Have you ever looked at a travel brochure, with white sand beaches, turquoise water and sunlight hrough the palm tree offering a lovely, shady spot beckoning you to be a part of the moment? Most people can imagine themselves there.
We can go through the whole trip in our minds as we look at the brochure from the familiarity of our living room sofa. We might even go so far as to go online and look up what flights and accommodations will cost — and that’s when it either stops and we go back to daydreaming, or shift into preparations to go.
Having an intimate relationship with God can be like that. Some years ago, my husband and I had a couple of “use it or lose it” flight vouchers and had to really consider how best take advantage of the windfall. That’s how we found out that it is “monsoon” season in Belize in April, and roundtrip airfares were cheap. Once we had redeemed the vouchers for our tickets, I researched online what activities and beauty we’d enjoy on our trip.
We were planning to stay mostly on one of the many islands that make up Belize. I checked out weather, temperature, activities, transportation, accommodations, food, culture, language ... you name it.
When we approach God, we often have seasons of great gusto in our pursuit relationship with Him, and what it will look and feel like — even how we will hear His voice and can know His heart. We can do everything and read every book on the subject, and yet stop short of actually committing to a relationship with Him. If we do that, it’s no different than if we were sitting on our sofa just looking at travel brochures.
It’s interesting that we can invite Christ into our lives and trust Him with our eternity, but still keep Him as arm’s length. That’s like getting married, having the marriage license, but never having a truly fulfilling, intimate, relationship with a spouse.
Is it legal? Absolutely.
Is it all it was intended to be? Absolutely not.
God wants so much more for us with Him. He is looking for someone who wants to respond and interact with Him with the intensity of Psalm 42 where David writes, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” But, a passionate, thriving relationship with Him takes intentionality, time and commitment, just as for any healthy relationship.
So, on a rainy April morning My husband and I flew out of Seattle to our tropical get-away in Belize. Not really knowing what to expect, we packed what we thought we’d need based upon what I’d read.
As for me, I tend to overpack. Have you ever done that when preparing to spend time with Jesus? I find I can overpack even then. I come to Jesus, full of things I really need to talk to Him about; desired outcomes for myriad situations, scriptures to be the focus of my time with Him. Good grief, I’m surprised sometimes that I let Him get a word in edgewise.
But He’s loving, gracious, patient, kind, merciful and ever ready to be with us, no matter what we walk in with.
In Psalm 91:1-2, the psalmist has an understanding of what is means to live intimately with God. He says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’”
How God responds in that relationship with Him is found in verses 15-16, “Because he has set his love upon Me (God says about us), therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
Upon arrival in Belize, the water taxi to the island was amazing. Everything we saw in the Caribbean Sea looked exactly as it does on the brochures. Blue skies, crystal clear waters, dolphins playing and swimming.
But other things were hilarious. For instance, I didn’t know you could actually get an “overnight full body exfoliation” by sleeping in sheets filled with sand, thoughtfully left by the previous guests and saved for us by the hotel staff not changing the linens.
I also learned how large certain cockroaches can get as they lazily walked up the wall while I was brushing my teeth with bottled water.
Don’t believe all you see on the Internet about dream accommodations.After one night at Ruby’s on the island of Ambergris Caye, we checked out and wheeled our luggage to a little better hotel. Compared to the first place, thit looked like the Hilton. We were so thankful. After we got settled, we headed to the beautiful beach. It wasn’t very busy, but the sand glistened and the water looked inviting.
The water is so filled with salt, you easily stay afloat and can just drink in the moment.
So it is with God. When we spend time with Him and go deeper into our relationship with Him, we go to an indescribable place, or, as the word holy is defined, “other than” any other relationship we’ve ever known.
In that place of intimacy, we won’t need to try to keep ourselves afloat, He will. And as we hear Him whisper in the depths of our spirits and souls, there is both a longing and fulfillment, unanswerable except by Him.
“Deep cries unto deep.” God is not subtle in His pursuit of us, and He doesn’t want to be kept at arm’s length, but He will only come as close as we allow Him.
It’s been said, “Everyone has as much of God as they want”, and that statement is profoundly true. It’s a heart thing¸ not a head thing. As a matter of fact, your head and your heart will sometimes be at odds with each other as you pursue the level of relationship He has planned for you.
My prayer for you is that the fire of an unquenchable desire for true intimacy with God sends you on a spiritual journey that shatters your comfort zones and paradigms in such a way you’ll never be satisfied with less. Belize was even more beautiful than the brochures said. The journey was uncomfortable at times, but it was worth it. Growing in your relationship with God, it will be more amazing than you could ever imagine. A little uncomfortable at times? Yes, but so worth it.
The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center wth her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 609-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.