How do we enhance intimacy in human relationships? An important question, since as humans we’re so enmeshed with others. But I suspect what builds intimacy between humans often works between humans and God. Makes sense, since he created us in his image.
What’s that key? Communication. Verbal and nonverbal. Note the latter, because in human communication, somewhere around 85% of meaning comes nonverbally, from what we do, even though we typically define communicating as the words we use. Realizing this takes away some of the guilt I feel at my prayer life. Frankly, it sucks. I even wrote a book, with the primary focus on myself, about knowing God intimately--A Passionate Pursuit of God.
I focus more on actions, than words, always have. The pic above shows my mom, Angie, with her two surviving brothers. At this point, dementia stole some of her keen mind and memory, and her brothers came out from the South and the Midwest 8 months before a stroke took her home. During that time, I took care of her finances, home repairs and the practical stuff. Jane, my sister, provided much more emotional support. I’ve felt bad about that, but this post is changing my attitudes. We need both.
Good words and hugs are part of healthy communication, words and hugs that build and encourage and warm. I get that, and we all need to communicate in them. But I’m more practical. I love to serve physically. To sacrifice. To lead mission trips. Stuff like that, and these can be as strong an expression of love as the words and hugs. “For God so loved the world that he hugged us,” right? Well, Jesus phrased it differently, “For God so loved the world that he gave his son” (John 3:16). Action to benefit us. I found a lot of other scriptures that show that.
Yes, he tells us he loves us. Yes, he gives us spiritual hugs. He also acts to benefit us. He cares about the smallest details of our lives. And he wants us to communicate with him like he does with us. Verbally and nonverbally.
Have you thought of tithing as an act of love, of intimacy to God? How about being a parking lot attendant at church? Teaching a kindergarten class? Saying no to temptation? Saying yes to a ministry? Sure, all of our acts can be empty striving to please God without living with him as our Lord. But when we know God, these become valid nonverbal acts that show our love to God.
God wired each of us differently in our communication style. Some focus more on cuddling and listening; some focus more on doing. Perhaps the key is for each of us to do each a little bit more. Do both.
I like how Francis of Assisi phrased it, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
Kick Starting the Application
Which direction do you lean in—verbal or nonverbal? Any idea why you lean like that? Do you see our need to do some of both? Think of your strong area, and remember a recent time you expressed love that way. What was the result? Think of one concrete step to help you grow in the other area. Will you do that this week?