“Intimate strangers”—a term used to describe modern relationships which have all the possibility for intimacy but are characterized by distance. We often work with people we “know”, but whom we don’t really know. Maybe we attend the same church for years and can count on one hand those with whom we have more than a polite, surface relationship. Even in seemingly productive marriages, spouses sometimes wonder why true intimacy is missing. The two dimensions of intimacy—knowing and being known—must be in balance. When they are out of balance, intimate strangers is the result.
For instance, the Israelites and their idols were intimate strangers. In Isaiah 44:6-23, God speaks eloquently about the one-sidedness of idolatry. To be sure, the Israelites knew their idols well. They shaped the molds, cast the metal, pounded it and shaped it in the blacksmith’s coals. They gave all their physical strength to the point of exhaustion in creating their idols. And the carpenters toiled no less devotedly cutting down cedars, cypress, and oak. Measurements, cuttings, refinements; saws, chisels, compasses—serious skill and expense was invested in building idols with which to carry on a relationship. All the while, the contradiction was lost on the idolater: Because I carve a face on a piece of wood or stone, does that mean it can know me? When the idol was erected, the worshipper knew it intimately—every inch of it. But how much of the worshipper did the idol know? None—not an inch. The idolater and his idols are intimate strangers. After all his work, the heart of the idolater still cries out to be known.
The futility of idolatry, even the shallowness of many human relationships, is brought into full illumination by the Apostle Paul’s words. Perfect intimacy is possible when we worship the true God, because both dimensions of intimacy are present: we know him and he knows us. Regardless of the degree of intimacy in your earthly relationships, there is one place where you will never be an intimate stranger: your relationship with God. Let knowing, and being known by, God become the model for all of your relationships.
God’s Promise to You: “I am committed to an eternally intimate relationship with you.”
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