christ “in all and through all,” we will understand that intimacy with God is not something to attain to, but to be actively accepted, celebrated, and participated with. The notion that just knowing it is enough, is a deception.
We must intentionally and actively participate in intimacy with God.
Be still and know.
When you pray, go into your inner room and pray in secret without using many words, where your Heavenly Father is.
There are some zealous believers who portray Divine Intimacy with an unhealthy emphasis on emotional experience and lengthy prayer sessions. When I speak with folks in this predicament, I get the sense that they are really seeking validation and consolation, not necessarily intimacy with Christ. The problem is that emotions can be easily manipulatable, manipulating, and even faked. Intimacy cannot be faked. Although it can be emotional, is much more than an emotion. Seek intimacy, not emotion. The point of prayer is not to multiply words, but to simplify the whole of our lives into one act of prayer.
That emphasis places a distance between us and God because it centers on emotion, which is unsustainable. Any distance we "feel" between us and God is the result of our internal emotional and mental condition, not the result of God's actual proximity. Emmanuel, He is with us.
By love may God be gotten and holden, by thought never.
– Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing
The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.
– Jesus, Luke 17.20/21
The kingdom of God is within you now. Where are you?