This week I returned from a leadership conference, and I could have left before it begun. There is nowhere I could park my disappointment; nor would I even say I was disappointed. Before I went to register and sign-in, I spent some time with one of my favourite men in the whole world. He’s like a father to me but because we live in different countries, I see him two or three times a year. While he was speaking, he said something which made my world stop. He said,
“The Presence [of God] is the invitation to intimacy.”
I spent 12 hours driving and had been in Redding for less than 24 hours but I knew I could have driven home at that moment because I had just received everything I needed to hear. Do you have seasons where God is teaching you something but you don’t have language to express what it is, and then when you finally hear the language, the idea becomes fully formed in you? That’s what happened for me in that moment.
I am in a culture where I hear speakers, preachers, and others talk about the Presence – needing the Presence, developing the Presence, staying in the Presence, hosting the Presence. I’ve also been writing, and speaking about it. It’s ‘all Presence, all the time’ but as of late, I’ve been feeling like there’s something more but I didn’t know what it was, or how to get it.
The Presence [of God] is the best thing I’ve ever known. (Can I even call such a wonderful experiential awareness a thing?) I didn’t grow up in a church culture where the presence of God could be tangibly felt or experienced but I’ve learned a better way. I love everything about the Presence because when God is present, then all He is, is present also – Healer, Comforter, Peacemaker, Provider, Father; the impossible becomes possible.
In that season a few short years ago, I was learning something new about God which was (and still is) revolutionary. It wasn’t for a few years before I started to think being in the same room with Jesus isn’t good enough. I want more. The Presence is not the goal; it’s an invitation to true intimacy.
Simply being in the Presence doesn’t change you; it may change your circumstances (sick to healed, mourning to joy, hunger to filled) but we’re changed in the context of relationship. When Jesus walked the earth, many gathered to be in his presence and he healed everyone who came to him but where were the 5,000 and 4,000 people he fed when the crowd was calling for his crucifixion? At the time of his greatest sacrifice, only a handful remained (and even they didn’t do a great job of staying close). The ones who remained were the ones who were in true relationship with him.
If Christianity is a relationship and not a religion then I want intimacy. I want to be vulnerable and transparent but true intimacy flows both ways. It requires for my God to be intimate with me as well. Could anyone deny there are intimacy problems if a one half of a married couple refuses to get naked? Or if one person is sharing her secrets, and the other one only listens but doesn’t contribute his own secrets?
Intimacy with God is still a mystery to me. It’s hard for me to understand how God, the one who is complete in himself, can be vulnerable. He does [be vulnerable] otherwise what is his invitation for? Is it for us to pour out our body, soul and spirit to a counsellor and not to expect we will be called upon to reciprocate? God gave us the model of a marital relationship. Marriage isn’t just a nice idea for humans who are too needy to do life on their own. Marriage is a heavenly concept, not an earthly one. The Father is looking for a bride for his Son.
There is an increased understanding of the concept of sonship but there is a whole other level of intimacy and relationship that can only be found between a bride and a bridegroom. My Boy may have a key to our house and can eat what he wants from the fridge; he will inherit everything we’ve built and acquired but I share way more with my Man than I do with my Boy.
For two and a half days, I was immersed in an environment where his Presence saturates everything and everyone but I was wrecked, not by his Presence but because it was an invitation to greater intimacy. I was part of a crowd of 800+ and still I was intensely lonely for Jesus and my heart [literally] ached for him. Finally, during the last session I excused myself from the crowd and went to be with Jesus on my own. I took my journal, anticipating a conversation worth remembering, but I didn’t even crack it open. I met with Jesus and he met with me, and we just were. And it was the best session of the whole conference.
Being in the same room isn’t enough; we need to grab hold of the opportunity to enter into relationship with him. When Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water, he would have passed them by if they hadn’t called out to him. How often has Jesus been by, and we haven’t responded? I’m resolved never to pass an opportunity for intimacy.
I’m saying yes. Are you?