Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Intensity, Intimacy, and Incarnation

Intimacy, Intensity, and the Incarnation

December 18, 2012
Dr. James R. Brooks

A while ago, I saw a headline about intimacy and intensity.  I did not read the entire article, but the gist was that our society is more about intense experience than it is about intimate experience.  I resonate with that reality.  Not that I affirm it, but I get what they portray.

The easy first look is media.  Social media or reality television, the gambit confronts us with intense experience.  The quick hitting head line that grabs our attention away from other things and focuses us upon the source that sold the advertising.  Could be a cynical view of mine.

What of our daily relationships outside our home?  With social media as the sequa to water cooler talk and parking lot gossip, are our daily relationships more intense or intimate?  At happy hour, do we garner more attention if we have the “scoop”?  In a more helpful vane, when a co-worker’s “insert relative title” is dying of “insert terminal illness” do we all respond to the intense moment with an out pouring of our own intense compassion?  Compassion is rarely wrong.  However, what does intense experience lack?

Like a sugar high, intense experience has a down side.  The first felt by many is the lonely dark of night.  When our “fb” friends all go to sleep and the kids are at their other parent and the sun is long down and the house is quiet and the infomercials are bleeding into static and we stare at the blank ceiling then the vacuum left behind by the intense experience rattles our souls.  Like a chain smoker, we crave yet another intense experience.  Why?

Do intense experiences distract us from the call for intimacy?  The grand adventure that gives us tales to regale our water cooler co-workers might be a distraction from intimacy.  A life as a cheerleader who rallies the team to yet another amazing happy hour, winery trip, zip line, 5k / 10k / 13.1 or 26.2 charity run could be a distraction.  As much as I thirst for the edge moments where I see God most clearly, at times striving for the edge is itself a distraction from what we could discover.

Intimate experiences are intense and yet different.  Intimacy demands a vulnerability not necessary in intensity.  Where pornography seems more about intensity, a healthy marital relationship of 50 years shares a profound intimacy.  Intimacy demands more of and provides more for the participants.  A power of intimacy is the ability to enjoy intensity while equally embracing when intensity is lacking.   Intimacy is found when we return to our “other” assured acceptance for who we are not what we’ve done nor what has been done to us.  Even more, in spite of what we have done and what has been done to us, intimate relationships (lover or friend) receive us well.

Though I could continue volumes regarding intimacy, we are in the Christmas season.  Soon we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that event, God becomes incarnate among us in a new way.  

Merriam-Webster says of “incarnate”...
a : invested with bodily and especially human nature and form

b : made manifest or comprehensible : embodied incarnate

We are made in God’s image.  As incarnate, God becomes our image so that we might comprehend God.  What a gift beyond intensity and intimacy.

Intensity can be the experience of our shadow’s edge.
Intimacy can be the experience of our redeemed wholeness.
Incarnation can be the experience of divine eternity.

At the edge of the water, much life resides.  The lion and the lamb come to drink.  We make the sand castles that celebrate both our creativity and finitude.

In the pasture of redeemed wholeness life giving relationships flourish.  In the earthy cycle of seasons, life in the pasture grows.  Across the ages, we discover each other as is only possible over time and accessibility.  Given opportunity, we each redeem relationship and are redeemed by those to whom we relate.

In a manger eons ago, the Most High God, Creator of All, Thou Who breathed life into the dust was born a fragile baby at the mercy of the chaotic world you and I know to well.  Incarnation full of trust beyond the bounds of intimacy was born.  Incarnation with story and star beyond the intensity of embellishment was born.  The mystery and magic, excellency and eternity of divine incarnation known as much for the lack of language as by the perfection of known meaning.  

Not the last will I write of these three kings in our lives: intensity, intimacy, incarnation.  The strings of these kings strike many a cord to be sung in future blog.

As we approach this holy night so silent, I pray we grow from intensity to more intimate relationships.  And may God become incarnate in the midst of our intimacy.

And may God bless us everyone.