3 Secrets to Divine Intimacy
There are two things that are certain, besides death and taxes. That is: wherever there are people, there will be lovemaking and there will be prayer. There has never been a civilization (that has lasted, anyway!) that has not had sex or religion as a part of their experience. It is a quintessential part of being human.
Last week we talked about the connection between the two—specifically, how prayer is like orgasm. The longing, the vulnerability, and the sheer bliss of the experience are all quite similar. In the Christian view, it’s seen as a divine dance: each Person infinitely longing for the other (the “erotic”) and each being filled to overflowing by the other (the “agapic”).
This ain’t your run-of-the-mill God-on-the-throne shtick.
Somewhere along the line, we ironed out the wild and tender God to be sterile, stern, and stubborn.
What a drag. And what a tragedy! Especially when there’s a fiercely loving Being behind that façade—one who longs to draw us into his dance of joy and mirth and laughter and warmth!
How do we ditch the façade and encounter this wild love?
The mystics have three suggestions.
1. Find your thing
You may have heard it said “sex starts in the morning.” The way we connect with our human lover in the day-to-day and the way we connect in love-making are all part of one bigger picture of intimacy. It’s hard to feel intimate with someone who is emotionally distant.
How do you connect with your lover? We all do so in different ways, depending on our personalities, preferences, and hobbies. Wifey might want snuggle time on the couch, or just have a nice meal and talk. Husband might want to go to a game together, or nerd out while talking philosophy. The strongest relationships have found ways to connect with each other, and make time for that to happen.
The same principle applies to divine intimacy. Both the “making time for” and the “different strokes for different folks” are important. Meaning: your prayer doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. I know some farmers whose prayer time is in the tractor. I know a homeschooling mom who expresses her spirit through dance. I love to wander into a field and lie in the grass and soak up the sky. Some days, I’ll read a book. Or listen to music. Or go for a walk.
The important thing is to be attentive to when you feel most grounded. Where do you find peace? Joy? Grace? The invitation is within that desire. Feeling like you need a walk today? GO. Attend to your inner movements. Notice a beautiful tree along the way? Pause to take it in. What is its message? No need to analyze it or intellectually wrestle it to the ground. Open a space within yourself, give the gift room to unfold, and let it be what it is.
In the beginning, these stirrings are often brief. Maybe you walk for ten minutes, notice the tree, and stop and stay for twenty seconds. Or maybe you park yourself on the grass and stay for twenty minutes! Stay as long as the gift is being given. It may feel like a deepening silence. Or a tangible sense of presence. Maybe a strong but gentle Knowing.
Whatever it is—receive it! Give it space to unfold. I beg you: don’t get stuck clinging to the structure (your walk, your prayer, your book). It’s like being riveted to the couch while watching a movie… meanwhile your spouse has prepared a romantic evening in the bedroom. We can’t be so concerned with finishing the movie (or the prayer/walk/Scripture passage) that we turn down the invitation to intimacy.
Find how you connect with the divine, and make space for that.
2. Follow his cues
If we’re not used to living in this way, it can be difficult to notice the divine tugs at the beginning. Ever miss your lover’s cues?
Sometimes, especially in times of spiritual transition, we feel like we can’t hear God. Perhaps in the past, it was easy to find him in your Sunday service. Or taking a walk by the lake. And then, suddenly, he’s gone.
What’s a lover to do?
Instead of throwing a tantrum (#guilty), there is another invitation: wait in your longing. “God, I really need you. I want you. I don’t know where you are right now, but I’m here.”
Often, this is because the divine has moved deeper. You’re used to “making out on the couch,” and he’s moved to the bedroom. We’re not used to this arrangement. So we start searching for him, take a peek in the bedroom, and then start throwing a fit because we’re afraid of the dark.
When we are young—both in age and in spirit—we don’t much like the dark. It is unknown, and therefore scary. We like all lights on, so we can see things with certainty and clarity.
When we are grown, we realize lovely things happen in the dark. It’s a place for intrigue and unspoken beauty. Sometimes the Unknown of it all is thrilling. To relax into that is the key to growing in spiritual maturity.
Gerald May puts it masterfully in The Dark Night of the Soul:
When we were children, most of us were good friends with mystery. The world was full of it and we loved it. Then as we grew older, we accepted the indoctrination that mystery exists only to be solved. For many of us, mystery became an adversary; unknowing became a weakness. The contemplative life is an ongoing reversal of this adjustment. It is a slow and sometimes painful process of becoming as little children again, in which we make friends with mystery and finally fall in love with it. And in that love we find an ever-increasing freedom to be who we really are, in an identity that is continually emerging and never defined. We are free to join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.
If he’s beckoning you “farther up and further in”—follow. I promise you won’t regret it.
3. Wait on his timing
Ultimately, the gift of “divine orgasm”—if one might call it that—is precisely that: a gift. We make time to be with our Lover, we do our best to be attentive to his movements, and then we wait.
This can feel excruciating. Especially when life is rough. According to the mystics, the pain of the wait is God stretching our capacity, so we can fit MORE of him and his goodness when he does come to dwell.
But not all prayer is orgasmic. Neither is all sex mind-blowing! In Spiritual Wanderlust I use the analogy of surfing:
A friend once used the image of surfing to explain prayer. Like prayer, surfing requires a lot of waiting. You paddle out on your board, and then you wait for the swells. It can be a very peaceful, spiritual experience. Soaking in the warm Pacific water. Moving with the rhythm of the swells. Using all your senses to feel when the next wave is coming. When the gift comes, you paddle, hop on your board, and use your muscle memory to balance and ride that wave wherever it takes you. This may be a very brief experience, or, on occasion, you land a long, perfect barrel in which you somehow become one with the water. You don’t decide when the waves come: you simply show up, be, and receive the gifts that the Ocean has for you that day.
The quality of the experience is not up to us. I may or may not have... intense emotions. I may feel achey and melancholy; but I may also feel flatness or stillness, joy or triumph. What’s important is not so much the tool (the surfboard) or the emotion (it matters little to the Ocean), but more so the posture of receptivity. One can understand why surfing is such a spiritual experience for so many people. Like prayer, it requires simple attentiveness to the vast Ocean, and openness to its gifts.
How do you connect to the divine? Have you sensed his beckonings? Have you cozied up to Mystery?
Come join the conversation in the Spiritual Wanderlust group—we’re all there, living the questions together.