Let’s imagine that you are the only person on earth–you are completely by yourself but you have perfect intimacy with God. You get to experience the incredible beauty of God’s creation while immersed in His constant, sick unhindered presence. Would that be enough for you? Would it be enough for any of us?
I used to think that the answer was an obvious yes–God is all we need to live a joyful, info content, rheumatologist and fulfilled life. If we had perfect intimacy with Him we would never feel lonely and we would never need anyone else. Our real issue is that we live in a fallen world and all this darkness and sin gets between us and God, but if we could live in a place without sin, we would only need God to complete us, to fill our souls. But I don’t believe that anymore.
That wasn’t what you were expecting, was it?
Here’s the thing–the Bible tells us that our hypothetical scenario was real. God created the heavens and the earth and he fashioned one human being, Adam, to live in the world He created. There was no sin in the Garden of Eden, nothing to keep Adam from God, and Genesis 3:8 seems to suggest that God was present in the Garden in a physical form. And yet, God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Alone? But how would he be alone if God was there? But he was alone–Adam needed the presence of another human being to fulfill him, to satisfy the longings of his soul, in addition to his relationship with God.
Some might argue that God created Eve not because Adam actually needed her to live a fulfilled life, but rather that God wanted more children to pour out his love on and so he made Eve so she and Adam could have children.
But that argument isn’t convincing to me. If we did not need the community of other humans, wouldn’t God just create an infinite number of gardens and create a beautiful individual to place in the middle of each one? Or wouldn’t He at least create a less intimate way to procreate? And if relationships and community didn’t really matter, why would God strip himself of heaven to come and be with us on earth? Because of our salvation, you say? Well then, couldn’t Jesus have been born and then killed a few hours after his birth? Why was it necessary for him to become friends with a close group of men and women and live life among God’s children?
I believe God placed the longing for heaven into each human heart because he knows that we will never be fully satisfied without him. He wants to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), but I also think he made us for community. He designed us in such a way that we need each other. Our families and friends and spouses and children are not some sort of substitute for God until the Lamb breaks the power of Satan and restores God’s creation–we need these relationships to really live.
Now, of course, we do live in a fallen world and Satan twists our relationships to hurt us. But, in spite of this, we still need each other. And when we’re living in the new heaven and new earth, we will still need each other.
I agree with C.S. Lewis that “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” If we are in tune with the deepest longings of our heart, we will find that we have a longing for a place we’ve never been but that we somehow remember. We have a longing for home. But I would submit that we also have a deep longing for real intimacy, vulnerability, and the experience to be truly seen and known by those around us. The desires of our heart really go hand in hand–our pursuit of God should deepen our pursuit of human beings. And our relationships with those around us, people created in the image of God, should lead us deeper in love with the Lord.
This has practical applications for our lives. If you’re trying to take yourself out of the world so you can be more connected with the Lord, you’re missing out on a beautiful part of life that God created for your delight–intimacy and community–and actually might cut yourself off from a deeper understanding of God that we can only get from living life with others. And if you’re trying to find your identity and purpose for life in those around you, you’re never going to be able to fill the deepest longings of your heart.