Second cup

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Thoughts on belief, communion, and intimacy

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I do not feel like I have the type of all-encompassing, spirit-filled relationship with Christ that the evangelical subculture lauds. And many days–more often than non–I think I want it. I want that full intimacy and all-consuming communion with God. I want to be fulfilled with the presence of God, not his absence. I want my days lit with God’s brilliance, and my nights blanketed by his infinite mysteries. When I see, I want to see nothing by God. When I hear, I want to hear nothing but God. I want to touch nothing but God, think nothing but God, and speak of nothing but God.

I don’t have these encounters with God, and I do not know why. I sometimes believe it is because I am a human, and a condition of my human-ness is sin, an unavoidable separation from God. But then I am reminded of other men and women who encountered God. Abraham, for instance. And Moses. Paul. The disciples. The saints. The desert fathers. The mystics. If humanness is a condition that separates us from God, it’s one that has been overcome on many occasions. Being a man does not have to block a full communion with God.

Sometimes I attribute my separation from God to my skepticism of experiences. I do not want my feelings to be the metric of “closeness to God” because I am easily influenced by other stimuli. If I feel close to God, does that mean I truly am close to God? Or does it mean I am particularly healthy or happy for non-supernatural reasons? Numinous encounters can be manufactured; experiences can be manipulated; beliefs can be exploited. If I encounter God, I do not want it to be because I willed it.

I want what I do not trust myself to perceive. I want full communion, which I am fully convinced is possible, but I want it external from my own perceptions. I don’t trust my eyes to see God. I don’t trust my ears to hear God. I don’t trust my brain, my feelings, or my voice to encounter and commune with God.

So I live out my faith in a way that does not privilege encounters with God. Rather, it privileges encounters with others. I cannot see God, but I can see the needs in my neighbors’ lives. My worship becomes more directed toward service instead of transcendent intimacy.

It’ll have to do. For now.