When my husband and I were dating, we spent some time living 1000 miles apart. I was in college in Illinois, and he was attending seminary in Colorado. During those months, we sometimes felt desperate to be close to one another. No matter how many much time we spent on the phone, there was no real substitute for face-to-face conversation and physical closeness. In fact, eventually we reached the point where we could no longer handle the distance and Trevor made his way back to Illinois. If our relationship was going to move forward, we had to be in each other’s presence more often.
For us, this separation lasted only a matter of months and came after we had already met face to face. Nowadays, many couples meet online and develop their relationships from a distance. But especially if they’re going to make a long-term or until-death-do-us-part commitment, there’s still no substitute for being together.
The same thing is true of your relationship with God. You may not have thought of it this way, but you are essentially in a long-distance relationship with him. Sure, he is close to you. Yes, you are always in his presence. Yet your limitations as a finite creature, your rebellious heart, and this cursed world mean you experience God at a distance. And there’s nothing you can do to bridge that gap. Jesus has made the once-for-all sacrifice necessary to bring us into true and close relationship, but we don’t yet experience the full impact of that reconciliation. We do not know or even fathom what it means to see God face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12 talks about this dynamic. You can know God’s love now, but you can’t know it as you will. You understand, see, and may even prophecy–but what you have is only a part of what you will have in God’s unadulterated presence. If you know and follow Jesus, you will see him face to face. You will know him without interference from your sinful nature, your limited understanding, or the boundaries of space and time.
It will be wonderful.
But in the meantime, you live with the distance. And here’s the thing: God doesn’t want you to be satisfied or comfortable with these circumstances. He wants you to yearn for him, just as you would yearn for a loved one you rarely see. Part of living well in this unsatisfying reality is living with patience. Part of it, paradoxically, is living in great anticipation and hope for what is to come.
The next time someone suggests that your relationship with God should be enough to satisfy all your spiritual and emotional needs, here and now, remember this. Your long-distance relationship isn’t meant to be enough to satisfy you. God wants you to love him enough that you long to be with him. He wants you to desire a deeper connection with him. He wants you to live in the hope that you will one day see his face.
If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, check out my most recent book, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied!
© 2018 Amy Simpson.