The other day, I went for a walk in the woods, in “our place”: a set of trails that God & I used to spend a lot of time on together. What with the price of gas to get there, and the business of life, I haven’t been to those trails much recently; we’ve been meeting in coffee shops and back rooms instead.
When I got to the trailhead, my first words were according to tradition, “Hi Papa,” and then He broke our tradition. Instead of waiting for me to quiet my mind over the next mile, He immediately began speaking to me of reciprocity in relationships, particularly His relationship with individuals. He seemed very excited about it. I’m afraid I loved that part best: His enthusiasm is very contagious.
“My relationship with you,” He began, and I could hear Him smiling, “is reciprocal.” And He let me think on that for a bit.
I sometimes teach a model of relationships that uses a bridge as an illustration of our relationship: the stronger the bridge (the relationship) between us, the more weight that can be carried across the bridge from you to me, or from me to you, but we both have to build the bridge.
I thought of this illustration now, as He was teaching me. “That’s actually not how I relate to you.” I was getting excited with Him by now.
So He began to describe to me how He limits Himself in His relationship with me – or anyone else – based on how I approach Him. While He is always attentive towards me, if I give Him my time and attention, then He gives me His time & attention: the degree to which I experience Him is pretty much determined by how much I’m willing to invest myself in Him, in our relationship.
I wish I could capture the joy, the immediacy, the clarity that came on those trails.
He pointed out that He’s “pretty much omnipotent” and if He relates to me in His omnipotence, I’ll pop, or my brain will fry, or I’ll burn up in a puff of smoke. “No one can see My face and live,” He said to Moses, and suddenly I understand better. If He brought the infinite force of His personality to our relationship, I would crumble to dust when He showed up. That’s hard on the relationship.
It’s mercy that keeps Him at a distance from me.
And so He must limit Himself, His glory that is in His person, His personality. I pray, “Show me your glory” like Moses, and He must answer, “I cannot.”
But the limit that He puts on Himself is the limit that I set. Or to put it the other way, the more I open myself to Him, the more He opens Himself to me.
I long for His presence. I appreciate His mercy.