Scared of really getting to know God

There’s a curious expression I’ve heard all my life among Christians. It goes something like this:

“I want to be closer to Jesus (or God).”

It’s curious to me because for years, I didn’t know what it meant. I’m not sure if we can be spatially closer to God because God is omnipresent. I’m not sure if we can be relationally closer to God because, in Jesus, we are as “close” as we can be. I really resisted this expression for years because it struck me as an expression that meant, "I want to feel like God is present," which, too often is the case, is an attempt to chase a feeling about God instead of God.

Nevertheless, I accept that expression more and more. It reminds of what Paul said in 1 Cor 13:12. Corinth was known for high quality copper mirrors. Paul uses an object they would have known well to make an analogy about knowledge of God.

“For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known” (NET).

Of course, if I were to see you behind me in a mirror, it would be “indirectly” looking at you. But, if I saw you “face to face,” then I would look at you directly. Paul’s point isn’t about seeing God, but about knowing God directly. Notice how Paul suggests that I don’t know God fully, but that God already fully knows me.

If that’s what you mean when you say, “I want to be closer to God,” – that you “want to know God more,” then I’m with you.

I say the same thing about my wife and friends. I want to know them better, “be closer.”

Of course, there’s a real fear sometimes with really knowing a person. It means they really know you, too. Maybe I don’t want you to know everything about me. And what if I feel the same towards God? “If God really knew me, then He’d want me to change or do something…

C.S. Lewis said he struggled with such a thing (in an essay called, “A Slip of the Tongue”):

“I say my prayers, I read a book of devotion, I prepare for, or receive, the Sacrament. But while I do these things, there is so to speak, a voice inside me that urges caution. It tells me to be careful, to keep my head, not to go too far, not to burn my boats. I come into the presence of God with a great fear lest anything should happen to me within that presence which will prove too intolerably inconvenient when I have come out again into my “ordinary” life. I don’t want to be carried away into any resolution which I shall afterwards regret.. . .

“This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal.”

C.S. Lewis goes on to say that our great protection against the temptation not to “go all in with God” is not in pulling back our faith or safeguarding our wallet or habits. Instead,

“Our real protection is to be sought elsewhere: in common Christian usage, in moral theology, in steady rational thinking, in the advice of good friends and good books, and (if need be) in a skilled spiritual director.”

What about when we fail and hold back from our attempt to “get closer to God?” What if we just keep dabbling in His presence?

He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only insofar as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls. Let us make up our minds to do it; there will be nothing “of our own” left over to live, no 'ordinary' life.”

And later, "Failures will be forgiven; it is acquiescence that is fatal, the permitted, regularised presence of an area in ourselves which we still claim for our own."

So, I wonder where you’re at. Are you seeking to know God more? Or, are you afraid “to go all in” in the fear that He might demand you surrender part of you or tell you to stop doing something? If so, that’s a compromise not supported in the Bible. There is no notion that we get to have some of God or that we can surrender some of ourselves. Christ said those who follow Him must deny their wills and pick up their crosses. It’s everything or nothing.

What if my wife demanded all of my loyalty and I promised to give her “as much as I could but couldn’t promise too much”?

“For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.”

If you’re not trying to “get closer to Jesus” right now, today, and each day, why not? What’s holding you back?

Figure that out and fix it. He’s waiting on you.