Now that we have expanded our basic images of God through Father, Mother, Child and Sibling, let us turn now to a far more intimate image.  It is an image that runs counter to the very Puritan and Neo-Platonist/Augustinian views of God that we have inherited as American Christians.  But if we are to find God in every moment and experience God in all that we do, then it is essential that we tackle this very fundamental role in our life.  This week, we will contemplate God as Lover.
By lover, I mean a husband, wife, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend.  One with whom you are emotionally and physically intimate.  There are certain aspects of a lover that are shared with the previous images we’ve discussed.  For instance, a lover can be nurturing like our mother image, or a provider like the father image.  A lover is also a peer like a sibling and can be a similar confidant.  But the role of a lover is specific and unique in its qualities.  We may have siblings that are confidants, true; but the intimate sharing we experience with a lover goes far deeper.  Because of the emotional and physical sharing of a lover, despite other similarities, it is intrinsically different and unique in its own way. 
Before we delve too far into the roles of the lover, we must first take into account our own religious heritage.  As mentioned before, American culture and religion is the product of the Neo-Platonism of St. Augustine’s theology and the moral strictness of our Puritan foundations.  The repressive stance from both these parties has left us with a less than healthy view of physical intimacy.  When God’s own creation was seen as “fallen” and a distraction from God, then the most basic of animal attractions and passions was deemed dirty and sinful.  Sex was only acceptable when performed by a man and woman in marriage and only for the purpose of making children – never for the actual pleasure or growth of intimacy between two people.  Because of this, sex, even when practiced by the most committed of couples, if often overshadowed by guilt. 
Here, Christianity has created a terrible dichotomy.  On the one hand, we recognize that God created us with human urges and pleasures; then on the other hand, God frowns upon us enjoying the very act that we are hardwired to enjoy.  The intellectual discomfort with sex goes back well before Christianity.  Indeed the prejudice is apparent in language itself.  After all, the French term for orgasm is la petite morte or “the little death.” It is the moment when the rational mind is completely lost to the sensations of the body.  They viewed this momentary loss of rational control as the devil’s playground. 
To further the dichotomy, Christianity has vilified sex so much, that we are ashamed to talk about it, and could never even conceive of talking about in church.  We believe God is everywhere…except in the bedroom.  And here we see the main problem.  We have somehow constructed a theology that makes us ashamed of our natural acts before God.  To illustrate it simply, very traditional Christians still believe that we should be completely covered when in church.  That short sleeves are an affront to God.  As such, they try desperately to ignore that God is just as present when you’re standing in the shower.  You can bet that the God who “knew [you] while still in [your] mother’s womb” knows what you look like in your birthday suit. 
As contemplatives, we are called to experience God in every moment.  We believe that every moment is sacred with God’s presence.  To that end, even in the most intimate moments of our lives, we should be able to connect with God and find God in that moment. 
As we have with our other lessons, I want you to imagine God before you as a Lover.  Whatever physical form you would find most desirable, that is the image of God we will work with for right now.  So consider, what would a relationship with God as Lover be like?  Can you imagine the physical aspects with God?  And the physical is not just sexual.  Can you imagine God coming up behind you as you’re concentrating on cooking in the kitchen and suddenly feeling God’s arms wrap around you?  Would you cry on the shoulder of your Lover? 
Imagine the emotional intimacy that is shared exclusively with one’s lover.  When you have a hard day at work and come home, what would your prayer be like to God if it was like unburdening to a Lover? 
I know many people who have told me that they pray as they go to sleep.  As the Psalms say, we wait for God in silence upon our beds.  But what would prayer be like as you lay in bed if it came in the form of pillow talk with your Lover? 
What of the less than shining moments of the relationship between two lovers?  In a marital spat, when you’re living and sleeping with someone, you eventually have to makeup.  When love of another is valued more than being angry or being right, then reconciliation has to come.  If God were your Lover, and you reach those points when you’re too frustrated with life to even think straight, how would that prayer then begin? 
And what about falling in love?  That period when everything is right and nothing the other does can bother you.  Have you ever really fallen in love with God?  Can you believe that God is always falling in love you every moment of every day? 
For this exercise, I encourage you to journal on this one image many times.  There are numerous aspects of a relationship to a lover.  When you consider God as Lover, contemplate the many connections in that kind of relationship: emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual.  The healthiest form of a romantic relationship between two people is when all four of these aspects are mutually complimented.  Now imagine what it would be like for God to fulfill all those aspects for you. God’s Peace.