As I reflect on the practice of theology, I find it is often lived in the head or in abstract language. I am discovering for my own life that it is best to engage the Gospel of the Triune God as a quest for restored intimacy.
When I use the word intimacy, I mean a relationship that is close, connected, without fear of judgment, mutually open to being honest, and seeking to express love in action even more than words. To say that the mission of Jesus was intended to move a broken relation between God and humanity to a restored loving connection is to say the incarnation was a quest for intimacy.
The Holy Spirit was sent to live inside us, to bring the reality of the love of God to blossom in us—as a relationship of deep intimacy. When a community is submitted to the Lordship of Christ and empowered by the Spirit, it looks a lot like a loving family that is attuned to the intimate life of Father, Son and Spirit. It is physical, not in a sexual way, but in the actions and communications that exude safety in honesty,
actions that support and build the other, and a commitment to enduring friendship.
It was the intimacy in the Father’s heart that sent the Son to bring us home—that is to the Father’s house of love. When we cry out “Abba, dear Father,” we are expressing a transformation to intimacy that is awakened by the Spirit in newfound intimacy with the Father.
While I value the complex work of academic theology, I often feel that its quest is one that neglects the transformation of life at the level of the interpersonal. It is like doctors doing research for years and discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but never actually using it to cure patients who do not remember what they are missing. The discussion and competition for the best procedures can inadvertently mean that it never gets to the intended people who need a cure. I think that most people in the world have lost any sense that theology is a call to a life of intimacy that is worked out in love for God, neighbor, family, and self in active ways.
When our understanding of the Trinity leads to a profound sense of being beloved, the quest is just beginning. When our hearts are then ignited to actively love God and to find the ways to express love to each person in our path, we are beginning to indwell the life of intimacy.
Anne Wilson Schaef wrote a book called Escape From Intimacy, which is a study of addictions in the form of Romance, Relationship, and Sex addictions. The point is that intimacy is the place of health. Any other pseudo-relationship will get in the way. The many fabricated forms of relating that imitate intimacy are profound adventures in missing the point. When merely attending church and reading the Bible is the
focus of empty-heartedly “showing up” for God, it is possibly an escape from intimacy as a religious relationship addiction. When we need the big emotional night in a charged environment, we may have a religious romance addiction that needs the construed moment of magic that misses the intimacy. When we love to see the seed of salvation planted and get a thrill from a night of creating new baby Christians, which may be a form of spiritual adultery that is more about our feeling the ecstasy of planting seeds than building a family that has a life of intimate connection.
To know and be known is the divine goal. That begins in a life of love with the Triune Family—this launches the journey into intimacy. I have been on this quest for years and still have miles to go. But what I am pursuing is becoming clearer. I am discovering an intimate life that was always there. This process of rediscovery is what brings joy to my life. The hope it brings for others is what draws me onward.