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You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with  Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere during the the day, after the music fades and our cars leave the parking lot, pieces of the message tend to fade, too; somewhere along the way, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. 

So follow along each Monday as we seek to integrate that Truth into our daily lives; leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Monday After: Sunday, Jan. 3, 2013: Intimacy with God

By Ted Brooks

Intimacy is a beautiful word that is at once both very appealing and incredibly frightening.  As humans we are wired with a deep need for intimacy.  Each of us truly wants to know and be known by others.  We see this in children as they run to their parents with arms wide open.  They look with wide-eyed wonder at the world around them and share their unfiltered thoughts and dreams. God almost always refers to us as His children, and I believe it is because it is exactly that type of relationship He seeks with us.

Unfortunately, the world quickly teaches us that this sort of openness is not acceptable.  While part of being an adult is to learn appropriate interactions and to know when something is “TMI” (too much information), it is sad that this often results in us burying that need for intimacy.  We learn that intimacy can be dangerous and can lead to deep emotional pain when we are rejected or even ridiculed by others.  In time we bury the need for intimacy behind a protective mask, rarely letting others see our true selves.

While this may be a necessary mechanism in our social interactions, it is very harmful to us spiritually.  We often treat God in the same way, putting on a mask to hide our true nature.  We delude ourselves into thinking that our mask of religious piety somehow fools God.  We are like Adam and Eve in the garden, hiding from God because we are afraid to be naked before Him.  How foolish of us to think we can hide from our Creator, the God who knows every cell in our body and every thought in our mind.

As Joe spoke of our feelings of worthlessness a picture came into my mind of some children we worked with in Mexico.  They lived in extreme poverty, were abused and neglected.  Their clothes and bodies were filthy, caked with dirt and literally crawling with bugs.  As we played games and did crafts with the other children, they sat huddled off to the side.  We tried to engage them in a game of partner tag, but when we reached out to them they flinched and pulled away as if our touch was painful.  It took almost the entire week before they could get past their fear and feelings of shame enough to participate with us.

Each of us knows that behind our mask we are filthy before God.  When we finally realize that God sees behind the mask, our next reaction is often to hide in shame.  But God already knows who we are and still wants to know us.  This is contrary to everything that experience teaches us and the vast majority of people are never willing to accept that God truly wants to have an intimate relationship with them. Instead they hide behind their masks, pretending to be something we all know to be false, or they hide in shame, unwilling to accept His touch.

The irony is that, if we accept God’s offer of intimacy, we will become clean in His eyes.  Not only does God see through our mask, but He also sees through our dirt and shame.   As Christians, when God looks at us, He sees the beautiful children He created and has called to be a part of His family.  He truly desires for us to run into His arms and tell Him all our thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears.  How incredibly freeing to have someone see all of our faults and still desire to be with us.

If we are fortunate, we get a glimpse of this intimacy in our relations with a spouse or a very close friend.  If you have experienced that type of relationship you know how much you value that person and how good it feels to be with them.  Yet even in the closest most intimate relationships, there are still moments when we put on the mask, afraid to tell that person our true thoughts or reveal our true nature.   It is only with God that we can experience a relationship of complete intimacy.

As much as we desire this, it is even more frightening to think that we might have this relationship with the God of the universe.  This is the part that is hardest for me to comprehend and accept.  I have only the slightest inkling of the true nature and power of God but, even with my finite understanding, I am truly terrified at the idea that God reaches out and wants to know me.  The more I know of God the more I am cognizant of my complete unworthiness.  Like those children in Mexico, I, too, cower in fear when He reaches out to touch me.  My mind simply cannot accept that God would want anything to do with me, and yet, over and over again, God reaches out and tells us in His word that He does desire a deep intimate relationship with us.

This is the struggle of the Christian life.  To be willing to put aside our mask, to know that we stand naked and filthy and ashamed before a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient God and yet to be willing to accept His embrace.  To allow God to wrap us in His comforting arms, to allow Him to clean away all the dirt of our lives and reveal to us the beautiful creation that He has made.  How wonderful it would be to look at our image mirrored in God’s eyes and see ourselves as He does, holy and perfect through Christ’s sacrifice.

That is the deepest desire of all our hearts, but it is impossible for us to accept that this could be true.  I do not believe that we can ever achieve that level of intimacy here on earth.  We cannot achieve what we cannot even begin to imagine.  God knows this too, yet He continues to reach out to us, to wrap His arms around us every day.  Each day He gives us new opportunities to grow in Him, knowing that we will fail, yet still reaching out to us and loving us.  This is the greatest mystery of God, that, while we are yet sinners, He desires an intimate relationship with us so much that He sacrificed His only Son.  I believe that it took a sacrifice of this magnitude for us to even begin to see how much God desires a relationship with Him.  It is only by accepting Christ’s death on the cross that we have the power to begin to open ourselves to God.  It is that thought, that belief, that allows us to even dare to hope that God would desire to be with us.  Satan tells us that God could never want to be with someone like us, but God allowed His son to hang on a cross as the ultimate proof of His love for us, that even in agonizing death His arms are wide open to us.

Satan is right, we are unworthy of an intimate relationship with God.  But it is equally true that God has reached out to us and we must not reject His sacrifice.  I pray that God will give me the courage to continue to seek intimacy with Him.  That I will have the strength to accept that I will fail Him every day, but the faith to believe that each day He will open His arms again.

Ted Brooks is husband to Gretchen and dad to some wonderful kids. He works as a tech director for a local school district.

One thought on “The Monday After: Intimacy with God {Ted}

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