Something I’ve always struggled with is relating to God intimately. Thinking ABOUT God, meditating on a text, trying to pray through the voice of a Psalm–DOING those things is simple enough. This is not how I want to relate to the people in my life, the people I’m most intimate with. I don’t want to merely think ABOUT my wife, our family, friends. Thinking about it is an after-effect.
It has been said that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. I don’t begin to understand it. God is here as I write this and he is there as you read this. But I struggle to do better than simply think ABOUT him.
Jesus promised that he wouldn’t leave us alone, that he’d live in us, and we’d live in him, and he’d live in the Father. That’s the language of a tight nit relationship. How could the creative power of the whole universe be so close yet so far? For instance, God doesn’t talk to me. I’ve never heard a single word. But what’s fascinating is what he does behind the scenes that leaves me convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is right here, paying attention to my moaning and groaning, my attempts at worship, my stumbling attempts to give him my full attention and total obedience.
To be behind the scene is to be behind the curtain. Without a physical presence, the invisibility sometimes feels like the curtain. At the moment of Jesus’ death the curtain in the temple ripped in two. It’s been my experience that the closest thing I get to the curtain being ripped also comes at the cost of suffering.
I deeply appreciate the way Peterson brings out the sense of scripture in Matt. 5 where it is written, “Your blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
Here’s an experiment. Grab all your prize possessions, grab a few friends and family members, grab that diploma, the deed to your house, bank statement, and all the assorted valuables or symbols of those valued possessions.
Once you’ve got all that together, take everyone over to the edge of a cliff and latch on to a rope, then get a hold on everyone and everything you brought.
When you get to the end of your rope what’s left? Where’d all the stuff go? You’re left hanging by one hand, with nothing, and you’re slipping.
Nothing you valued is any help to you when you are at the end of your rope. It is a rude awakening. Stripped of all the excess, there is less of you; more room is made for God. So you cry out to him for salvation, begging him to do something. No more time for thinking about or meditating upon. Relationship transcends that. In those dramatic uncertain moments God is there making things happen that would not have happened otherwise.
Words become less important when the curtain is torn. In the wake of an overt movement by God we can relish the nearness. We stand in awe.
I hate the end of the rope. I’ve been there so often that I should change my address to, “Dude dangling at the end of the rope.” But it forces me to come to terms with what is most important. God saves me and turns my mess into something he can use in his kingdom. But he takes his time and I get impatient, trying to nudge him with prayers and supplications. He acts when he’s ready to act, and as it turns out, it is always at the perfect time.
More is sure to come. I see it in the face of some of the desperate people I work with, or the poverty-stricken, lonely people packaged away in nursing homes, and prisons filled with despair. When I see all of that I see a slash in the curtain.I know that he is where misery gathers. Maybe the way to more intimacy is meet him where he is–the hard places.