In order to have a truly full life, you have to have intimacy in your relationships. Most people are afraid of intimacy because there is so much hurt and damage in their lives. They don’t want to feel it, and they certainly don’t want others to see or know that it’s there. But to me, letting people into that pain, and going with others into their hurt, is the essence of the cross.
I have a friend who only has an intimate friendship with me, and no one else. I bring him into my other friendships, and I drive our relationship because he doesn’t have true, close friendships elsewhere. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to build his own group of friends. He hasn’t learned how to capture someone’s heart, to let them into his, to call them out on their stuff and give them permission to call him out on his stuff.
I’ve learned with my band of friends that we can connect with any group – students, athletes, politicians, business leaders, and so on – because we genuinely want to relate to the hearts of each person in the group. Every single person desires intimacy, and we’re willing to go there. We ask the uncomfortable, hard questions because we want to know, “What is this person about? What wounds or joys or passions does he or she carry? Who is he/she really?” People are dying to be asked that and to share that, but it’s terrifying at first. To share something so intimate – your heart – makes you vulnerable to feel the hurt of whatever you’re carrying and exposes you to your fear of rejection. It’s the most revealing part of who you really are.
Building intimacy with others is a learned skill, but it’s also a risk. In order to be intimate, you have to be vulnerable. You have to let go of who you think you should be, and embrace who you actually are. You then have to let others see who you really are. You also have to desire to see who others really are and embrace them unconditionally. Know, too, that in these intimate relationships, pain and disappointment are inevitable because we are simply humans. Pushing through the hurt and reconciling the relationship ultimately produces a stronger relationship in the end. Not to mention, you will grow. There is no chance of growth in a one-man show. You have to have two or more to rub against, to challenge, and to push each other on. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Where are your friends? What do those friendships look like? Simply being involved in the institutional groups like church, service organizations or social clubs doesn’t get you to the heart of people. You can try to bring life into a group, but it won’t work unless the individuals really want to work on relating to each other. This friend that I mentioned needs to learn intimacy with others, and to connect the people in his life with each other. This intimacy provides the opportunity to enlarge the Body of Christ. After all, it’s not several churches or groups; rather, we are one church and one body.
To understand vulnerability better, and thus intimacy in relationships, enjoy a powerful Ted talk by Brené Brown entitled “The Power of Vulnerability” on youtube.com.
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