Intimacy or Worship?

Hello Laura,

It took me days to figure out how to respond to your interesting article. But I’m afraid it expanded too much that I now feel awkward to paste it under your post as a reply. So I decided to write it in my blog and then connect it with your post through a pingback.

Let me try by quoting a few separate paragraphs from the same chapter of Philip Yancey’s REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD:

“Knowing an invisible God, we assume, has little in common with knowing a living, breathing person. Or does it? Actually, the more we understand how the mind works, the more it becomes clear that all knowledge—of God, people, or anything else—involves uncertainty and demands an act of faith.”

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“So many times people have surprised and misled me. I have learned that one of my best friends had a secret life of sexual addiction, that another was abused by her father for fifteen years. I thought I knew these friends, only to discover I was missing vital information about them. All human relationships rest on a platform of uncertainty that preserves the mysterious quality of otherness. In knowing one another, we always fall short.”

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“Knowing another person is a tricky matter involving much approximation and mystery.”

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“…knowing ‘other minds,’ whether other person or God, always requires an act of faith.”

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Having a relationship with God is ‘different’ and at the same time ‘similar’ with having relationship with other people.

The same in the sense that it involves uncertainty, mystery and faith. Just like ours: I have not seen you yet. And you’re not sure that I am a real single person. I have not yet audibly heard your voice, and you’re the same with me. But through faith, we communicate. Through faith I can hear your inner voice and have a hint of how you feel about Christianity and about life.

We become acquainted with each other by the contents of our articles and by the way we deliver our chosen words. We both need faith to maintain the positive healthy relationship. The same with God. We become acquainted with Him through his writings—the Bible. And we need faith to maintain a healthy relationship with Him.

Paradoxically, having relationship with God is also different from having a relationship with others. Simply because God is different from us. He’s God, we are humans. We cannot touch Him nor literally hear His voice. We cannot see His figure. Again, Philip put it succinctly. This last one is excerpted from the same book but from a different chapter.

“We are profoundly different, God and I, which explains why friendship is not the primary model used in the Bible to describe our relationship. Worship is.”

Thanks Laura for your exploration on this topic! It’s very interesting! And I agree with you, I think we need to start looking for a better and more appropriate term than the word “relationship” with God.

How about the word worship?

Because that’s the one thing that makes our relationship with God different from any other relationships. No matter how much we claim intimacy with God, we always worship Him. In strong contrast, that’s one thing we don’t do with other people who are so “intimate” with us—we don’t worship them.

We can be intimate with both God and humans, but it’s only God that we worship.

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This post is a response to a friend’s article Problems with saying you have a “relationship with God”…maybe we need new terminology?

Perspective: Gold or Dirt?

When you look at your surrounding, what do you see? Do you see the nature or the man-made establishments? Do you see the glimmering moonlight or the muddy roads?

When you look at people, do you see their strengths or their weaknesses; their potential or their limitations? When you look in the mirror, do you see someone who is so loved by the God of the universe or someone who is so despised and hated by his enemies?

Every time you open your eyes, what do you see, beauty or madness?

The answers to those questions come from your own perspective…from your paradigm.

Our mango tree that was split in two by a typhoon.

When I walked outside my unit just after one strong typhoon, I immediately saw the damaged it left in our surrounding. But after few more minutes of strolling, I started to see beauty. After all, typhoons are not as tyrannical as it always appears. Although sometimes it really is—as some may strongly argue. Yet ultimately, what it brings us depends entirely on our perspective.

Broken yet beautiful

John C. Maxwell and Stephen Covey are both convincing in their…perspective about perspective. They both imply to us that the way we see things is sometimes or maybe always better than what things really are.

Some may see a half-full bucket of water, while others may see the same bucket as half-empty. Some see problems in every opportunity; some see opportunities in every problem. Some immediately see the positive potential of others; while others see the imperfections. The difference lies in their attitude. But their attitude lies on their paradigms.

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says it clear as he explains in chapter Inside-Out that, “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world.”

In a noticeable parallel, John C. Maxwell, as he devotes one whole chapter—the very first chapter—in his book Winning With People that, “Who we are determines how we see others.”

I believe in both of them. They are perfectly reasonable. We are the only one responsible for our assumptions. If I constantly assume that a person cannot be trusted regardless of that person’s track record and regardless of the circumstances, then maybe I am the one who cannot be trusted. If I always see the limitations of others, then maybe that very thinking is the one that escalates my own limitations.

When a student confided me about his prejudice to other students I told him to be careful in how he looks at others. Then I shared to him the difference between the vagrant and the gold miner.

Wherever the vagrant goes, he’s quick to notice trashes, left-over foods, wrecks, and other useless equipment in the streets that have been abandoned. Everyday he’s quick to notice dirt. Why? Because he is conditioned to see things that way.

The miner on the other hand, when he climbs down the dark tunnel under the mountain with his equipment, he is quick to notice the presence of gold that camouflage to the rocks. Unlike the vagrant, the miner has conditioned his eyes to quickly notice the presence of gold, not dirt.

Then I told the student, “whatever you see in other people, you see it because you are conditioned to see it. Your conditioning is a product of your experiences, of the influences of your parents and friends, and other people…and most specially, of your own reflections.”

Every person has dirt in their being that is easily seen by others. Yet, every person has gold also in them that should be noticeable also to others.

Now whether you see the dirt in others or the gold in them, depends strongly from the way you have been conditioned to see others. Ask yourself, do you see others’ flaws very quickly? Or do you see their good heart instead?

Your judgement to others has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with who you are and what you are conditioned to see: the dirt or the gold. No matter how you see others, it always reflects the way you have been conditioned to see your world. Your judgement to others maybe the judgement to you.

Before I let him go, I asked the student, “Do you want to be a vagrant or a miner? Do you want to always see the dirt or the gold in others?” You can choose. “Conditioning” is temporary. Even if you have been conditioned to see the ‘dirt in others’ in the past, you can still change that by conditioning yourself to see the ‘gold in others’ now. That’s the good news!

Back to me…

It maybe not sound comforting, but it remains true: my own prejudice to others, my complains and criticism to others, my contempt and condemnation to them—all of those pictures I see in other people might be the very things that dominate my heart. And what’s worse is that I am not aware of it.

Does that mean that every time I am irritated with the arrogance of others I am actually irritated with my own arrogance, it’s just that I don’t see it?

Does that also mean that whenever I struggle to forgive others of what they’ve done to me has everything to do with a distorted lens of my own paradigm? Is that struggle a result of my internal lens poorly focused?

Remember, we seldom see the lens. We see everything else through them.

Self awareness is a helpful habit.