Intimacy with God, is it even possible? What would it look like?
I cannot imagine any professing Christian or seeker of God not jumping at or being intrigued with the possibility of being intimate with God, our Creator. Consider all its implications. How would it measure up to the string of underperforming relationships we’ve had here on earth? Can any one of us imagine a relationship where the other consistently had our best interest at heart, put us first in their priorities and approached us from a position of willing surrender? What would that look like if God was that type of being?
I think one of the most intriguing, aspects of the disciple’s life is coming to believe what’s above is actually true. Well at least it was for me. I’m one of those “rely too much on knowledge” Christians that if I don’t understand it perfectly, I feel insecure. I can also relate to being told repeatedly over almost forty years in Christ, “You can have a relationship with Jesus” or “it’s important to get to know God,” It’s one thing to hear this but quite another to really believe it or dare I say….
Actually, experience it.
I think the haphazard thrust into my faith in Christ is partly responsible. It happened so fast at 16 I had no foundation to base it on. The Good News of God’s forgiveness was easy enough to understand. It is mind you, for any man or woman. Human beings don’t need to be convinced of our shortcomings on the scale of moral comparison. We already know full well we don’t measure up and somethings dreadfully wrong with human existence. But it was after I became a Christian the “chasing after God,” who seemed so elusive, began where the next few decades were spent sporadically reading my Bible, trying to find God’s wisdom and experiencing awkward seasons of spiritual passions that resembled intense brush fires that quickly burned out leading to monotonous seasons of spiritual emptiness. While I could tell you, I knew others confirmed God loved me, I really didn’t believe he wanted a relationship with me, nor did I understand how that occurred with a transcendent God that held the universe together but describes himself in Jesus words as “wanting to take us under his wings as a hen protects her children (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). The barrier that all men and women, regardless of station have to traverse is this barrier of personal belief. Not someone else’s belief told to us or hijacked by us to somehow imprint God’s reality on ourselves. No, the question we have to address and I know many will claim they have when in fact they haven’t is “Do you and I see Jesus in the light of Him as personal enough to have an intimate relationship with him?
Yes, now the rubber hits the road per say, and all the intellectual facts about faith start dissipating and become what they are: Religious facts which are often cleverly disguised as relationship.
The question begged then is how to convey in a way that’s real, the scope of the reality of God’s desire for intimacy with you. I hope to avoid giving some seasonal shot in the arm but rather, convey this in a way it might change the trajectory of your life? We could try it by providing a trail of “relationship confirming Scriptures” but in so doing we might lose track of something critically simple. But something started arising in my heart recently in the journey of discipleship I thought had equal power although it’s really anchored in Scripture. It’s the portrait that Scripture paints of God’s immense participation in intimacy. It was confirmed this Christmas Eve morning at a small loving fellowship of believers who were gathered to worship by a song that focused on two individuals. Mary and Jesus.
God’s desire for relationship looks like this. It’s a tiny human baby, wrapped in blankets like most babies, born to a likely teenage impoverished mother as part of an unfolding promise of God. God the Father sent his complete fullness and exact representation of himself in the form of a tiny human baby to convey this mind-blowing offer of relationship as a portrait for you and me. God son, Jesus, undoubtedly looked up at his mother’s loving eyes who looked back tearfully and joyfully at her son. Jesus in trust, had to rely on his mother completely; counting on her to respond to his cries, counting on her to allow him to draw milk from her breasts like any other baby to grow and propagate his life. Not just any life… but a divine life in a baby. Undoubtedly, his mother at times astonishingly marveled and wondered how in the world God’s promise would come through her child, her baby, her first born son. I doubt if Mary looked down at the face of Jesus and understood him as the incarnate form of God’s power and personality. Mary just saw her son and wondered how God would accomplish the restoration of his relationship with his people Israel.
I can think of no more intimate relationship represented on the spectrum of humanity than a mother and her infant baby. How many times Mary must have caressed her son lovingly to see him smile back at her in response is unknown. I’ve seen a lot of mother’s and their very tender with their infants. But in those moments of relationship, Mary’s heart was drawn towards the baby, Jesus, in her arms who relied on her tenderness and mother’s instincts to protect both his physical and emotional well-being.
God demonstrated his willingness to trust us with himself completely… by becoming the most vulnerable expression of a human being… an infant child.
It’s a tremendous picture of relationship, really one-sided initially as Jesus relied on Mary and undoubtedly Joseph as well to grow up through childhood becoming a young man. It’s often easy when presenting doctrine or important biblical truths to forget just how patient God was in allowing his Son to be cared for by a human mother, to be cleansed by a human mother and to listen to his human mother’s wisdom when she shared the kind of man she wanted him to be. You see all mothers do this at one point or another, even Mary.
It’s interesting how the Gospels open and close with the tenderness of this relationship. After Jesus ministry was complete, and he hung on a cross unjustly, his mother’s heart must have been pierced with the sword as had been previously foretold (Luke 2:35). The portrait of Jesus Christ never strays from the commitment of God’s desire for intimacy with each and every one of us. Now though, as her son hung on the brutal cross the mother was unable to comfort the baby she had held in her arms thirty-three years prior. Now that tiny infant is a grown man bleeding to death for the sins of the world. Sin, or our rebellion and rejection of God’s offer of tender intimacy causes the break in our relationship with God. I doubt at that point of Mary understood what her Son’s blood meant. She just saw her son dying through the tears in her eyes. The relationship never ended.
With Christ death on the cross the possibility of relationship is restored, mirrored in the intimacy of a teenage mother and her firstborn son. I don’t think God makes any truth available to us without profound meaning. The gospel of John tells us as Jesus hung on the cross and beheld his mother looking at him he instructed his friend to care for his mother. I’m sure no matter how divine and magnificent Jesus is he never forgot the tender touch of his mother as an infant or forgot the importance of the portrait he was painting on just how real he can become for you and me.
But now the mother son relationship at the cross was reversed. The Son, even while he was dying was taking care of his mother. Not only practically, but spiritually, emotionally, eternally. Jesus willing sacrificial death for you and me was also a gift back to the mother who had raised him and humanly, watched her hopes die as he hung on a cross. It seems the God who loves us has a love so deep it takes a lifetime to embrace.
I’ve always been perplexed at why God demonstrated himself in the virgin birth which appears so scandalous and skeptical in the face of the world’s priorities and powers. It was not until I realized how God’s loving offer of dependence upon his mother contrasted with who he was and what he intended to portray began to make sense. While Jesus the infant depended on his mother Mary, Mary the human needed to depend on him even more so. In this intimate portrait of mother and son we find the completion of relationship. A relationship, if its worth any salt, requires both party’s willingness to be vulnerable and become interdependent upon each other. In Christmas, we find God experiencing and demonstrating this in his Son as the infant and his Son as the Savoir. God becomes all for us in relationship with His world in the most intimate human form to convey His unrelenting commitment to all of His creation, both men and women whom he kindly offers this divine intimacy. God communicated this to us in the intrinsic intimacy that exists between a human mother and her child. That’s the significance of the virgin birth. The trajectory will lead to the cross, the restoration of relationship between the divine and human making possible the divine intimacy.
Where are we today in our relationship with God? Did we stumble accidently into principle and facts? Have we picked up the offer on our end or is grace used as a cover for complacency? We can call ourselves a follower of Christ or a disciple, or a believer or whatever, but if our relationship with Christ is not tender, we missed the point. Let our prayer this Advent and our experience, become spiritually knowing this divine intimacy with Jesus, God’s Son, in infant form, in resurrected Savoir, communicating how intensely God loves you and “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19). The divine intimacy of the first Advent never stopped. God still loves you desperately, He demonstrated it historically, and offers it presently. We need to humbly embrace the love relationship portrayed at Bethlehem not as a distant reflection but as the personal reality it offers.J.P. Grier M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling
JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.