Cultivating Intimacy

Posted on: 
May 21, 2021

I live in a town full of subsistence farmers. Some of them have supplementary income sources, but their primary food source is the corn that they grow on their mountain fields. I do not have my own cornfield, but I sometimes accompany my friends when they go out to cultivate their land. The other day, we hauled sacks of freshly-picked corn over a mountain trail, shouldering the bags up the steepest slopes where the burro couldn’t manage. As I sat catching my breath in between loads, I marveled at the raw interaction these people have with the land they cultivate. They clear the mountain slopes, scatter fertilizer, bury the seeds, care for the growing corn, and then pick, husk, and shell the mature corn, doing all the labor by hand or with very simple tools. Sometimes they even sleep in the fields during busy periods or to protect the corn from marauding squirrels and raccoons! All this gives them a very intimate acquaintance with the land, the plants and animals that live on it, and the weather that passes over it. I’ve not lived here long, but already I have been intrigued by the depth of knowledge they possess about the land and the life it supports.

Another Kind of Farming

I thought about all this as I sat catching my breath, and then I thought of the contrast between this way of growing corn and another way I am more familiar with. I grew up in a farming family in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania. Most roads in the valley will take you past cornfields, but those cornfields look different. They are very neat and orderly; planted by, not manpower, but machine power. Tractors pull the plows that prepare the soil, the drills that plant the corn, the spreaders that apply the fertilizer, and the sprayers that zap the weeds. Come harvest time, combines will roll through and pick, husk, and shell the mature corn. The farmer’s interaction with their fields and the life they support is mediated by steel, rubber tires, and diesel exhaust. There’s nothing wrong with this machine-oriented way of growing corn, but I was humored by the thought that many perceive my Cumberland Valley farming friends as being close to the land. Yes, compared to a city dweller surrounded by concrete and steel, they are close to the land, but the closest they will ever get to most of the land they cultivate is a distance equal to the height of their tractor seat. That relationship is a far cry from the close interaction my mountain farming friends have with their land.

How Close to God?

I enjoyed comparing these two methods of growing corn, but then a spiritual parallel (at least somewhat parallel) came to mind. How do I cultivate my relationship with God? Like my mountain-farming friends with their land, am I intimate with God, meditating on and obeying His Word? Do I know the Holy Spirit and hear the direction that He gives? Do I have raw interaction with God in prayer, entering the throne room of the Most High and falling before Him in worship and intercession? Is my experienced-based knowledge of God expansive, such that others can be discipled from the depths of what I have learned from the Most Wise? Or am I like my valley-farming friends whose relationship with their land is mediated by machinery? Do I cultivate my relationship with God through the machinery of commentaries, devotional books, and deep theological discussions? Have I let those things that should help deepen my relationship with God instead completely replace it, giving me the impression of intimacy when instead what I know of the Most High is all “head knowledge"? Sure, in this condition I may be much closer to God than the pagan that denies His existence completely, but it’s a far cry from true intimacy and experiential knowledge. And unlike the two equally-acceptable ways of farming contrasted above, these two ways of cultivating a relationship with God are not equal. God wants to know me and be known by me, and I mean really KNOWN! I need to get down off my tractor and work that dirt by hand.

Get down and dirty with me.

—LH, from a Mixtec village

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10