WASHINGTON, August 4, 2013 ― Religion is an attempt to build a relationship with a higher being or higher principles. Relationship implies the sharing of thoughts, feelings, and ideas and the environment of openness which makes this sharing possible. Deeper relationship involves the sharing of secrets.
The promise of secret knowledge has been a draw for many religions. For those who seek a personal God, intimacy rests at the core of their significant religious experiences and is the measure of validity for any meaningful personal growth in the faith. To be intimate is to know another’s closely held secrets and to share your own in turn.
A seeker involved in any religion must necessarily be following on toward not only knowledge of a faith, sect, or group, but toward intimacy and knowledge of the secrets of the religion. Too closely held secrets, inaccessible to the whole known world minus one or two, for example, belie a difficult path to relationship with a deity or religious group or principle. Some marginal religious cults dupe converts with outrageous ethereal claims promising knowledge of everything from the secrets of unimaginable wealth to the path to a harmonious afterlife experience. The select few who experience deeper understandings of the faith are then either deified or ostracized along with many truly great religious leaders of history who may have achieved a level of intimacy with God that actually accentuated their places as leaders in faith.
The fact remains however, that any relationship, even that between a personal God and a man or woman, must involve an intimacy that develops through some course of trial and error or by some steps of initiation or testing by both parties in the arrangement and to a lesser extent, some scrutiny of principle on the part of the participants as well. A personal God that offers meaningless hoops for seekers to jump through somehow lacks integrity in that jumping through hoops doesn’t necessarily make for growth in the area of intimacy and relationship. Without a shiny pair of rose colored glasses it only leads to frustration. Rose colored glasses are highly overrated if there is a god-shaped void inside the seeker persisting in form and emptiness.
The church, as a home for seekers, can become an end in itself in this regard. It becomes an end rather than a means to an end, the desired end being intimate relationship with God, not merely involvement in a religious organization. Knowing the God of the Bible and finding His will is a very fulfilling end if the lives of the prophets and apostles are any indication. Those who have known God’s secrets and have had significant intimacy with God value this intimacy highly even to the point of dying to retain it.
Others have died for significant purposes and values aside from particular religious goals. Those who would give their lives to try to save someone from a burning building or soldiers who risk their all every day are certainly noble and needful of emulation. They stand out because of their devotion, purpose, and sacrifice. There must be a special place in the afterlife if not in heaven itself for them.
For those souls and for the rest of faithful, the Bible clearly outlines a path for seekers and enumerates steps toward knowing its God and knowing Him well. It plots points of illumination and revelation in paradigms as well as true life illustrations, lighting the way to closeness, intimacy, and deeper meaning while offering sound reasoning for following its preferred course. For those not drawn by a revelation of the knowledge of God, perhaps the prospect of intimacy with God is tantalizing enough to attract the inquisitive and to bring them to an eventual point of actual devotion to God.
Beyond words on a page or stories in a book, intimacy is evident in the leap of the heart in anticipation of a moment together. It is the memory of the sound of a word or the way something was said that meant something special, but also evoked a special feeling or response. Intimacy with God is all that and a river deep peace that changes perspective a little at first and then altogether in an overwhelming epiphany. It is light and it is laughter. It is the unspoken memory of the light and the heat and the smell of the smoke in Moses’ burning bush experience. Intimacy is resolve and reunion.
There is a related promise in the Bible in James 4:8 to sweeten the offering that says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (NKJV) ” It isn’t a waste to seek God out, to live a hopeful life, or to restrain one’s appetites for temporal indulgence. To let God be the judge, to give in to his higher ways, and to refrain from wrath are steps toward intimacy with God. These might actually make one attractive to God. Such character defaults to intimacy so that the labor to achieve it is far less intense and more of a natural occurrence. In such an environment, God can be found. He will come near.
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