This is from an Oswald Chambers lesson in My Utmost for His Highest: “Friendship is rare on earth. It means identity in thought and heart and spirit. The whole discipline of life is to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ. We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we know Him?”
When I first read those sentences, I was immediately struck by their beauty and simplicity – so much that I read them several times. On first glance, I was considering that true friendship as described by Chambers is extremely rare, and I am blessed to experience its touches every day in a lot of often unexpected places. I certainly have a few “go-to” friends with whom I share “identity in thought and heart and spirit”; they are my earthly anchors, and they are truly golden. The silver bits come from the unexpected touches of shared identity: a word or a hug from a new friend; a message from someone you haven’t seen in years; a shared experience you wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Essentially, these are the times that we stop everything else and take the time to actually communicate on the heart and soul level – the moments that seem to hang crystalized in our memories because of the insight we gained or the glimpse of depth we each contain but rarely share.
On the repeated readings of that quotation, I began to consider the last few sentences. Chambers said the whole aim of our lives is to know Christ in this intimate manner. “We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we know Him?” It isn’t enough for me to just read the Bible on a regular basis or pray on a regular basis if I am not taking time to search out the person of Christ through those disciplines. Do I know him, or do I just know about him? I can tell you my husband’s personal history, recite stories from his childhood, quote the details of his work truck specifications, and give you his clothing sizes. But that is meaningless without the intimate knowledge that comes from almost a decade of marriage: I can read the micro expressions on his face and tell you what kind of mood he’s in; I know his likes and dislikes (although he still manges to pull off a lot of surprises on me there); I can anticipate his reactions to situations at work (and to my insane moments). Those details are unknowable if you stop at the surface or spend little time with someone.
My husband and I will have been married ten years in May; I have been a professing Christian nearly three times longer. I’m not sure that I could honestly tell you more intimate details about Christ than I can about my husband. I can tell you innumerable details gleaned from a lifetime of church and Bible study, but intimate details are a horse of a different color. In some respects, that is because it is easier to obtain intimate knowledge of a physical being you share a home with. But mostly, it tells me I need to spend more time with Christ. This does not mean I should cloister myself for hours or days, although I do find that a daily time for study and meditation and prayer keep me more focused on finding Christ in the intimate details of my life. As Oswald Chambers said, “the whole discipline of life” should serve to draw us closer to Jesus. I don’t know what your life holds, but my current discipline of life involves being a wife, keeping house, working, and writing, just to name a few. I should have intimate knowledge of God through each and every pursuit; if not, I need to either find Christ in that pursuit or abandon it altogether.
I think some people struggle with Christianity over the rules and regulations. We humans impose a lot of rules and laws on each other in an attempt to sanctify humanity by preventing some infraction of morality. While morality as the result of a pure and honest heart is admirable, morality for the sake of morality quickly becomes self-righteousness and dictatorial. It turns Christianity into a tool for condemnation and horrible acts of cruelty, like the Westboro Baptist Church folks who protest military funerals. That is not the love of Christ; it is not love at all except possibly the love of self. While I may not feel completely confident in my intimacy with Christ, I do know that the more we know him intimately – when we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) – then the more details and disciplines fall into place.
I think I need to add to my resolution list to search for a deeper intimacy with Christ than I have with anyone else. How amazing would it be to be able to tell someone about God’s micro expressions? Moses could have; the disciples could have. I want to translate all of the knowledge I have acquired about God into close friendship and intimacy. I can imagine nothing greater than to know God as he knows us. While the full realization of that knowledge isn’t possible this side of heaven, we can begin here on earth.