Why and How do we experience intimacy with God?

What is intimacy? What does it mean to be “intimate,” which is the adjective, or, description of that word? Well, to be intimate means any or all of the following definitions, according to www.freedictionary.com: “Intimate” [adj.]: (1). Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity; (2). Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature, eg. intimate prayers; (3). Essential, innermost, eg. the intimate structure of matter; (4). Marked by informality and privacy, eg. an intimate nightclub; (5). Very personal, private, eg. an intimate letter. Or, (6) Of, or involved in, a sexual relationship. All of these definitions point to one essential feature of intimacy, which is the highest degree of closeness or relationship that is possible between a pair of people, or of things. Nowadays, when we talk about intimacy, the very close relationship that is involved mostly applies to human beings. Such “closeness” can be either physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, attraction that occurs between two individuals. And the more intimate two people are, the more “private” is their relationship – which often means allowing no one else to “get in-between” them, so to speak – as if the pair exists only for each other and for themselves.
In many literature, when one talks about intimacy, it is applied almost exclusively in a physical and emotional sense, as when two lovers like Romeo and Juliet are in an intimate relationship. Rarely is it applied in an intellectual or mental sense, as for example declaring that Albert Einstein is intimately linked to the General Theory of Relativity in physics, or that  William Shakespeare’s works are intimately bonded to the Elizabethan period of his time. Much less so in the moral or spiritual sphere – except for the God of the Bible. Buddhists talk about the Prime Moral Principle that undergirds the universe through its system of ethical laws. Muslims point to an inscrutable, unknowable Allah to whom each and everyone must turn to for mercy. And Hindus worship innumerable gods often in the form of animals. And of course we have the communists, the vast majority of whom are godless humanists while a few worship their ancestors. Lastly we have the animists who consider nature as their god, like the Shintoists and our own lumads. For us Christians it’s different: the difference lies in the personal relationship which we have with the God of the Bible.
And so it is not surprising then that Joseph Stowell, a contributor of the Radio Bible Ministries (publishers of “Our Daily Bread” devotional), wrote about how people can experience intimacy with God, in his book “Radical Reliance: Living 24/7 With God at the Center” (2006). The fact is, God wants to have intimate relationship with us in the highest spiritual sense of the word, for God is love. First John 14:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And who among us does not know what love is? It is said that even the greatest criminal in the world know what is was to be cared for by a nursing mother, an duty nurse or medical attendant, or even an overworked doctor when he or she was still an infant or a little child. And God is steadfast, or, faithful, or permanent, in His love for us. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, O God!”- so goes a well-loved hymn. Hence it is never a question of God wanting to be intimate with us, but what about us, His creatures? Do we see ourselves as in an intimate relationship with our Creator? As God Almighty, He can always command us to love Him in return. But God does not want mindless robots. God gave us the power to choose – a free will! God wants us to love Him willingly, of our own volition. A long time ago, God said to His people: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Dt 6:4,5). Centuries later, Jesus repeated the same words to the teachers of the law, adding, “Love your neighbour as yourself, for there is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12: 30, 31).
It is therefore very clear that intimacy with our God is what He wants of His children. What can we expect from being God’s “intimates?” In moments of intimacy with God, do we expect Him to give us what Pastor Stowell calls “a blast of the Spirit that will cover you 24 hours for the rest of your life with an eternal season of ecstatic praise?” Just like some of us who corner our closest friends in the privacy of our room in order to get their full and undivided attention while enduring our ceaseless prattle and gay abandon, just because she is our close friend? No friend will ever do that and so will God. Even if He wanted to, He will not, for your sake. And so, we are bound to get disappointed with a supposedly intimate friend who cannot or is unwilling to grant us a huge shot of a spiritual “high” whenever we feel like it. And our disappointment leads to discouragement, and discouragement to despair. And then we say: “God let me down,” and then proceed to blame God for all the bad luck we have encountered. Isn’t that familiar? Are some of us like that? In the next installation, we will take up some of the misconceptions about intimacy with God. God bless you.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish!” – Proverbs 29:18b (KJV)