In this world of technology, relationship may not seem very intimate. You can text greetings, and send emojis with smiles and hearts, but is that intimacy? Or does it contribute to intimacy? Is physical presence a necessary part of intimacy?
An Anniversary card from my husband can be full of lots of beautiful sentiments. It may give me a sense of intimacy, or a desire for intimacy with him. Does it increase my feelings of intimacy toward him? One would hope so.
What comes to mind when you see the word “intimacy”? For most, it may be a term that makes one think of sexual intimacy. And if it makes you uneasy, it may be because we just really don’t understand what intimacy is.
Dictionary.com defines “intimacy” as:
2. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
3. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.: an intimacy with Japan.
4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like:to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. an amorously familiar act; liberty.
6. sexual intercourse.
7. the quality of being comfortable, warm, or familiar:the intimacy of the room.
I was not impressed with these definitions as I don’t think they go far enough to describe what I have come to understand as intimacy.
Intimacy is to know and be known by another, allowing me to be completely free to express myself safely and with all the fullness of who I am.
In that context, how much intimacy do we really have in our relationships? How often have you had sex with your spouse and felt the intimacy I defined above? And whose responsibility is it to grow intimacy?
I believe to know and be known fully by someone with whom you have a loving relationship is the cry of our hearts. And it also brings up great fear. If you saw into me and who I really am, would you still love me? So we hesitate to reveal everything that we think is the least bit negative or distasteful in the hopes of keeping the doors of love open.
I grew up and married into an environment that dictated that love and sex were interchangeable. If I said I loved this man, then sex was expected. He said he loved me to get sex. We enter into a physically intimate relationship, become one physically, but spiritually and emotionally are left empty. There has to be more. Because sex does not hold a relationship together. Intimacy does.
Since I had never truly experienced intimacy as I defined it above, and knew that it was exactly what I wanted, I gave up. Maybe my brokenness was such that I would never know that because there was no one I felt safe enough with to let them see the good and the bad and the ugly inside of me that made me feel competely unloveable.
And then Jesus happened.
My biggest struggle with following Jesus was that I wasn’t loveable. Or so I thought. But He didn’t care. He couldn’t see that because that wasn’t who I was. I was created loveable, and He already loved me e even before I was in my mother’s womb. And apparently there was nothing I could do to make Him stop loving me.
Now that is the firstfruit of intimacy. To love unconditionally. that is what He does.
When loved like that, it is hard to resist loving back. And the more He proved to be true to His word that He loved me no matter what, i felt free to be real. I decided I wanted more of Him and the more I gave of me, the more I got of Him. The more I let him in, the more He showed me who He was. And we began an amazing love affair. Mutual admiration and desire to be known and to know. Now I pursuse Him and He pursues me right back.
How do you get there? You align yourself with the only one who truly knows you, because He created you and designed every intimate detail of who you are. He created you for a purpose and is deeply invested in seeing that purpose fulfilled, in spite of your poor self image. Eventually His persistence breaks through that self image and you begin to see who YOU really are, and you want Him and the rest of the world to see that person as well.
Intimacy breeds intimacy. Soon it moves beyond who you are to wanting others to know who they are. So you engage, take a risk, get vulnerable with others so that maybe they will feel safe getting vulnerable with you. And with persistence, and love, and patience, they find themselves wanting the same intimacy you have.
The best marriages happen when two people are individually intimate with the One true Lover of their souls, and in that safety, they can risk everything to be truly known by this person they are married to. Human intimacy is imperfect, so it makes it real nice to have the arms of Jesus to fall back into when the road gets difficult. And He will prop you right back on your feet to take the risk again. And you will. Because He is right there to catch you and pick you up again.
So no, to answer my original question, you don’t have to have physical presence to know intimacy. The Bible is full of sentimental words of love that can fill that emptiness in you. Text messages and cards to the object of your affection can’t hurt. The Bible is our love letter from God.
However, intimacy is something that needs to be experienced. And Holy Spirit makes that possible. You cannot have intimacy in your head. It belongs in your heart, and through your spirit, there is the possibility to actually feel the presence of the one who loves you, the object of your affection – Jesus.
Just remember that we were created for relationship, and the best ones are face to face, where real hugs, and real eye contact can remind you that you are a real person, and made for this kind of intimacy. Just start with Jesus.