Choosing Intimacy with God

At the beginning of this reflective season of Lent, this blog pondered how one accepts God’s invitation to intimacy.  It explored reasons we pause at the threshold of intimacy and ways to navigate the spiritual obstacles that get in the way of intimacy with God.  But returning to the initial question, after navigating the obstacles, what do we actually do to choose intimacy?

Curtis Almquist suggests, in a Lenten sermon he gave five years ago, that God has chosen us first, and so the better question might be how do we respond to our chosenness.  Here is the wisdom he shared then:

We hear in this gospel appointed for today [John 5:19-26] the recurring reminder that we are “chosen,” chosen persons by God. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” we hear Jesus saying.

My own sense is that many of us are quite ambivalent about being chosen. On the one hand, most of us, by the time we’ve reached 3rd grade or so, have suffered the experience of not being chosen, of being left out, or passed over, or even rejected. And this can set the stage early on for lots of compensations we may learn to make in life: of trying to improve our skills, or to become charming or attractive, or to endear ourselves to the perceived power brokers. Or we may just settle for less, for being inferior and orphaned, for being undesired and undesirable. It is very hard not to be chosen in life.

The only thing that may be harder in life than not being chosen is when we are chosen. Sometimes being chosen is just terrific, clear and simple. But other times, at least in my exper­ience, being chosen can create fear and trembling… either because we’ve changed our minds in the meantime – “on second thought, I don’t think I want this after all…” – or, once we get on the inside – inside a relationship, inside a vocation, inside some new experience that we very much (thought we) wanted – it looks very different from the inside than it did from the outside. Quite humbling, often; maybe quite sobering. How could we have set ourselves up for this?

Isn’t it fascinating, though, that we have been created with wills, with the God-given capacity to desire. And this capacity is part of our being created in the image of God, who is full of desire, and who desires us, and who desires our very best. And yet, we’ve not been created as robots, for God to simply align us like a formed piece coming off a conveyor belt in a foundry. Rather, we’ve been created in the image of God with wills, with the capacity to desire. I would say that in the Incarnation – in God’s taking on human form, human desire, a human name in Jesus – we see God stooping to us, meeting us on our own level, speaking our own language, appealing to our own desires, and ultimately leading us, like with breadcrumbs, down pathways we have freely chosen to that place where we belong: the melding of God’s choosing us and our choosing God, all of it quite freely.

Isn’t it amazing where you find yourself just now? That is certainly true for me. I suspect for many of us, where we find ourselves just now has come out of a series of life choices, of roads taken and not taken, of many right decisions, which have been blessed by God, and – at least for me, maybe for you? – wrong decisions, which are being redeemed by God, and that has made all the difference.

You might find it a graceful exercise to spend some time this Lent in reflection how you’ve gotten to be where you are: the many choices that have been made for your life – choices made by you and by others – which have shaped and formed your life. Make peace with those choosings. See where you can find gratitude for those choosings. And if you come up short, if you find you don’t know what to make of a choice you’re living with that doesn’t yet make sense or has not come to fruition, to pray for the grace to live into this choice as fully and freely as possible, believing that in the fullness of time, you will understand as you have been understood by God, all along: God, who chooses you, who understands your desires, and who desires your very best.

Join the conversation.  How does examining your choices lead you closer to God?

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