I remember praying with a couple of much older ladies some years ago. The theme of our prayers was a cry for intimacy…with the Lord and with each other. I have to admit I had but a vague idea of what it actually meant and to be very frank, as a person who struggled with severe trust issues, baring my soul to anyone, including God, was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. They tried very hard to help me contextualise the idea but it was a concept that eluded me for a long time. If I couldn’t even figure out how to navigate real relationship with people I could see and touch, how much harder to be intimate with a Person whose thoughts are so much higher than my thoughts.
Through the years I have heard some witty and cute sayings as people tried to explain the idea of intimacy. It’s been described to me as “into-me-you-see”, calling for transparency and as “into-messy”, calling on me to get comfortable with the mess that defines the human experience. I have heard it described as familiarity, knowing and being known and I’ve been witness to many desperate prayers, born out of a deep longing to be closer to the Lord.
This morning, however I came across a quote by Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist, shared by a friend on Facebook. May I take a moment to thank the Lord for social media…how privileged are we to have access to so much wisdom and encouragement from people we will never have the opportunity to learn from otherwise…but before I digress too much, back to the quote…
“True intimacy is not the absence of privacy or the absence of boundaries or the absence of a separate self—in fact, we need to have our own spaces and limits and identity. True intimacy is the absence of secrets.”
The quality of your belonging will be inversely correlated with the size of your secrets. The more secrets you harbour about who you are, what you’ve done, why you’ve done it, how you’re wounded, and so on, the more difficult it will be to cultivate authentic connection and love.”
So much of what is ailing true intimacy between people and between us and the Father, I believe is The Fear of Being Found Out. How many times did the Lord have to ask a child “where are you?” or “what are you doing here?”. Adam and Eve, Elijah, Nicky…
We’re still terrified of being found wanting, so we hide our shame, not under scratchy fig leaves, but behind religiosity, with denial or busyness, by spiritualising our issues or by medicating our pain and shame away. But God knows everything anyway, I hear you say. He knows my heart anyway…
All true, but somewhat counterproductive, if true intimacy with the Lord is what we really desire.
As I am writing this, a picture comes to mind. I see a patient consulting with a physician. The doctor’s trained eye has already picked up certain visual clues, but he still needs the patient to explain all of the symptoms. The Lord has already seen what’s wrong, but He needs us to recognise the truth, that there’s a disease that’s eating at us that needs healing. For people who have been so conditioned to play nice, it’s incredibly difficult to look someone in the eye and say “I am really mad at you” or “you have really hurt me”. How much more when the Person who has angered you is the God of the Universe. So we do what we do best. We minimise, we justify, we spiritualise, we gaslight. We use words like “disappointed” or “frustrated” or “upset”, rather than the ugly words like “angry” or “offended” etc.
What every heart longs for, even if we lack the language to describe it, is authentic connection and unconditional love. We crave it in our intimate relationships, we desire it in our church communities and we long for it in our relationship with the Lord. It is an innate ability for the human soul to sense in-authenticity and any time we sense a secret is being kept, we feel the need for caution. How much more when we are the keeper of the secret?
Through the years I have learned that my relationship with the Lord can only be meaningful and sincere when I am able to sit with Him and confess that a choice He has made for me does not have my approval, that I am angry and offended, that His timing sucks or that He did not meet my expectation in a certain area. The Lord has never been offended by my emotions, but He is never pleased with, or honoured by my attempts to hide them.
James 5:16 reads:
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. (AMP)
This scripture sums it up for me. The Lord doesn’t call us into intimacy with Himself, or each other, for the sake of having a good time or merely getting along. He does it so that we can find healing and restoration for ourselves, for our communities and for the body of Christ with one single purpose in mind…that we would go into all the world (or our local neighbourhood), making disciples, teaching the commands of Christ, baptising them…
We can only be effective and accomplish this high calling when we are covered in prayer by people who know our strengths and our weaknesses and when operate in the power and glory of the Lord.
As I wind this up, I guess what I want to accomplish is to challenge you to let your guard down with the Father, and maybe later, with each other. Make a cup of tea, curl up in a chair somewhere and pour out your heart to Him. Tell Him about the disappointments, the pain, the uncertainties. If this isn’t something you have ever done before, be gracious to yourself but start somewhere and trust Holy Spirit to lead you on from there.
Father, our heart’s desire is to know You more and to have an authentic, deep, loving relationship with You, with Jesus, with Holy Spirit, with our brothers and sisters and with ourselves. I ask for grace and mercy to confront what we need to confront, to let Jesus heal what needs to be healed and to confess what has been concealed in our hearts for far too long. It’s Your goodness that drew us to You, it’s Your mercy that saved us through Jesus and it’s Your faithfulness that will keep us. Amen.