God’s Gentleness, Patience and Silence as necessary precursors for his intimacy with us.
In Chuck De Groat’s wonderful piece on singleness in the church he highlights a very foundational yet too-little-known truth that safety is more important than we know. Safety is the necessary condition for intimacy. Intimacy is that deep longing of ours to know and be known, love and be loved. Intimacy is necessary for true, deep, everlasting satisfaction. Intimacy is the place where there are no walls, there are no secrets, there are no “do not enter” signs. Intimacy is what unhealthy enmeshment fruitlessly attempts to purchase on the cheap. Intimacy is our Biblical destination in our relationship with God.
The reason our longing for intimacy within the age of decay beset by the pitfalls of idolatry is that within the age of decay there is no security. Everything breaks down, everything rots, everything comes undone. All intimacies in the age of decay will be occasioned by sadnesses.
This week I had a conversation with a young man about the foolishess of living together. I remember an episode of The Sopranos where Meadow, Tony Soprano’s beloved daughter is living with her boyfriend and one of them got accepted to a school out of state. This caused a crisis in Meadow’s heart. “What does this mean? Is he looking at this as an opportunity to get away from me? Should I follow him to this other state at the cost of my educational, career and familial aspirations? If he asks me to do this does that mean he doesn’t respect me or value my goals? If he doesn’t ask me does that mean that he wants to be rid of me?” Intimacy requires a context of security, predictability, and trust and within the age of decay our best shot at these things is covenant.
In one of Tim Keller’s sermons he asserts that the difference between a covenant and a contract is the costly commitment of one side to hold faithful to the pledge despite the unfaithfulness of the other. We see it in Hosea. We see it in God’s relentless pursuit of Israel. We know that only God is capable of it because his relational polarity is that of the age to come and all contracts die within the age of decay.
How does this impact the Christian life? God’s commitment to us is unconditional. God’s patience with us is longsuffering. God sometimes observes with us your mother’s maxim “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” We are such basket cases that if God is to have any hope of intimacy with us he must go to these kinds of lengths to create for us a secure environment in order to acheive what he wants and what he knows we need, intimacy with Him.
So why is God sometimes so quiet? So why does God keep forgiving? So why does God keep allowing terrible, horrible, painful things into the lives of those he loves? So why does he not grow tired even after we have screamed at him in anger to leave and never come back? Because he is who he is and he is stronger, more patient, wiser, and more loving towards us that we are capable of being towards him or towards any other creature. His goal of intimacy with us requires it.