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I once listened to an interview with Brian Doerksen, a guy who wrote a number of fairly well-known worship songs (Come Now is the Time to Worship, Refiner's Fire, and many more). He was talking about how within church music, there has been a shift over the last number of years, and many songwriters and worship leaders are striving more and more for "big moments", those parts of a song when people can't help but get swept up in the powerful emotion that takes over with the climax of the music.
For example, he talked about how songs themselves have changed from the norm being a number of verses repeated (like in many hymns), to having a verse and a chorus... and then maybe adding a second chorus... and then topping it off with a bridge after the second chorus... all getting bigger and bigger and building to some kind of ultimate climax.
He was quick to say that sometimes it is indeed okay to have songs that have big moments, but he also talked about how it can almost become addictive. He described it as a ramp we go up and down, and if we don't stop to notice what's happening, we can get caught up in the cycle of the pursuit of this kind of experience and lose sight of the fact that our faith is about a relationship.
At one point in the interview, he made this comment about what he has seen happening in music and worship within the church: "We've started to value and practice intensity instead of valuing and practicing intimacy."
Intensity instead of intimacy. I found myself wondering, am I doing this? Am I getting caught up in this cycle he's referring to?
I would guess that many of us, worship leaders or not, have probably been involved in doing something in which we want so badly to make it good that we intensify our efforts, not realizing that in doing so, we're forgetting about the actual people we're trying to serve. We're valuing intensity instead of intimacy.
Have you ever worked so hard at making a meal for your family that you end up snapping at your son or daughter when they try to ask you a question in the middle of your preparations? Or maybe you spend hours laboring over getting the wording of an email just right, only to find that you barely have any energy left to give to the people you're working with in real life.
Why is it so hard for us to value and practice intimacy? Is there a way to change this?
Maybe first we need to consider what intimacy is. Sometimes our minds go straight to a romantic relationship, but when I googled "intimacy definition", I found this description: "close familiarity or friendship; closeness." Intimacy is something that can grow in many types of relationships. It can grow, but that doesn't mean it automatically will.
I think things like the internet and technology and social media are a big part of what makes intimacy difficult these days. It's pretty easy to have quite a lot of connections, but often they are either shallow, or worse, sometimes false senses of connection. Yet so many of us put all our energy into maintaining all these connections, and then we don't have any energy left for our actual real-life connections with people.
Boy do I wish I had an easy solution that would help us all better manage our technology and the energy around it! If only we could say, just do x, y and z, and you can be assured that technology won't keep you from cultivating intimacy in your life. Maybe awareness is the first step though... along with prayer. Help us Lord, to look to You for wisdom!
Jesus Himself modeled intimacy both with God and with other people during His time on earth. Obviously He was very close with the Father, and I know it gets complicated because both Jesus and His Father are literally one through the Trinity, but without taking a deep dive into theology, maybe we just consider the fact that Jesus and His Father had known each other quite a long time.
If we think about how intimacy is developed, it generally does take a lot of time. It doesn't tend to be the kind of thing where you have this one really big experience and boom! you're close to someone. Rather, it generally happens gradually through sharing very ordinary experiences together. Maybe you're working together on a project, or in the case of people within your family, you're waking up together or washing dishes together or playing a game together - lots and lots of little things that lead you both to a feeling of closeness.
Let's go back to Jesus though, and how He lived out intimacy with God and others. His intimacy with God is fairly obvious - He walked with God and continually referenced the fact that everything He did came out of His connection with God. But then what about his relationships with people? He loved and healed many people and did lots of good, but as far as who He was close with, it was His disciples. Twelve people.
Realistically, we all need to remember that while it's not good to be alone, it's also impossible to be close to tons of people. Each of us is one human person and based on what Jesus showed us, we can be close to essentially a handful of people. And that's it.
The cool thing about this kind of intimacy - when we have a small group of people with whom we feel close - is that it is going to have a ripple effect. Having close relationships with God and with a few other people not only makes us better people but it also positively affects the people around us. The intimacy we are experiencing fills up our cups so much that we can't help but overflow.
On the flip side, if we're lonely and discouraged all the time, our lack of intimacy is going to come out too one way or another. (Really though, if that's how we're feeling, it needs to come out, because a big part of the solution to dealing with things like loneliness and discouragement is to have some people close to you who can offer you support and encouragement when you need them.)
As people who are connected to BCS or WCA, most of us would agree that we hope our small Christian schools can be places where intimate relationships can be formed and grow. We believe in the value of intimacy and aspire to see our schools valuing and practicing intimacy over intensity, not just in worship but in our way of doing life together. Isn't a small Christian school the perfect place for this to happen?
It absolutely is... but the reality is that it is probably not going to just automatically happen. We're living in a culture and society where true intimacy is not very natural or normal. So if we want intimacy to become the norm, there needs to be some intentionality around making it happen, and what could be better to get us there than praying?
Let's ask God to help us to develop intimacy and closeness in our relationships, recognizing that even in our "small" schools, there are still too many people for us all to be intimate with everyone. It's more like we're asking God to raise up various close circles that may overlap and will likely include people from outside of our community as well but, most importantly, will have a ripple effect. Ultimately, these close circles of intimate relationships have the power to literally transform the culture.
By God's grace, may we become people who are not just cultivating intensity in our work and relationships, but may we be people who value and practice intimacy, both with God and with others.
Artwork by Dale Cupo (dale_ey_dabbles) Jeremiah 23:3 -"I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number."
Pray with me...
... that God will grow us and our students to develop an intimate relationship with Him
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
... that God will guide our steps and show us how to cultivate deep intimate relationships throughout ACSD, tearing down any walls that would divide us
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
... that God will empower leaders of all kinds within our community to model intimacy in Christ-centered ways
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory