I’m supposed to write an Honors paper on St. Bonaventure and the Medieval period in general in respect to the idea of intimacy with God, and I’ve spent several unsuccessful hours staring at a blank page, trying to make sense of all my disconnected ideas on the topic. So to feel like I’m actually doing something productive, and maybe to get the juices flowing, I’m just gonna start spilling my thoughts on just that last bit, intimacy with God, right here, and there’s nothing you can do about it! (Sorry, I get sassy when I feel blocked)
Just think about that phrase a moment: “intimacy with God”. Break it down a bit, look just at that first word: “intimacy”. It’s a deliciously loaded word, really; there are so many possible interpretations and connotations. But just look at it as it is, plain and simple. What’s meant by intimacy?
Intimacy is a kind of closeness of persons, a connection that implies a great amount of depth and personal contact. It’s a kind of state, for lack of a better word at the present moment, that is properly paired with well-ordered love, a kind of expression (there’s the word!) of a love which is true and good and deep and personal.
Ok good, definition of terms is out of the way, now let’s look at how things are. Think of a relationship you have that’s intimate. It probably involves the person knowing a great deal about you, but more importantly that person, to an extent, knows you as a person. There’s a connection between the two of you that’s expressed in affectionate ways, whatever that means for your particular relationship, and that closeness, that affection, that personal knowledge–that intimacy–speaks to a deep, loving encounter between persons.
So we’ve got intimacy nailed down and, I hope, separated it from being exclusively connected with sex (though there’s no denying it’s part of sex; I mean, c’mon, when you and your spouse have intercourse, it’s hard not to be close and affectionate). But here’s the crazy thing: that intimacy you have (or will have) with your spouse is nothing compared to the intimacy we are all made for with God.
WHOA. BACK THE TRUCK UP.
That intimacy you have (or will have) with your spouse is nothing compared to the intimacy we are all made for with God.
Think of your favorite love song. Now imagine God singing it to you, except with ten billion times more meaning behind it. Basically, we’ve been created and redeemed by the most hopeless romantic ever to exist. Except He’s not all blather; He continually shows His love, through the blessings we have every day, through our very existence, and through the gift of Himself in the Sacraments. Think about it: God, throughout the Old Testament, was basically dating humanity, until Christ came and took on our very flesh, and His love is so powerful that He died for us. GOD DIED FOR US, PEOPLE. If that’s not ridiculously intimate love, I don’t know what is!!!!!!!
And yet, how many of us act like it’s true? I’m willing to bet most people have read through this with a bit of a cringe, making up excuses like, “Well, he means well, he just doesn’t know what he’s really implying,” or “This sounds so nice, if only it were true,” or “Please, spare me the rainbows and butterflies!” First of all, please show me where I said anything like “rainbows and butterflies”. Second of all, explain to me why something that feels good to hear must automatically be shallow.
Here’s why it sounds so good: it’s what we were made for. St. Augustine realized that when he said, “You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God made our very selves, and knows us inside and out. He literally comes to dwell inside us through the Sacraments. He desires for us to be united with Him in the love of the Trinity eternally in Heaven. What part of that isn’t intimate? We ought to have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, and He is constantly romancing our hearts through everything He does in our lives, even the things that don’t seem quite so positive.
But here’s why it sounds so off: intimacy is dangerous. To seek intimacy at all is to allow oneself to be vulnerable, and to seek intimacy with God Himself is to be completely and utterly vulnerable, opening up and giving up our very being to the one who made us, who holds us in existence, who has seen every tear we’ve cried, heard every laugh we’ve let out, watched every time we’ve fallen into sin or fallen in pain. It means opening your heart to God’s all-seeing eyes, and letting Him work in your heart, letting Him touch you deeper and closer than any person ever possibly could, and trusting that whatever He does is done out of perfect love.
But I ask you, isn’t it worth it? Isn’t it worth it to have a personal, close relationship with God?
If you have yet to have a personal encounter with the Lord, know that it can come in many ways, at any time God chooses, if you’re open. If there were only one possible way, it wouldn’t be a very personal encounter at all, would it? Just pray for an opening of your mind and heart to that idea of intimacy with God, and especially ask for the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the bringer of this grace. When you’re ready, don’t waste a second; ask God for a personal encounter with Him, for Him to touch you in a deep , intimate way, to begin a deeper, more personal relationship with Him. And know that He truly desires it, and is waiting, just waiting expectantly, and constantly calling out to you in daily life, for you to have that relationship with Him.
One or two last things: intimate doesn’t always mean emotionally gratifying. If God chooses not to stir you in a way that activates the affective part of you, don’t freak out; He’s doing something else in your heart, something just as beautiful, and even if you don’t see the fruits of it, trust that they’re there.
And last, just a little story: One time, before one of my classes started, I wrote these words on the whiteboard: I see your face in every sunrise,/ the colors of the morning are inside your eyes./ The world awakens to the light of the day./ I look up to the sky and say,/ You’re beautiful. Now I suppose I should have seen it coming, especially since it wasn’t too long before Valentine’s Day, but everyone who walked in kind of chuckled at what I had written and asked why someone had written a love poem on the board before Valentine’s Day had even come. Thing is, those words are the first verse to my favorite Praise and Worship song, “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham. It’s how our relationship with God really ought to be, especially considering the entire song is grounded in both recognition of God in creation and salvation history. Yet even at my school, which is so passionately Catholic, it went unrecognized as an expression of the soul to God. I’m going to let the song speak for itself, and my fervent prayer tonight is that everyone come to look at God with incredible love and affection and feel His intimate, personal touch in their lives.