For the past year, or more, I have been struggling with intimacy. We all have a deep, primal, need for intimacy – to be known by another at your deepest level, and to be loved for who you really are – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our relationship with God is no different. In fact, we were created to be in intimate relationship with God. We long for it, whether we realize or acknowledge it, or not.
As a youth pastor, I experienced, on the regular, the manifest presence of God. Young people are hungry for God’s presence in real and tangible ways. I found myself leading the youth in uncharted territory, as we sought after God’s presence. This pursuit of God became familiar and intoxicating… and it always resulted in a desire for more.
Then along came 2019 – my dark night of the soul. After years of being on fire for youth and church ministry all of the sudden I felt like I didn’t fit any more – I had lost my fire. That fire only comes from the Holy Spirit, it cannot be manufactured. It felt cold and lonely in that deep dark night…
Have you been there? When life doesn’t go the way you expect it to. When your prayers are not getting answered the way you would like. When God seems to go silent in your life…
When I found myself in this place I had no choice, I did not know any other way, but to earnestly seek God, to sit at his feet, and wait… trusting he is who he says he is… and that I still mattered to God. Like a child begging for her father’s attention. Please see me. Please know me. Please acknowledge me.
For months, the only thing I heard in response was the promise of God, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I could not feel it – but somehow I still knew it was true, and so I hung on – like a child hanging on to the pantleg of her father as he is attempting to walk out the door.
I had been equating my intimacy with God with these “manifest presence” experiences. So when I was not experiencing God in these same ways, I found myself grieving my intimacy with God.
The word intimacy is often translated as Into-Me-See. I know that was manufactured for marriage retreats to encourage the deep sharing and trust required for a truly intimate relationship, but it applies to our relationship with God as well. We long to be known by God.
When I think about this concept of into-me-see, what comes to mind first is the woman at the well in John 4. She shows up at the well, feeling alone, unseen, and unloved. She encountered Jesus, who sees her, knows her, and loves her right where she is… answering her heart cry of into-me-see. She came to the well looking for water to live and received living water from a God who knows everything about her.
In the same way, God sees me in my own brokenness, imperfection, sin, and struggle… and loves me right there… God answers my heart cry of into-me-see. So this becomes my on-going conversation with God, into-ME-See. It is what I really want. I want to be fully known and loved and accepted just as I am for who I am – not for what I do or don’t do.
It suddenly dawns on me; God wants the same thing from me… into-me-see… that I would seek to know God, as I am fully known by God. I realize now that even as I walked through my dark night of the soul God had never left me. In fact God drew me even closer as we walked together through that dark night. In the silence I learned to listen for the still small voice of God. When miracles ceased, I learned to see God for who God is, and not for what God does or does not do. Through it all, I learned to trust God, in the dark, even when there was no healing, no deliverance, no come to Jesus moment.
Because I had experienced the deep joy in relationship with God, I could find God in the middle of the dark night. During that night, God took me to a new level of relationship with him, a more intimate relationship. See, the manifest presence of God and the dark night of the soul are both very intimate places with God.
To experience the manifest presence, God being present in tangible ways, is to experience pure joy. Psalm 16:11b “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” It is like the first kiss of a couple in love… it is so sweet you never want it to end… and then you want more. This is the longing and desire we read about all through the Psalms and Song of Songs. O that my soul would long after God in such a way…
To experience the dark night of the soul is to know God is present even when we cannot see, hear, feel, taste, or smell God. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” It is more like that same couple fast forward 50 years. They are so intimately connected that their relationship is no longer defined or limited by the physical… they have a deeper spiritual connection. They know what the other is thinking, they can finish each other’s sentences, they know what the other needs in any given moment. They are comfortable and content to sit in silence with each other, and they know the other is fully present.
To have physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy with your spouse results in a healthy marriage relationship. In the same way a healthy marriage takes devotion, commitment, faithfulness, love, and passion – so does our relationship with God. To know and be fully known is the greatest gift and it begins with into-me-see.