Social isolation should not lead to spiritual isolation. On the contrary, our social isolation may serve as a catalyst for renewed spiritual intimacy—as long as we are not wasting our social standstill by binging on Netflix or ferreting social media for the latest apocalyptic scenario.
Spiritual intimacy is about familiarity; it involves knowing and being known by God. When intimacy with God is lacking it is not because He is less familiar with us but because we are less familiar with Him. Our minds are occupied with everything but God. We are far more familiar with trends than with the character of God.
Such lack of familiarity does not mean we now know less about God but that we are no longer knowing God. Cognitively, we know the same stuff about God. But, in matters of the affections, we know nothing of God. It’s the difference between reading a book about Japanese culture and immersing oneself in it.
Jesus said, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you sent—Jesus Christ.” Jesus seems to be drawing on an Old Testament euphemism. For a husband and a wife to know each other meant that they experienced sexual intimacy with each other. They became quite familiar with one another in body and in soul. This is the language Jesus uses in reference to eternal life because intimate familiarity with God is our deepest craving. Sex is the closest analogy for it.
Perhaps a way God works this pandemic together for our good is by forcing us to slow down long enough to realize how unfamiliar our hearts have become with Him. Knowledge about God is not the same as knowledge of God.
God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive and thorough. He knows us better than we know our selves. And yet He still extends an everlasting invitation for us to know Him. He beckons us to know Him.
Spiritual intimacy is also about proximity; it involves being present with God. Of course, God is everywhere present. David describes this dynamic beautifully: “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (vv. 7-8). No matter where one goes, God is present. Since God is everywhere present, nothing is hidden from His sight. He saw us as He attended to us in our mother’s wombs.
Not only is God in all places, He is in all places at all times: past, presence, and future. God is eternal. He transcends all time and space. In the mind of God, every moment simultaneously is. Thus, David can say, “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began” (v. 16). No wonder he declared God’s thoughts as vast and more numerous than the grains of sand!
Being with God is possible in all places and at all times. Our current social isolation is no exception. Since we can’t be anywhere else at this time, let’s be with God for He is with us.
Spiritual intimacy is also about transformation. Psalm 139 is a beautiful passage and is often quoted in part. Meditations on this psalm usually exclude verses 19-22 where David expresses his hatred of those who hate God. This portion of the psalm doesn’t read well embroidered on a pillow! What are we to make of it?
Well, relationships, especially intimate ones, are transformative. After venting his hatred, David then prays, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” He opens himself to being corrected and readjusted by God. Perhaps God doesn’t endorse David’s expressed mentality. Perhaps God is working within the context of spiritual intimacy with David to transform David.
Like David, we are all works in process. Transformation doesn’t happen apart from spiritual intimacy with God. It doesn’t happen apart from being honest with God about thought processes and emotive responses. Nor does it happen unless we are open to being searched out, tested, corrected, and redirected by God. Jesus would certainly do that for all God’s people by saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a).
Spiritual intimacy with God is transformative. Let’s take advantage of our current season to reacquaint ourselves with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves, and come out of this season looking more like Jesus than we did before it all started.
This post along with other resources are also available at hallowschurch.org