Thursday, November 21, 2013

Intimacy with God - Wednesday homily recap

(usually I preach on Wednesdays more extemporaneously - ie, I don't write out my sermons.  So this is an attempt to write out what I said - HA!)

Scripture: Psalm 63:1-8

What does it mean to really be close to God?  What does it mean to be close to anyone?  What creates intimacy?

Sharing deeply - both the good and bad stuff, being willing to admit our wrongs and things we struggle with, hearing the other, listening and getting to know a person for their good and bad.  Acceptance of the other: all of these things create and demonstrate intimacy.  But one of the other things that also can create genuine intimacy is when we speak the truth to the other about things that hurt us or that anger us.  When we have the trust, courage and strength to say, "you have hurt me." or "I am angry with you", it does several things.  First, it clears us to hear their version of the story.  It helps us let go of our feelings to speak them, and then we can be open to really understand what the other is saying.  Also, when we speak, usually it invites the other to speak in turn.  When we hear from the other, we grow in our understanding of who they are, why they do what they do, why something happened the way it did...and that deeper understanding means a deeper intimacy. Also, it expresses a deep caring and trust to take the risk of speaking your truth.  Showing that trust, that depth of caring, usually increases intimacy too.

Well, the same is true with God.  But sometimes I think we are afraid of intimacy with God.  We know that God knows us, fully and completely.  But that is a uni-directional or one-dimensional relationship.  Do we really know God?  Are there things in the Bible that describe God that make us uneasy or uncomfortable?  Are we uneasy thinking of God, for example, as angry?  or jealous?  Both of these are descriptions of God in our scriptures.  Do we push these descriptions aside?  What about a God who forgives everyone?  We want God to be "just" in our understanding of justice.  We want a God who will punish those who hurt us and rescue us from their wrath and vengeance.  So when we read that God loves everyone, sometimes we don't like it.  That is not the God we want to know.  So how often do we just accept a one-sided intimacy with God because we don't want to really know God?

I am reminded of this quote from the book, The Alchemist (p.16) by Paulo Coelho, "When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person's life.  And then they want the person to change.  If someone isn't what others want them to be, the others become angry.  Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own."

Do we do this with God?  Do we avoid getting to really know God because we'd rather create God in our own image?

Regina Brett wrote this amazing article that is published in her book, God Never Blinks.  It is lesson 8, "It's okay to get angry with God.  He can take it".  I won't put the whole essay here, but if you get the chance to read it, it is really worth the read.  The point of it is that when we finally are able to speak "truth" to God - whether it be anger or pain or frustration or whatever it is, God grants us peace.

Following up on that, I would say even more that speaking our "truth" to God - especially those uncomfortable feelings we'd rather NOT share with God, is an exercise in intimacy.  We don't really understand God.  But we often do not really KNOW other people either until we are open with them first.

Like in the book of Job, Job tried to avoid expressing anger or frustration to God.  Job felt it was not okay, it was not acceptable to speak those feelings.  But finally he snapped and spoke, saying all that he felt and feared and wanted said.  God's response?  God's response was to show up!!!  God's response was to return the communication and talk back to Job.  God also revealed more of who God really is to Job in response to Job's honest and open communication about who Job really was.  God said to Job and Job's friends that no, sometimes bad things do happen to good people and the assumption that God is Santa Claus - giving good to the good and bad to the bad is a complete misunderstanding.  They might not have liked that answer, but it invited them to know the true God more fully, more deeply, more honestly.  God then said to Job that Job simply didn't understand..."think about creation" God said.  And that, too, opened up for Job a different and DEEPER understanding of who God is.  God is a God we just have a little glimpse of understanding, but who will give us more of God-self every time we ask, every time we seek, every time we choose genuine, honest, real, open relationship with God.

Personally, there are times I, too, don't really want God to be the way God is.  There are moments when I try to create God in my image, when I want God to be different.  I sometimes don't like that God is not more active, for example, in "fixing" things.  Why doesn't God just take away the pain and the problems and not allow God's children suffer?  But when I actually take the risk, the time, and trust to tell God I'm upset and struggling, God shows up for me as well.  And I hear, very clearly, "This challenge that you are facing is not for Me, your God, to fix.  This challenge is here as a gift to you to learn things, to grow, to become closer to me.  This challenge is a blessing to you - an opportunity for depth and intimacy.  I am here with you in it, but it is yours, not mine, to face and walk through."  At times I may not like this answer, but at the same time I find great comfort and truth in it.  God is with me through it all.  And because God wants the best for me, God won't just take away the struggles.  Our paths towards wholeness and intimacy with God, these are not ever going to be comfortable journeys.  But they are paths towards true deepening, wholeness and intimacy with God.  God wants that for us.  As Rick Warren says it, "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."  And that is a blessing indeed.