The key to spiritual authority and to fulfillment in the Mercy season is intimacy, both with God and with our community. This series of articles will address only the former.
The first step to intimacy with God is to realize that you are already at the first step. You don’t have to go somewhere, do something, buy something, change something. Achieving intimacy with God is not an algebraic formula where a standardized set of actions on your part will produce a predictable result.
This article was prompted by someone who wrote despairing over the lack of intimacy in her life and she ended by saying, “I probably need to be on a computer fast, first off, and sit and LISTEN maybe…”
This is a classic formula approach. If we deprive ourselves of the distractions of the world (and there are 1,000 variations on this theme) God will not feel like He has to compete and therefore He will come and intimacy will happen. After all, there are many case histories to support this view!
I wrote back: “Or not! I think that is a classic religious spirit reaction. The monastic era has come and gone. There is certainly time for a media fast or a phone fast or those kinds of things, but at the end of the day, intimacy will come from erasing the line between the secular and sacred, so that when you are at an antique show with your boss, you can experience uncommon intimacy.”
Because you see, in this Mercy season, God wants to be intimate in your whole life, not just your spiritual exercises. If you are only able to be intimate with God in the solitude of your prayer closet, it is like a couple who can only experience intimacy through sex, and the other 23.5 hours a day are loveless — not a pretty picture.
And intimacy at work, on the golf course or in the grocery store is not just the end game that the really, really super spiritual people get to. It is where God wants to begin with most people.
The second step is to stop all comparisons with others as to the process and the product. Intimacy between you and God is not going to look like intimacy between me and God. And how you get to intimacy will be different from the pathway God took me on.
Let me give you one simple example. There are kids who grew up playing with water. Give them a large bucket of water and a lot of smaller containers and they could entertain themselves for a long time, pouring water back and forth. Those kids grow up to be adults who can hear God best in the shower, while surfing or in the hot tub. That is design.
There are others of you who have never had a second of interaction with God in the shower, and that is OK too. Different design.
I look at three highly diverse snapshots of intimacy with God from my life and realize that it would take half an hour apiece to explain to anyone why those were intimate experiences. One time I was driving north on the 5 freeway and saw some cattle standing in a lush field with grass up to their bellies. Another time was in KwaZulu Natal, on a mountain ridge overlooking a small village. A third moment was in my office struggling with some software that was not working.
Those are my encounters with God and every single one of them was based on my design and my unique journey. They would mean very little to you.
For one person, surprises are a love gift. Other people hate surprises. For some people, intimacy is expressed through safety and comfort. For another, the deepest moments of intimacy are based on life-risking, adrenaline-consuming adventures.
So spend a little time collecting the moments of intimacy you have already had. Look for patterns. God knows your design. God knows how to meet you where you are in your pilgrimage. Your intimacy may not be as deep as you would like it to be. Your periods of time between moments of intimacy may be weeks or years, instead of hours.
I know. We are trying to improve your intimacy with these articles. Don’t get stuck on what isn’t.
Evaluate what you have. How does God meet you? What does intimacy look like for YOU on Monday morning, and no one else?
If you would like to drop some comments on the subject, I might be able to play off them in subsequent articles — unless they are like mine — too hard to explain.
To be continued.
Copyright January 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck in Anaheim