What does it mean to have intimacy with God, or anyone else for that matter? It’s a question that keeps coming back to me. Just a short time after being baptized, I was told to spend time with God on a daily basis through Bible reading and prayer in order to develop an “intimate” relationship with Him. I remember the early days of my discipleship trying to learn how to pray. I had a voracious appetite for the scriptures. That was not an issue for me. But prayer… I was constantly looking for a new formula, a new teaching. Somebody show me how to do it right! I want to please God! I want to connect with Him! I want to feel close! If I’m honest, I think studying the scriptures have always been easier for me, because knowledge brings a sense of control. Even early in my journey with Christ I loved sharing the scriptures with others. I loved teaching. Although I was scared to death of speaking publically, I loved preaching. I have no doubt God gave me a gift to be used, and it made me feel loved, and useful. Prayer on the other hand, didn’t make me feel in control, or even powerful. It made me feel weak. I have prayed the “Lord’s prayer.” I have used acrostics. I have written out my prayers. I have “prayer walked.” I have tried every methodology I know, in a desire to gain intimacy with God. There is no “succeeding” in prayer anymore than there is success in a conversation. You don’t win because you are smarter, or doing circumstantially better than the person with whom you converse. The only real success in a conversation is being totally present. Knowing, and being known. All of you. Failure. Anger. Unforgiveness. Celebration. Joy. That is intimacy.
Only recently have I learned it is not a matter of discipline, but desperation that causes me to pray intimately. Intimacy happens when I bare my soul. I can’t perform intimacy. Intimacy happens when I stop performing. While I may have an intellectual understanding of this, actually doing it is difficult for me. When I am alone with God, I still feel like I am standing before my earthly father for whom nothing was ever good enough. I have chased his approval my entire life. I could not have intimacy with him, because every flaw that was exposed brought condemnation. Not necessarily hatred, but condescension and disappointment. I don’t imagine God is “mad” at me, just disappointed. So prayer becomes a perpetual apology. There is no intimacy. There is only shame.
My most intimate times of communion with God have not been planned, but needed, in total desperation. Naked before Him, all pretenses are stripped away, and I am able to trust Him as a different kind of Father. He is the one who says only those who are sick need the great physician. The exposure of my sickness does not repel Him, it DRAWS Him! The difficulty is that often the areas most in need of healing are most painful to expose. I risk pain, and embarrassment. I am vulnerable. I must relinquish control as I invite Him to bring the scalpel closer to my infected wound. He did not come for people who are in control. Not because he doesn’t desire them, but because they don’t desire Him. We come before our Father, not with a covering of achievements, but the robe of Christ Himself! Imagine the confidence with which we can live, when coming face to face with our Father, He says, “you are my child with whom I am well pleased!” Seldom do my emotions match the reality, but it is reality nonetheless! Father, help us come before you completely present so we can know you fully, and be fully known!