Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Problem of Discipleship—How Can I Surrender? Intimacy
Submit yourselves therefore for God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Good morning Prayer Team!
There is a significant problem we encounter quickly in our journey to discipleship. And that is that to really be a disciple, it requires us to surrender totally to God. That means that we submit our will to His. “Submission” is a word that in today’s world carries a negative concept. Submission seems to run counter to freedom, which is what seems to prize the most in our world. I use the word “seem” deliberately. Because I believe that freedom is actually not what we prize the most. I believe that we actually crave “intimacy” more than freedom itself. And complete surrender is required in order to get it.
When people think of intimacy, they immediately begin to think of it in a sexual context. This is one of the serious problems with our society. We believe that “intimacy” is not possible outside of the sexual context. While sexuality is a component of intimacy in the context of marriage, intimacy actually has more to do with surrender, vulnerability and acceptance than it does with sex.
To be able to speak without reservation is a type of intimacy. To let down one’s guard, put one’s “cards” away and open up about fears and insecurities is a type of intimacy. To know that someone will hear us and not judge us no matter what we say is a type of intimacy.
We seem to have lost our ability to have non-sexual “intimate” relationships—with friends, with family, with clergy, and with God Himself. And this is sad. Because “intimacy” is one of the major components of our human emotional experience. We are meant to experience it often. We have a need to experience it often. Again, I am not speaking in a sexual context. We need to be able to let down our guard—to be able to confide, to receive advice, to express sorrow and disappointment, to cry. These are part of a full life experience. If we are not having these things, then we are living less than the full life experience that God created us to have.
We will speak further later about “intimacy with God.” However, as an introduction to this idea of an intimate relationship with God, let us start by saying that this is the goal—to pour out ourselves to the Lord without reservation, without hesitation. Intimacy with God is more than a quick prayer, or checking a box, or even showing up for church. Intimacy with the Lord is about a genuine relationship with we confide everything in God. We don’t just heap up empty phrases and platitudes, but we open up our hearts and our souls to the Lord. We hold nothing back. We surrender. The Lord does His part as well. He receives us our intimacy with love and without judgment. Sincere repentance is met with unconditional forgiveness.
We are scared of intimacy in our interpersonal relationships, and perhaps rightfully so. It’s hard to trust people to keep a confidence if someone has broken your confidence. It is hard to let down your guard with a boss or with a client. And we’re conditioned to be strong people, not show any weaknesses. We’re conditioned to show a self that is well put together, not to show cracks in our foundation. So, people have become afraid of showing any vulnerability.
Yet, intimacy is only possible when we show our cracks, when we reach out for help with our weaknesses. When we admit we are lacking something, only then can we be truly filled with the love and the support of another. Just like when present ourselves to the Lord, if we come to the Lord with the prayer of the Pharisee, one of self-congratulations, (Luke 18: 10-14), our prayer is not going to be heard. When we come with the prayer of the Publican, asking for God’s mercies to heal our brokenness, this is where we begin to have an “intimate” relationship with the Lord. When we come to one another unafraid to show chinks in our armor (this presumes there is a trusting relationship with the person in whom we will confide—we can’t and shouldn’t confide in everyone, but should seek to build trusting relationships where confidences are held sacred and struggles are heard without judgment and are met instead with encouragement), this is the beginning of “intimate” friendships built on Christ-like love and service.
Let us flee the Pharisee’s exalted parlance; Let us learn the Publican’s humble demeanor, and with sighs unto the Savior cry out and say, To us be gracious, O only forgiving Lord. (Kontakion, Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
If the ultimate in the human experience is to achieve a sense of intimacy, to be able to let one’s guard down and just BE, we can begin by being able to hold a confidence with our close friends, building environments in friendships where it is safe to be vulnerable, and most important, creating an environment with the Lord (in prayer, scripture, confession, and service) where we are intimate and vulnerable with the Lord, and in exchange He showers us with love, mercy, withholds judgment and instead bestows grace.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Charisma Magazine
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