Let’s talk about deep, satsifying intimacy with God. I really hope you read this and your heart beats a little quicker. I hope you feel butterflies in your stomach. I hope you feel wildly loved, filled with a warmth and joy and pleasure and ecstasy and delight and happiness and smiling and oh…words fail me here. Because this is my favorite thing in the world and I really want to share this right now.
The Bible uses a number of relationships to describe our relationship with God. I’m going to steal some thoughts from my mentor John Eldredge, because I think he is brilliant in this. (I cannot recommend The Journey of Desire and The Sacred Romance by John enough.) Let’s walk through intimacy with God together:
- At the most basic level we are simply human clay. The Potter will form us as he wishes and we are then sat on a shelf for his purposes (Romans 9:21). There’s not much relationship. It’s a simple functional interaction.
- At the next basic level, we are servants. This is Luke 17:10, ‘I have only done my duty.’ Where God is the Lord and we are his servants. This is Proverbs 9:10, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (emphasis added)
- Going up the totem poll we find that we are not just servants, but we are also children. God is our Father and we are his children. This is Galatians 3:26, ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.’ This is a fantastically intimate place to be and many, many wonderful brothers and sisters of Christ live here. But there’s more…
- Friendship is something that can go past the depth and intimacy of a Father-Child relationship. You tell your friends things that you might never tell your parents. Maybe something about a spouse or a boyfriend/girlfriend? How that trip last week really went? How you still miss that one person in your life? Intimate details of your life. Friends are more equal than parent-child. You get each other in ways parents don’t. And that’s just what Jesus calls us in John 15:15, ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’ (Note that he takes down the servant relationship here and replaces it with friendship). So we can deepen our intimacy with God in ways that we never could as children, or servants. He is our Friend. But there’s one more place he wants to go with us…
- Lovers. This may shock you, it did me 14 years ago, but God wants you to be his lover. It’s why God actually made marriage and sexuality in the first place, to show us physically what he really desires with us spiritually. Ephesians 5:30-32, ‘For we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.’
When I first read this in John Eldredge’s Journey of Desire 14 years ago I was put off, but at the same time something deep down inside me jumped at the possibility. I was nervous, thinking, “Is this ok? Can I do this?” What I really wanted in my life was a Lover who I could adore completely (worship) all the time and be with all the time, pouring myself into my Beloved, emptying myself out in every way, and my cup overflowing in return. I want union. I crave it. I need it. It’s my nature. I think God feels the same way. Look at how explicitly God uses sexual language to describe his relationship with Israel. As John frequently describes it, these verses read like a Husband and wife screaming at each other through the apartment walls.
I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown…Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. – Jeremiah 2:2, 20
Because you have forgotten me and trusted in false gods. I will pull up your skirts over your face that your shame may be seen— your adulteries and lustful neighings, your shameless prostitution! – Jeremiah 13:25-27
Oholah is Samaria and Oholibah is Jerusalem. Oholah started whoring while she was still mine. She lusted after Assyrians as lovers: military men smartly uniformed in blue, ambassadors and governors, good-looking young men mounted on fine horses. Her lust was unrestrained. She was a whore to the Assyrian elite. She compounded her filth with the idols of those to whom she gave herself in lust. She never slowed down. The whoring she began while young in Egypt she continued, sleeping with men who played with her breasts and spent their lust on her…I turned my back on her [Oholibah] just as I had on her sister [Oholah]. But that didn’t slow her down. She went at her whoring harder than ever. She remembered when she was young, just starting out as a whore in Egypt. That whetted her appetite for more virile, vulgar, and violent lovers—stallions obsessive in their lust. She longed for the sexual prowess of her youth back in Egypt, where her firm young breasts were caressed and fondled. Ezekiel 23:5-8, 18-21
There’s an intimacy between us and God that is not at the level of friends, that is not at the level of parents and children or master and slave. No, this is the fury of a Lover who has been burned. He has come home to his house only to find his wife in bed with another. His fury is flaming and comes crashing down like a tsunami; releasing his hurt and anger upon his once beloved.
Love doesn’t just end there. Because our Lover’s heart is not in question. He is full of grace. After the fight is done. The holes have been punched in the wall, the glass cup on the sink smashed into pieces against the floor, the screaming has ended, God says, No, I’m going to pursue her.
Let’s pick it up in Hosea 2,
Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them…Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’ Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my Husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my Master.’ Hosea 2:6-7, 14-16
That day came when Jesus arrived and proposed to us. In the day of Jesus, a suitor would make his proposal to his bride and then he would go and prepare a place for his bride and then bring her to live with himself. Jesus comes, calls himself our Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15) and then goes to prepare a place for us and will one day bring us home to live with him (John 14:2-4). This is Revelation 19:7-9. All those deep longings you have for a spouse, for a person to love you unconditionally, passionately, madly…those deep longings are shadows of a flame burning day and night for you. He is absolutely wild about you. Not just as a Father, or a Friend, but as a Lover.
If that’s unsettling at all to you at first, as it was to me, just play with it in your heart. What you have daydreamed about with your crushes, about your past/current/future relationships, all those things you want in a human lover, he has put in your heart to draw you to himself. He’s madly in love with you, you have captivated his heart. He loves you so much, being so devoted to rescuing you, that he sent his Son to die for you. You are worth not just the universe to God, but you are worth his own death, his own crucifixion. You are a glorious, wonderful person that has the unfettered love and devotion of a Lover who desires you above all others.
That is your identity.
If this is something that you want to cultivate with God, but are just starting out with, I want to share a couple thoughts from other lovers of Jesus that I got from Ann Voskamp’s blog…
J. Vernon McGee, ‘When a man and a woman give themselves to each other in an act of marital love, they can know the love of Christ as no one else can know it.’
John Calvin, ‘The strong affection which a husband ought to cherish towards his wife is exemplified by Christ, and an instance of that unity which belongs to marriage is declared to exist between himself and the Church. This is a remarkable passage on the mysterious intercourse which we have with Christ.’
Charles Spurgeon, ‘…a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ. And you who have once had the kisses of His mouth, though you remember the past kisses with delight, yet want daily fresh tokens of His love.”
John Piper, ‘Hosea 2:14-23 is one of the tenderest and most beautiful love songs in the Bible…In the context of a broken marriage being renewed with the fresh vows of betrothal must not the words, “and you shall know the Lord,” (v. 20) mean,you shall enjoy an intimacy like that of sexual intercourse.’
And Peter Kreeft’s writings, whom John quotes,
‘This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp’
Oh I could talk about this all day long. The love affair with Jesus.
So, my dear friends, how do you feel about this? You are dearly cherished and loved like crazy from a Lover whom has desired to be called yours from the foundations of the world.
Hope you have a wonderful day!