Monday, December 22, 2008

Hooking up with Jesus

Coming off a comment by Les on the last post, I began thinking about intimacy as it pertains to faith.

Intimacy is a polarized experience. It can be both terrifying and indescribably settling. The fear of being known so vulnerably is balanced by the peacefulness of knowing the vulnerability is safe with another person.

Intimacy with God was a concept that was tossed about in The Church As We Know It as some type of holy grail that was easily accessible and achievable by certain practices of bible reading, prayer and singing an inordinate amount of songs that were composed of language that bordered on sensual.

Toward the end of my days as a professional minister, I began reconsidering the use of this kind of language in public expressions of worship. Now that I am a few miles outside of town, those thoughts are reinforced.

When you are intimate with someone, you keep certain things between just you and that person. Personal secrets and nicknames are kept closely guarded. We save our most intimate expressions of affection for our most intimate moments, that is, when you and that person are alone and no one else is around.

This kind of intimacy is expressed in the imagery of Revelation, which says that God would give a token of affection to those who endure suffering for His sake. The token would be a small white stone upon which a name was written. This name would be secret and only known to the person to whom the stone was given. Thus the name is a way of honoring the relationship and serves as a reminder of that shared intimacy.

Sex was supposed to provide two people with this kind of intimacy, but our culture seems to think this is an old fashioned notion. When we take a personal, private matter and turn it into a public one, to use the common vernacular, someone gets fucked. Pleasure is had, but intimacy is tossed out the window. And this is the real tragedy.

I run the risk of making a gross comparison, but it appears to me that a similar experience developed along the way in our public expressions of worship. Good worship was often rated by how good it felt and not so much about a deep abiding faith in God. It felt really good at that point in time to sing those songs, but am I able to experience even greater pleasures of God when I am outside the public setting?

One thing Revelation did not say, but I imply, is that I doubt no one is going to be turning their name on that white stone into a top 10 worship song.


Maria said...

There's a difference between sharing your body and sharing your self, to extend your analogy a bit. I suspect a lot of what passes for "intimacy" in worship is an emotional, if not purely sensual, focus on the feelings we get when singing certain song (for me these days old-time hymns produce more good endorphins than most of the "boyfriend" songs I hear at church). But opening my heart to God, to hear his word, conviction, approval or whatever -- that's a different thing altogether. The latter has the potential to be transforming in a way the former doesn't.

Les said...

Well said!

Similar thoughts led me to consider what "corporate" (hate that word, though its correct) worship is for them? Clearly the disciples and the early church met together and worshipped. I think it has its place.

The thing I've been mulling over lately is that I left the Church as We Know It largely because I expected too much from it.

I wanted it to provide Intimacy with Jesus, God, and the Spirit, real relationships, deep discussion, allies for Spiritual warfare, the list goes on.

What I've come to realize is that the Church as We Know It simply isn't designed to provide such things, even in the best of circumstances. Once I realized that, I knew it was unfair for me to go every week and seek those things there. I had to go create them or find them myself, which I felt very led by God to do.

That's where I am right now. I'm searching for that intersection where intimacy with God and community co-exist, where they are not afraid of each other. I have a feeling I'm in for a long journey.