“Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ’Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)
Frederick Franson, founder of The Scandinavian Alliance Mission and four other Scandinavian mission sending agencies at the close of the last century, had a life motto: Constant Conscious Communion with Christ or “CCCC.” Nothing new about that — the mystics through the ages have held that kind of closeness as the highest level of spiritual oneness with God. But I wasn’t acquainted with the mystics and Franson’s motto entranced me. That’s what I want, I told the Lord. As a missionary volunteer I was out for all the fullness of God and His purposes in the world! No halfway stuff would do. He startled me with His response — the experience of constant, conscious communion was mine! I was euphoric — for about three months. And then it slipped away. I grasped to hold on to the experience, but to no avail. It was gone, never to return, except, perhaps, during some of those special fasting-and-prayer times.
What’s wrong with me? If it’s sin, it’s surely unconscious — and that’s hard to deal with! If it’s spiritual immaturity, how many more decades of growth are needed? Besides, that first taste was surely vouchsafed to a neophyte, not a veteran! Maybe it’s my finitude—perhaps my spirit just can’t sustain such a high level of spiritual intensity, or my mind can’t consciously engage in two activities simultaneously. Or perhaps it was like Paul’s one-time exalted experience, something just to let me know what’s in store for me one day? You can tell I’ve wrestled with this issue. I wouldn’t be so honest with you about it if I felt it would hinder you from pressing on with the mystics to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of you. Maybe He’ll gift you with such a relationship before the rest of us experience it on the great wedding Day.
But surely there’s some relationship beyond the long silences we subject our Companion to. The mystics thought so. They describe an “intermediary” stage between the typical Christian’s experience of periodic prayer and the ideal of constant conscious communion. They call it “intermittent.” Sort of like a toddler playing happily in a room where her mother is sitting. She’s aware of her mother’s presence always. The evidence is that she goes after her with cries of protest when mother leaves the room! But as long as mother is there, she’s content, occupied with her own interests, but occasionally conversing with her constant companion. Intermittent communion you might call it.
We, too, as well-loved children have our own agendas that keep us busy, but we can be aware of His loving presence at all times, entering freely into conversation throughout the day. He may whisper a caution when I start to stray, He may encourage when things don’t go right, warm me with love-talk when I’m lonely. And if I’m tight with Him, I’ll hear. There can be a constant sharing of joys and sorrows. When things go right, it’s no longer just a sense of wellbeing or an ejaculation of “What luck!” Rather we’ll feel loved and empowered once again and whisper — or shout — ”Thank you, Jesus, you did it again.”
You can tell I’m just probing at the fringes of intimacy, but I’m not going to settle for anything less than the intermediate stage, the constant awareness of God’s presence and the intermittent communication that goes with that kind of intimate companionship. And remember, intimacy must be intentional. It doesn’t just happen.