There’s something in the human heart that craves connection. We sense, perhaps unconsciously, that we are created for intimacy. That prospect feels scary and vulnerable, and it gets us into all kinds of trouble. But as a person dying of thirst will drink even the most contaminated water, we keep pursuing intimacy anywhere we think we can find it.
Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson says that every baby is born looking for someone looking for them. That need never goes away. It’s not just something we desire, although we do desire it. Human beings die, psychologically and sometimes physically, without connection.
Many of the great story lines that resonate so deeply in our souls have this need at their core, even from Biblical times. Think Abraham, Jacob, David, and Hosea. Think Casa Blanca, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Shreck, or Pretty Woman. These stories are not about sex; they are about the cravings of the human heart for intimacy.
The way we are created for intimacy can lead to love. It can also lead to war. Evil has hijacked this need in ways that bring untold heartache, abuse, and even death. The wounds in your soul when intimacy goes wrong are deep and easily infected. In response you either close yourself off behind walls of self-protection, or rush headlong from one relationship to another in a desperate attempt at connection.
So what was God after in creating us this way? Surely He knew this need would bring us pain and get us into trouble. Was it worth it when God created us for intimacy?
The truth of the Bible, and the truth that makes our need for intimacy make sense, is this:
God created us for Himself.
In His very nature God is relational. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are so close, so intimate, so united that we are told to think of them as One God. And He is! (Deuteronomy 6:4) There are no barriers between Father, Son, and Spirit.
And then God created human beings in His image. Intimacy is so much a part of God’s very nature that He could not create us in His image without creating within us the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy too.
That’s what Love is. Remember, God is Love (1 John 4:8). Love cannot stay self-contained; by its very nature true love reaches out, gives, and seeks connection. Love needs a Beloved. In this sense God has made Himself vulnerable. Think of how many times in the Old Testament God is portrayed as a spurned lover devastated over unrequited love. Or how Jesus wept over the people of Israel who would not connect with Him and His generous offer of life (Matthew 23:37).
God’s plan in creating human beings was to have a family He could be intimate with forever. God longs for connection with us. It’s what He designed Adam and Eve for in the first place. It’s what they experienced with God in the Garden of Eden. And it’s why Jesus came as “Emmanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Intimacy with us for eternity is the end goal of God’s whole plan of redemption. The marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3)
Seeking Lesser Lovers
The way in which we are created for intimacy is at the core of both the good and the ugly in most aspects of our lives. It’s why behavior-based religion is so empty and often so destructive. This is the core issue in spiritual warfare. It’s why Jesus made it so clear that it’s the heart that counts, even while there are many changes in our behavior that follow from that heart change.
So it’s no wonder that evil would attack this core need in the human heart. Satan, sin, and evil have messed with us and turned our need for intimacy against us. Our need for intimacy that God designed to drive us to Himself now drives us to do things that make intimacy with ourselves, others, and God broken, distorted, and a source of pain.
Evil hijacking our need for intimacy is at the root of so many soul-destroying ills. The list is endless; pornography, sexless marriage, sexual abuse in childhood, domestic violence including marital rape, human trafficking, sexual exploitation in many places including the church, unwanted pregnancies and abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, same-sex behaviors, sex outside of marriage, and more. Shame, pain, heartache.
But it’s not really about the behaviors themselves. Focusing on do’s and don’ts makes morality like telling a person dying of thirst, “don’t drink that dirty water.” What a double-bind! They either don’t drink and die of thirst. Or they do drink anyway and die, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, of infection.
How different from the living water Jesus promised!
Meeting the Need for Intimacy
So how do we assuage that need for intimacy? Illicit sex doesn’t work. Porn doesn’t satisfy it. At its best marriage helps a great deal, but there are so many marriages marred by toxicity where “intimacy” seems dangerous, dry, and soul-destroying. And the need for intimacy is much deeper than the desire for sex anyway.
What to do? We’ll explore this more in coming weeks, but here are some teasers.
- Explore your own need for intimacy. How much have you owned how you were created for intimacy? Where have you been hiding in self-protection? What wounds have you received in your search for connection? Have you used sex in unhealthy ways in your attempts to fill your heart needs?
- Seek connection with others. You may be waiting for someone else to meet your need for intimacy. But what are you doing to create the space where intimacy becomes possible? If married, are you seeking your spouse’s heart more than simply a physical release in sex? Whether married or unmarried, are you seeking or creating an opportunity for you and a few others to be real and connected with each other?
- Seek connection with God. Remember, God made us for Himself. We will never be truly satisfied with lesser lovers. Are you seeking to experience Him as the Lover of your soul? If you’ve been harmed in the name of God this may require unlearning things about God, or even finding a “new” God. Seeking this kind of connection means being with Him more than just learning about Him.
Looking at these aspects of the human heart makes so much of our lives make sense.
You were created for intimacy.
Your Turn: How has being created for intimacy led to good or not-so-good things in your life? Have you given up? What do you hear God asking you to do now in your search for intimacy? Leave a comment below.
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