One of the struggles for men, wanting to deepen their relationship with God is our struggle with dualistic thinking. By that I mean, men see their relationship with God more as “God and me” rather then “God in me.” The “God and me” frame of reference tends to place God outside of ourselves, separated from our real life. We see our sense of self as being separate and distinct from God. Parker Palmer cautions that this kind of mind set can easily lead to what he calls, “functional atheism” in which we see ourselves primarily responsible for developing a more intimate relationship with God. In subtle ways we try to control the relationship, expecting God to fit into the “box” of our expectations. Our greatest fear is losing control and not fully understanding where God is leading us. It is difficult to give up the illusion that we are the masters of our destinies
The key to our growth in relationship with God, has to do with what takes place in our hearts. This is all the work of God. Remember Paul calls it a “mystery,” “which is Christ in you” (Col 1:27). While “God and me” helps us maintain a healthy awareness that God is far above and beyond us, it must be balanced with the awareness of “God in us.” Peter tells us, “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (II Pet. 1:4). We are not comfortable with mystery, especially when it comes to what is going on in our souls. But if we are going to be changed from the inside out, it must be God’s work. Our task is “letting go.”
What always needs to be kept before us in our self-consciousness as followers of Jesus, is reality that God is already within. We are already united with God. So what is missing for so many men. It is awareness or realization of who I am in Christ. There will be no change without this awareness. We will end up trying to change ourselves. It is God who produces the fruit of change. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” ( John 15:4). Gerald May reminds us, “The spiritual life has nothing to do with actually getting closer to God. It is instead a journey of consciousness. Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized, and in that sense it is something that can be yearned for, sought after, and – with God’s grace – found.”
For a wild man I believe Brennan Manning has it right when he talks about a “recovery of passion.” To have passion is to be affected by what is already in our heart. Passion says Manning is “the essential energy of the soul.” He warns against sloth which is “the refusal to go on the inward journey.” We become paralyzed spiritually when we protect ourselves from passion. I know there has been a measure of recovering spiritual passion for myself, as I have become aware that I am God’s beloved. The more I have allowed myself to know me, that good, the bad and the ugly, the more I have come to know my belovedness in God. In discovering more of my true self I also have come to know God. For my true self and God are united within. But don’t try to figure out that reality. It is hidden from us, as a mystery, so that we don’t get in the way with the need to control and understand.