The Loneliness of Intimacy with God
Loneliness in intimacy? That seems like a contradiction. How is it possible? How can intimacy with the Lord make you feel lonely? I mean the pain when you go deeper in the Lord and you suddenly realize that barely anyone around you can relate to what you've seen and experienced. I mean the loneliness you feel when you go deeper in the Lord but realize that no one else comes along. I mean the sadness when no one seems to understand the things that move you most.
The Two Sides of Intimacy
Intimacy with God has two sides. When falling in love with Christ at first, we are joined to a great, worldwide family that also spans all through human history. We become part of His body and are eternally connected with a huge, worldwide and timeless crowd of believers. As we mature, God stirs our heart for other people. As we connect with God, we find our heart go out like never to the people around us in ministry. Our fellowship with the Lord fuels and creates fellowship with the people around us. Intimacy connects.
Yet as we go deeper in the Lord, we also find another reality at work within us. A lifestyle of reckless and radical abandonment, making God our sole desire and highest delight in life, contending for His fullness and stopping at nothing to obtain it, searching out the Lord day and night, contending for the knowledge of God and the spirit of revelation, and wasting your life, time, education, money, relationships, abilities and opportunities in order to get to know Him and the depths of His being just a little more - all of this is very costly, the narrow road, chosen by only a few.
Loneliness in Intimacy
The narrow road is a lonely road. It's not a crowded freeway. Often it feels more like an abandoned mountain trail or an overgrown path through the highlands of Scotland where you can walk for days without meeting a single soul.
Few years ago I read a small booklet called "A Revelation of Christ". Its author unknown, yet he was the first I found who put into words what I had been feeling for years:
We can ONLY fellowship with Jesus, and the measure to which one 'lives and moves and has their being in Him' is the extent to which we can give our heart away to them in fellowship. ... We may not extend total, open relationship to those that have not met God in the inner man. We may only extend the same level of relationship to them that they currently experience with Jesus. A Revelation of Christ, p. 11, 22
This is not about 'ought' or 'ought not', it's about possible or not. There is a depth of fellowship only available between like-minded (or rather: like-spirited) souls that share the same depth in God and the same intensity in their relationship with Him, who have 'seen' the same treasures and tasted of the same pleasures of heaven, who are equally ruined for anything less. Their hearts are fixed on the same thing and they share the same commitments.
In my few social interactions as an introvert, I'm on a constant quest to find people with the same depth, the same hunger, the same yearning for God, similar experiences, the same quality and intensity of love and affection for the Lord. Just like 'the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth', I feel like that's what I do as well, hoping to find people 'whose heart is completely His' (2 Chr. 16:9). Deep cries unto deep (Ps 42:7). The depth in me is searching for the depths in others.
And how exuberant the joy when you meet someone who understands. What unity you experience with those who instantaneously know what you're talking about because they've been to the same places in God, seen and tasted the same depths. People that can finish your sentences, who understand even when your words fail to convey what your heart grasps. People that 'know' (in its deepest meaning) Jesus as intimately as you have known Him. The depth of fellowship with them is otherworldly. You talk differently, you share different thoughts with them that to someone else may just sound like riddles. You get the rare freedom to share from the depth of your heart without the fear of offering its precious jewels to misunderstanding or even objection.
But encounters with this sort of people are rare. The narrow road is a lonely road, and the farther you walk on it, the fewer they get. This is the loneliness of intimacy.
I must think of Lucy Pevensie from C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. In a wardrobe this little girl found the entrance to a magical world completely unknown to her and her siblings. Lucy couldn't keep her fascination to herself. She had to tell everyone what she'd just discovered. But soon Lucy had to realize that no one could relate, or even wanted to. Her experiences were belittled and scolded by her siblings - the people closest to her, those she naturally expected the most support from. Her siblings wouldn't go where she went, they weren't even interested in hearing about it. While being drawn to the lion Aslan - symbolizing Jesus - Lucy experienced a loneliness even in her closest relationships.
I must think of all these believers in the spiritual outback’s of this world. Those who cultivate lovesick hearts and an ever-growing hunger for the presence and the knowledge of God when no one else does.
I must think of the people that, after having been touched by the Lord in a mighty way, return to their traditional, lukewarm churches where no one has a paradigm for what they have experienced. I must think of the missionary couple who moved to a spiritually desolate region, completely stripped of any spiritual fellowship apart from each other.
I must think of the teenage boy who encountered God and due to a lack of other Christians in his area started reading the Bible on his own while his atheist parents scolded him for his insanity and religious fanaticism. I have to think of the group of people that consistently come together and experience the most intense prayer meetings, with crying and sobbing in and because of the measure of the presence of the Lord in their prayer meetings, venturing to places in the Lord that no one in the entire city understands. I have to think of a guy who had been part of such a community for a season and after his return home had to realize that there wasn't a single soul that shared the depths that he now knew.
These are the modern day hermits. People who - while living in cities, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people, even while being part of communities of believers - find themselves in a spiritual desert of loneliness. People who understand these words of David and cry with the same longing and commitment: O God, you are my God; I shall seek You earnestly. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Not necessarily hermits by choice, but by the depth they chose in God. Feeling lonely because they decided to go in God where no one else went, pioneers who wouldn't back down even when it meant continuing on their own where there was no prepared, beaten track, no one who preceded and no one who would come along. Hungry souls who cried out for more where others stopped. People who carved out yet another hour for the secret place at the feet of Jesus where others called it a waste of time. People like Mary of Bethany, whose sole desire was to pour it all out before Him, holding nothing back, no matter the cost, no matter the opinions of the people around, no matter the extravagance of the offering.
Leaving Everything for Love
The pain of loneliness - of not having people around you who support your dedication to the Lord, who don’t understand your deepest longings for God and the intimacy you are experiencing with Him. Yet even greater is the pain of not having more of what we have tasted. Greater is the pain of not going deeper in the One we have come to love so relentlessly.
Love demands us to press on, to go deeper in Him, to get to know Him more, to find out just a little more about Him, to fall in love just a little more. Oh, how much would we give for that which even just bears the potential to bring us a single step closer, a little step deeper. How much would we give for experiencing just a little more of His love and giving back to Him just a little more of our heart. Love demands us to press on. He ruined us for anything less.
Like Peter we proclaim: "Lord, where else can I go?" (John 6:68). Everything I've known, everything I've tasted, everything I've been taught, everything I deemed valuable and precious. Now that I see - it absolutely pales in comparison to being with You where You are and getting as close to You as I can.
We can't go back; we can't just stay where we are. We burned the bridges. To the one who has tasted of His depths backing down is the act of highest stupidity that man is capable of. We are ruined. He let us taste of more of Him, He awakened the hunger for more, now the yearning of love demands us to go deeper. Love demands us to advance. It won't be satisfied until everything is given for love, until it arrives at the end of the endless depths of the One it desires - Jesus Christ, the risen God, the beautiful and glorious Branch of the Lord, fairer than the sons of man.
Love's longing is to give everything, surrender all, leave everything behind to cling wholly, solely and irrevocably to Him as a bride clings to her bridegroom. Counting the cost (Luke 14:27-28) was yesterday, it's an idea absurd to the one consumed with yearning for the God he calls his sole delight.
Like Lucy Pevensie, the cost doesn't matter. Even though it's painful, it can't keep us from going after more. We've found more than life. We've found something that nothing we've known compares with, and we’ve got to have it, we’ve got to have Him - all of Him, all the way. The pull of yearning for Him is stronger than the pain of loneliness. There's no way back, no place for surrender and you won't surrender, no matter what it costs. Loneliness is a price too ridiculously low to even be considered compared to the depths of intimacy with Christ that are waiting for those who won't stop pursuing Him.
If the road leads through the valley of loneliness, so be it. If I must forget my people and leave my father's house (Psalm 45:10-11), I'd gladly give it. If You tell me to follow You and leave everything behind immediately, here I am. If I am to 'hate' father, mother, wife and children (Luke 14:26), here You have it. If it means being misunderstood and scolded by the people closest to me, Jesus, who am I to complain or despair when the reward of intimacy with You is so exceedingly greater in comparison to what I give up. If it means advancing alone for the rest of my life, here is my wholehearted commitment, Lord.
With love more demanding than the grave (Song 8:6), call me away. Take me where others feared to tread. Take me where love is costly and precious. Meet me on the narrow road and see me through. I'm in it all the way. I'm in it for it all. Anonymous and often hidden- happily taking the road less traveled. Ron Ross
Image source: 'Lonely Road' by telospantwn