As you might know from last week's post, I am working my way through Lewis' book, The Four Loves. Right now I'm still in the introduction, which I highly recommend reading. (It sets up the rest of the book.) In it, Lewis makes a distinction between two types of nearness to God: nearness by likeness and nearness by approach. In order to better explain, he uses the metaphor of hiking back to your home in a village tucked beneath a cliff. If you sit on the edge of the cliff, you are very close to the village in direct distance and space, but in terms of the time it will you take you to hike back from your home safely (jumping off the cliff to your death doesn't count), you are very far from home. To get home, you will have to hike down the trail that will take you farther from home in terms of direct distance and space, but ever closer in terms of the time it will take you to hike home (from page 4).
"At the cliff's top we are near the village, but however long we sit there we shall never be any nearer to our bath and our tea. So hear; the likeness, and in that sense nearness, to Himself which God has conferred upon certain creatures and certain states of those creatures is something finished, built in. What is near Him by likeness is never, by that fact alone, going to be any nearer. But nearness of approach is, by definition, increasing nearness. and whereas the likeness is given to us- and can be received with or without thanks, can be used or abused- the approach, however initiated and supported by Grace, is something we must do. Creatures are made in their varying ways images of God without their own collaboration or even consent. It is not so that they become sons of God." (5-6)
We are created in the image of God; in this way we are already like him. We are like God in this no matter what we do or how we live our lives. Nothing can erase the stamp of God, the mold from which we were made. We are near to God through likeness by nature. However, nearness to God by approach is not in such a defined state. We must choose to approach God in order to become like him in approach. It is a process which we undertake, one that may make us seem less near to God in likeness, but in which every step we take towards God places us closer to him. When we choose to approach God, we must lay down our pride and become humble, conscious of our need and helplessness. As we draw near to God we recognize our great unlikeness- our weakness compared to His strength, our flaws compared to his perfection, our futility and failure, His limitless power, our total lack, His completion and wholeness. We are no longer the givers, but rather beggars, lacking anything of value to bring. Such seems far from God, but it is the only way we will only get home.