I was listening this morning to Episode 16 of the Living Wholehearted Podcast, entitled “Why Emotions Matter” with guests Jon & Tristen Collins. It’s a really great discussion about the importance of paying attention to what’s going on inside us emotionally, in order to make sense of the responses and behaviors we project on the surface. You can check it out HERE.
I really identified with Jon Collins, co-founder of the The Bible Project. He talked about being raised in a spiritual culture that valued knowledge & obedience to God; but put a lid put on top of emotions, which were seen as “unwanted & dangerous”. He talked about growing up with a subconscious paradigm that he was like a “brain on a stick.” I totally laughed out loud at that picture, as did moderators Jeff & Terra Mattson; but as they continued to talk about it I found myself within their descriptions of knowing “about” God without really “knowing Him.”
People sometimes refer to having a “personal relationship with God.” This attempts to break down the barriers of perceived distance between the mortal and the Divine, but it can seem like kind of a weird thing to say about a Being we can’t even see. It’s one of the great paradoxes of life: We are spiritual beings, caught temporarily in a mortal experience in which we yearn for intimate connection with the eternal nature we were built for. Not only that, the very Creator Himself beckons to the heirs of the Creation individually; drawing us into a type of union with Him that is pervasive and conforming to His Image, while maintaining and enhancing our unique spiritual identities in the process. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to understand and experience this, and am still learning to walk.
I think what we’re trying to convey by using relational terms about God is that we’re intended to experience Him emotionally as well as intellectually. Our physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual natures all interact to make us who we are; and we were created by Him and for Him. I like to use the word INTIMACY to describe the relationship we’re meant to have with God. It’s a very personal, unbroken, and vulnerable word. I reserve this word for those closest to me, who have my true heart: My wife, children, mom & dad, a few very close friends.
Scripture paints the love story of a Father seeking out lost children, a Groom wooing His bride, a King subjecting Himself to the punishment of His people in order to save them. Our intended relationship with God is about reconciliation, redemption. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). This is a type of love & commitment that we cannot fabricate, only imitate and perpetuate in connection with its source; and THAT is the birthplace of INTIMACY WITH GOD. Unfettered, emotional appreciation that gives-up everything in return for His precious gift; because obligatory words and behaviors will always dry up. Religion does not save us, only our Heavenly Father saves us.
In this emerging network we call “Catalyst,” we value INTIMACY with God – Surrendering whatever sources of security we think we have in favor of the forgiveness, acceptance, value, and unceasing connection we have with the Father. We affirm that every believer is meant to know God personally, intimately, transformationally. This type of relationship with God is cultivated both alone and with others. Intimacy with God grows through personal spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation; as well as lifestyle choices that align us with His purposes for us. It also grows by fellowship with other believers in worship singing, sharing concerns and testimonies, group prayer, caring for one another, and being on-mission together. These expressions all work together to cultivate intimacy with God.
One of my favorite words in the Bible is the word “worship.” It’s most often translated from the Greek word: “proskuneo” – “to kiss towards.” It doesn’t have anything to do with singing, yet singing is definitely a wonderful medium for worship! When it comes to developing intimacy with God, it can be difficult to wrap our minds around because it’s a value, or a function. So what’s the form? What do we DO in order to cultivate intimacy with God? We worship. I mean we live our lives as if we are blowing kisses to the Father all day long. Like when my little girl was playing soccer when she was 7-years-old and she looked over at me on the sideline every 3-minutes to make sure I was watching because she and I were so delighted with each other. She blew me kisses with her eyes fixed on me…and I blew them back.
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
QUESTIONS FOR PRAYER/JOURNALING:
- How are you blowing kisses to your Heavenly Father?
- Would you say that you’re experiencing intimacy with God? Why/why not?
- How would you describe your worship in terms of lifestyle?
- In what ways do you sense the Father trying to draw you deeper into Him?
- What will you do today to align yourself / develop intimacy with Him?
SCRIPTURES FOR FURTHER STUDY:
- John 14:15-26
- Luke 15:11-32
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18