It is no secret that God desires an intimate relationship with each one of us. But is it possible that even our prayer life can avoid intimacy with God? Centering Prayer teaches the practice of silence, that often when we come to prayer with our needs and our wants, we can hardly hear God’s voice, or see God’s face amongst all the distractions that we create.
In parallel, I think we live in a particularly intimacy-deprived, intimacy-avoiding, intimacy-fearing society. Text messages, email, and iphones are all devices that allow us to interact with one another without meeting face to face. Because there is so much miscommunication in these media devices, my husband and I often joke that people who text have relationship problems, and people who get iphones become bad people. Of course, that’s not unilaterally true, but when we text instead of come together for a cup of coffee, or when we slide our iphone under the table while our friend is pouring out her heart to us to get on facebook, it’s hardly honoring the sacredness of our relationships or bringing us closer to the type of intimacy I crave.
I think the side of intimacy that scares us the most is its vulnerability, the sense in which beneath all our accolades, our technology and our privileges, we are flawed people, with real problems, fears, and anxieties, and rejection is a risk we can’t afford to take.
But God sees through all of that anxiety and self-importance anyway, and I know that in front of God I am but another weak and humble servant, my inadequacies laid bare for all to see. But knowing that God accepts me just as I am makes me seek that kind of grace, that kind of real relationship, with other people in this world, as well. To do so, however, I have to really listen, and not just to God, but to others. I have to put aside my thoughts and my concerns, and truly listen empathetically to my neighbor. This all sounds so simple, but I believe one of Jesus’ most profound ministries was simply greeting people with attention to their full humanity. Like God, he knows our innermost parts, and yet he loved us anyway.