Coming in from the cold
It was chilly to the bone cold outside, the kind of cold that seeps through the soles of your shoes yet somehow makes your cheeks burn red. We were a group of eclectic Christians gathered together around a common desire to help those who are suffering find comfort, even joy, from reading the Bible. As I stamped the snow and ice off my boots I considered all the challenges this first day of our training course would present. I didn’t really know these people well, yet I would be asked to share parts of my life long buried deep. Intimacy with strangers.
Created to be in Relationship
Emotional intimacy, genuine, truthful, open relationships with others is a necessary part of being human. We see such relationships throughout the pages of the Bible, from Adam and Eve in the garden, to Song of Solomon, to Jesus in the house at Caanan. Being with people we can share our lives with, the joys, the sorrows, the heartaches and the triumphs all factor into who we are as God’s created beings.
I watched a heart-breaking interview a few weeks ago on the BBC, where an elderly lady in her 70’s was describing the loneliness of her life, where the only conversation she had was the passing remarks made with shop assistants. As she looked into the camera lens her vulnerability was clear; she said that even when something good in life happened, in other words something that made her heart feel joy, she longed to share that moment with another living soul…but there was no-one.
Made in the image of God we were created to be in relationship, with God and with each other. Anything less than that is damaging to the soul. Right at the very beginning of the Bible God recognises this,
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
“At last!” the man exclaimed. (Genesis 2:18-23)
‘At last!’ We sense from man’s exclamation that he recognises in God’s provision of woman an antidote for his isolation. It has always intrigued me that even although man lived with God in the garden he was still ‘alone.’
I suspect many in the church today can equate with that. Even though we know and love our Saviour, we recognise the well in our soul that craves human connection alongside our Fathers love. It is neither to deny, diminish or replace His love, but to compliment and reinforce it.
God Himself exists in perfect, eternal relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we, His image bearers, long for similar oneness. It is a troubling symptom of our over sexualized society this understanding of the need for human emotional intimacy is replaced or misconstrued for that which is purely physical.
Several years ago I was sitting next to a beautiful stranger at a friend’s 50th birthday party. As we made polite conversation it became apparent to me and the others sharing our meal that she felt quite out of place in our company. I asked her what was troubling her and she said, “I never expected to be at the table with the ugly people.” She had no idea that in that one expression, thoughtlessly spoken as it was, she had bared the deepest pain in her soul. As others at our table turned away, flummoxed and wounded, she tried to repair the damage. “Is everyone here a Christian like you?”
As our conversation moved on she asked me what a Christian actually was. By the grace of God, I said that for me being a Christian meant I was never alone. I get up in the morning and God is there, I go to bed at night and He is with me still. She cried until I thought the tears would never end. Soaking her linen napkin and being led away by her somewhat temporary boyfriend. Loneliness; the absence of true emotional intimacy and the denial of the presence of God.
Intimacy with God
The memory of that long ago poignant conversation flashed across my mind as I walked into the classroom that cold January day. We were here to learn about Trauma Healing, to discover new methods of Bible engagement for those suffering with the pain of emotional need. As I sat down I compared the richness of my emotional life to the cold loneliness of that beautiful party girl’s.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. (1 John 3:1 NLT)
The love of the Father is who we are as humans, loving each other is how we are called to be; immersed and surrounded by that which is invisible but essential for the wellbeing of our souls.
Director of National Ministries