The idea of intimacy sounds nice, even important. But most people don’t think of it as absolutely necessary for life. You don’t wake up and say, “I need some intimacy today.” But God built you with the need for intimacy. And when those needs aren’t met or when intimacy has gone wrong, you erect walls in your soul that keep you from the goodness you need and desire. How can you break out of that mess so you can experience intimacy?
The home I grew up in didn’t provide a platform for learning about intimacy, or for becoming capable of experiencing it. I felt lonely most of the time even if I was with people. I finally came to understand the walls in my own heart that I’d put up in trying to protect myself from more hurt. But whatever safety that may have brought only left me empty and increasingly desperate. That affected my relationships with everyone around me – and my relationship with God.
Intimacy has been used as a euphemism for sex, but they’re quite different things. You can live and thrive without sex, but you can’t live and thrive without intimacy. In marriage they should be connected, but there’s plenty of sex going on without any intimacy (whether in or outside of marriage).
Intimacy as we’re speaking of it is seeing and being seen, knowing and being known. You can’t experience intimacy by just taking the clothes off your body. The coverings must come off your mind and heart also. And intimacy does not require your clothes coming off; the point is honest connection with another with no barriers between.
You were made with an empty place in your soul that only true intimacy can fill. So how do you become capable of healthy intimacy?
Healing Intimacy Wounds
We’ve all been wounded here. Intimacy has gone wrong both in the world at large and for each of us individually. In your need for connection you may have learned that sex is the way to get love (though that’s not really love). You got hurt in trying to find intimacy. You unconsciously closed off your soul in attempting to keep yourself safe. Those walls keep you separated from both other human beings and from God. Experience may have taught you that letting down those walls would lead to danger, exploitation, pain, or more emptiness.
But those walls prevent the very thing you are most hungry for.
Healing from intimacy wounds doesn’t happen simply with the passage of time. It requires bringing the hidden things into the light, looking at your story with both honesty and compassion. You’ll need to address both how you’ve been sinned against and how you’ve sinned in response.
Healing is a choice. This is a process that cannot be rushed, but it requires you intentionally do the work. Like food, God makes it available, but your part is to seek it and actually “eat” it – take it into your being.
Toward Intimacy with Other Humans
When you think of intimacy with others your brain may recoil in fear, or feel upset that you don’t have a spouse interested in sex. But healthy intimacy is possible – and necessary – regardless of relationship status. Healthy intimacy is not without risk; remember, Jesus sought intimacy and He was hurt in the process, but He sought it anyway.
I hear from some who say, “I’ve tried that. I have no social skills or ability to relate to others, and there’s no one who cares enough to put up with me.” I’ve been there, lonely in a crowd, wondering what was wrong with me, trying and messing up in making friends. When you’ve been wounded in seeking connection this can seem a confusing and impossible process.
So you keep at it. Your healing comes through connecting with people, and connecting with people brings more healing. You take one step, and that makes the next step possible. The process is messy, and it’s worth it. Finding your people is likely to be both the hardest and the most life-changing thing you can do.
Does anyone know you, really? Who is your Peter, James, and John? Who is your Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? You can’t experience intimacy with a crowd; we’re talking about the few. Your capacity for intimacy will grow as you keep at it.
Toward Intimacy with God
No human being can ultimately fill you up. God designed you such that there’s a place in your soul that only He can fill. This has little to do with intellectual knowledge or right behaviors; it’s all about matters of the heart.
This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). You don’t get there by learning more facts about God; you have to be with Him.
If this isn’t a reality for you currently, start by noticing what part of your soul you are hiding from God. Your anger? Your lust? Maybe your disappointment, or anxiety, or longings? Try inviting Jesus to see you right there. Open the door to one of the rooms in your heart that you’ve kept hidden, and invite Him in. You might imagine Him in the room with you, and write a letter expressing what you’d like to say to Him if you could see Him right there with you.
Like a relationship with a human being, your relationship with Him will go through seasons and change over time. It’s not that He changes, but the details of how you and He relate together will change. It’s something you keep pursuing.
And by being with Him you will become changed. You can’t not be changed. Your job is to keep showing up, and keep saying Yes.
Pursue Intimacy. It’s worth it.
Your turn: What have you imagined healthy intimacy to be? Where do you need to take a step in growing your capacity to experience intimacy? Leave a comment below.
Want more? In this week’s podcast episode with Sue Moore she talks about the dark places her intimacy wounds took her, how she learned to experience intimacy, and how she’s now helping others experience the same.
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