Achieving Intimacy with God
I know I complain about the state of the Church too much, and, while I am convicted in my beliefs and concerns, I don’t just want to diagnose the problems; I want to help find solutions to the problems as well. While there are surely multiple things that need to change in the Church, I have found that the thing that best aids Christian revival is a sense of intimacy with the Creator of the world. Since we were created with the ability to be intimate, it comes as no surprise that we might live our lives in intimacy with the great Redeemer—the our Brother, our Savior and our King: Jesus Christ. The issue that many Christians have struggled with is understanding how Christ calls us to be intimate with Him. I’ve found the Church Fathers to be exceptional in their lessons on such matters and have taken away several things that have helped me understand divine intimacy in a special way.
The most fantastic part of experiencing our humanity is, one might say, the incredible amount of closeness we are able to share with one another. It is a wonderfully unique gift that God has placed in humanity. We are capable of having dear and irreplaceable friends; and we are able to mourn the deaths of those who we love—both in thought and word. These thoughts and voices are one way that God allows us to be intimate with Him. Our ability to speak and rationalize; to present our emotions and fears in a clear and understandable way; to express our innermost thoughts to the ones we trust—are all things that are special to our human-ness. The fact that you are reading this article at this very moment is a testament to the intimacy that we can share through written symbols as well. In our faith, we are blessed with the written Word of God, the thoughts of the Church fathers, messages of encouragement from prophets, priests, and brothers in Christ. Our rationality and language is a shared attribute with God, and we can use it for good or evil. He is able to reveal Himself to us in a perfect way because He has made us to know what He reveals.
God also shows us His love by giving us good gifts. It’s not always the gift we hope for or expect, but it is always the thing we need most. His gift of life to us through His death, and His gift of hope through His resurrection are the things that have been the Church’s bulwark since the beginning. Those who are faithful to God will recognize the gifts and understand that no matter how difficult life becomes, the relationship they have with Christ is more than enough to make it through—even through death. While we can love and appreciate the things that God allows us to have, God’s greatest gift for us is Himself. In every good marriage, the greatest wedding gifts are given by the spouses— the gift of themselves to each other. This is what Christ has done for His bride, and what the Church does for Christ. The incredible intimacy of marriage is made perfect in this holy union, a gift of undying love from the Creator to His unique creation. It is in this marriage that we can understand the glory of Christ.
Finally, while we can find joy in intimacy with God, we will only find this joy in our submission to the will of Christ. This is perhaps the hardest concept of divine intimacy for us to grapple with. In our world people are often told to “be yourself,” and to “follow your heart,” but if we continue to justify our sinful natures and follow the selfish desires of our hearts, we miss out on the beautiful connection that Christ desires with us. He is our bridegroom, the perfect lover of our soul, but we are constantly battling Him with our own ideas and wills. We presume the will of God, both consciously and subconsciously, but this is not our job. Our job is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and to submit ourselves to Him in prayer and contemplation. Then, our presumptions will decrease and our knowledge will increase. Our hearts will be softened, and our spirits will be humbled. You will know when you have started experiencing intimacy with God because you will be surprised at what you have become, and yet believe it all the more.
Intimacy with God is a good and holy thing. It leads us, the prodigal sons, to repentance; it fills us with the fruits of the spirit; it softens our hearts; and it nurtures our souls. If we can understand how He has created us, how He has blessed us (and continues to bless us), and How we can submit our wills to His, we will discover that our relationship with Him grows deeper. If we want to see the Church strengthened, then we must learn to let go of the earthly drama, and seek intimacy with God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls.
“He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on Earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflection of the word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise.” ~St. Athanasius
“God is not accustomed to refusing a good gift to those who ask for one. Since He is good, and especially to those who are faithful to Him, let us hold fast to him with all our soul, our heart, our strength, and so enjoy His light and see his glory and possess the grace of supernatural joy.” ~St. Ambrose
“They deceive themselves who believe that union with God consists in ecstasies or raptures, and in the enjoyment of Him. For it consists in nothing except the surrender and subjection of our will with our thoughts, words and actions to the will of God.” ~St. Teresa of Avila