“I tackled my first English essay in college with enthusiasm, a thesaurus, and a naive disregard for page limits,” writes Carolyn Arends in an April 2014 article in Christianity Today. To her dismay the professor returned her paper with this comment: “Carolyn, you’ve made some fine points, but unfortunately they are lost in a sea of circumlocutious wordiness.”
While Carolyn admits she has always “loved words” and “a well turned phrase,” she confesses that she grew “troubled by a growing sense that (she) needed to pay more attention to wordless things.” She asks, ” Have I reduced the scope of what I can know to what I can articulate?”
Carolyn’s question as it relates to our relationship with God is a valid one to reflect upon. Do we really know God? Or do we just know facts about God? There’s a big difference.
It’s possible to know about God and not know God. It’s is easy to learn facts about God. Names. Places. Events. Scriptures that we have memorized. Old Testament history.
What did God do on the third day of creation?
How many books are there in the Old Testament?
Who was the man after God’s own heart?
If you are trying to answer these questions, you may be proving my point. Christianity is not “data-based religion” where we become competent in spewing out information like a contestant on a game show. That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of Biblical illiteracy. A lack of knowledge can leave us malnourished spiritually. We need to know the Bible. But we need to know God too.
For instance, suppose I get in one of “those discussions” with my wife and in her frustration she laments, “You don’t even know me!” (If you’re married, you known what I mean!). And I reply, “I certainly do. Your name is Norma Jean. You’re 5’7” and weigh 125 pounds. You have green eyes, brown hair and were born on February 19th in Trenton, Florida.” Do you think she’s impressed?
She’s speaking of insight. Understanding. Perception. Feeling. Emotional connectedness. A close relationship. Intimacy.
Knowing God is often described as “intimacy with God.” We tend to think of intimacy as having to do with a sexual relationship, or at least a romantic relationship. But it means, “a close, familiar and unusually affectionate or a loving personal relationship with another person or group.” Intimacy does not have to be physical, it can be emotional and spiritual.
Intimacy has to do with a relationship. Mike Cope calls it a “holy hunger.” Martin De Hann refers to it as a “radical reliance.” Joe Beam speaks of it as a “craving.” And author John Eldredge describes drawing close to the heart of God as “The Sacred Romance.”
Knowing God is about relationship. Community. Commonality. Closeness. Kinship. God wants to be our Father. And He desires that we be His sons and daughters. God desires we do more than believe. He wants us to belong. Belong to Him. Belong to Jesus. Belong to His family.
King David, the one identified as “a man after God’s own heart,” writes about his relationship with God in a most intimate way.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help ,and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.(Psalm 63:1-8)
Take some quiet time to reflect on your relationship with God. How close are you? What is your level of intimacy? Do you really know God?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman