Distance. I don’t like distance. At least from those I love. That word sounds sad to me.
I’ve felt distance often. Growing up I felt distance emotionally. I struggled feeling close to my dad. And my mom as I grew older. I definitely felt distant from most of my friends as I made my way through adolescence.
Emotional distance is difficult. It’s the feeling of being alone even when you’re not that really sucks. None of us were created for solitary confinement but sometimes it feels like we can’t get out of it. If you don’t have a space to share your heart, you start to live in it. You start to think that no one really knows what it’s like to be you. And that’s sort of true. Because your heart is isolated, there’s a definite distance between it and other people’s. It’s lonely, it’s sad. Distance.
I learned to break out of most of my self-imposed emotional isolation over the last three years. I started being vulnerable with my friends and family and I discovered they weren’t so far away. It was amazing to start being known and still loved. Once I realized how close they could be, it enabled me to begin loving people better, too.
But distance still plays a big part in my life.
Now it’s not so much emotional as it is physical. God has allowed me to travel a lot. That’s led me to build beautiful relationships with people on the opposite side of the world. As I’ve learned to open my heart more and more, I’ve learned there is also a cost to love. I can’t be with my family in America and New Zealand and Uganda at the same time. That’s what my heart expects. Distance is a sad word for me.
More than the friendships I’ve built internationally, I’ve also felt the d-word in my relationship with my fiancee. I met Natalie in 2017 in New Zealand. She lives in California right now. We spent three and half months in person building a friendship. Between when we started dating in 2018 until we got engaged last December, we’ve barely doubled that length of time. Messenger video chats have been our date nights. Distance as been the default. God has definitely used it to shape our relationship and it has been a beautiful journey of learning trust and love primarily through vulnerable conversations. Neither of us would change that. But it still hurts like heck to say goodbye at the airport. Everything in me screams out for us to be near to each other in person.
Do you know God feels the same way?
Love inherently seeks intimacy. Intimacy is built through proximity and longevity. Those big words simply mean that our hearts long to be close to someone we love for a long time. God created us for love. To be loved by him and to learn to love on him. That’s the image of Himself that he created us in. In the Garden, Adam and Eve didn’t know what distance was. They were close, so close, to God. I can’t fully imagine it. They had no concept of shame, fear, doubts—all the things that distance can bring. They were free to fall in love with their Maker. I’m sure they did. But something happened and they chose a different path. God made them leave the garden and suddenly they felt it:
Look around you. You can see what distance from God has done. People who are desperate for love look in crazy places. There’s seriously jacked up stuff going around on this pretty green globe. It’s called sin and it’s sickening. And it’s the cry of distant, orphan hearts. Some people wonder why God, who is love, hates sin. I don’t. Sin is what causes distance. Love craves closeness so, obviously, love hates sin. The whole Bible is a simple message we too often complicate: God desperately loves humanity and he passionately hates what robs them of the experience of true intimacy.
This year, I’m asking God to help me come all the way home. I’m not going to let distance describe my relationship with God.
Just as I can’t wait for the day when I’ll never say goodbye to my fiancée, I’m looking forward to the day I never choose sin over my Father’s love. Maybe it’s a weird picture to you; it’s a real one for me.
A lot of people like to say that we have to wait until we get to heaven before we can experience a relationship with God without distance but that seems silly to me. If God commands us to “go and sin no more”(John 8), he must believe we have the potential to do exactly that. Of course we can’t on our own. We aren’t on our own, though.
I’m in love with God. That’s what being a follower of Jesus means. I hate whatever brings distance between me and my experience of Him. I hate sin. That’s not legalism, friends, that’s desperate love. The same kind of love that makes me jump up and down when I think about marrying my fiancee and not having to say goodnight and goodbye at the same time.
So you can stop being afraid of your Fathers hatred for sin. He loves you. And he hates distance.
He’ll help you get rid of every construct that makes him feel far. Ask him to. He’ll love it. He created you to be close. It’s just love.
I don’t like distance. Not from those I love. I won’t leave any option to get closer alone. If you buy me a flight ticket to California, I’ll take it. How could I not? And if God gives me grace—which he has— to defeat every hint of sin, you better believe I’m catching that flight. You should too.
Written by Tim Ornelas.
I’m a life-long son to my heavenly Father and my earthly family. I love to share my process with you so that you will feel empowered and encouraged to do the same. I enjoy reading, writing, preaching, and praying for the sick both in the church and on the streets. My greatest desire is for Jesus to become known by every soul. You can use the following platforms to stay connected.
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