The Risks and Benefits of Intimacy


Once you have seen someone’s soul flickering in their eyes, if only for a moment, you can never feel the same toward that person again unless you choose to deny the reality of your own soul. 

The thought tumbled over and over in my mind as I considered how seldom we allow anyone to see into our very soul and how seldom others allow us to see into theirs.  I meditated on the validity of my thought. I pondered how we are sometimes given that glimpse in a person’s deepest treasure – the treasure of their heart – unguarded and vulnerable.  I thought of how we are – if only for a rare moment – allowed to hold someone’s heart in our hands and the responsibility that comes with that. I wondered how many times I’ve truly cherished that gift. I considered the recent souls I’ve glimpsed into and how that has affected my heart toward those persons.  Truly, I now view them in a different light.  I have connected with them on deeper level.

We were created to engage one another in intimate ways.  But so often we live our lives day by day going through the motions of work and play yet we never really engage our hearts and souls with another human being.  Our experiences have taught us to guard ourselves from true intimacy.   God created us for relationship in marriage and family and friendship and with the body of Christ and with the lost.

If we don’t have any relationships where our souls connect with others, our deepest dreams begin to die.  The Bible says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.   We experience the death of hope in our hearts when we invite another into our lives and they either betray our heart or refuse to engage our hearts in deep meaningful ways.  And we build a wall in our innermost beings between us and that person.  The wall remains there unless there is a deliberate removal of it on our part. 

Sadly, most of us are more familiar with how the walls feel than how intimacy feels.  We have been taught by our experiences over and over and over again that people will betray our trust.     I remember vividly the days when my children were babies.  How  I wanted them to know I would always be there for them!  I’d meet all their needs and they could trust me.  When Andrew was about 18 months old, I remember a trip Eddie and I took to Louisiana .  While at our hotel, we took Andrew to the pool.  We taught him to jump in the pool to his daddy.  “Daddy will catch you.” we assured him.  So the fun ensued.  Andrew jumped and jumped and Daddy caught and caught.  Then Andrew became so confident in his safety in the water that he jumped in to Mommy.  Slight problem – Mommy was in the deep end and Mommy didn’t know he was jumping.  I was able to get hold of Andrew and begin to swim with him to the shallow end of the pool trying to hold his head up above water.  Eddie swam to help me.  This was very good since I am not the best swimmer in the world especially while holding an 18 month old up above the water.  So we had to tweak the trust lesson a little bit.  Daddy will catch you but you need to jump in where Daddy tells you.

So many times we have jumped into the deep where our Daddy God did not tell us to jump and we lose our breath and struggle to survive and then we become afraid of swimming.  Then we won’t jump into the deep anymore.  We have lost our joy of swimming in the deep waters of life because we have learned that swimming in the deep is dangerous.    Deeply engaging relationships are also dangerous.  Even when  we jump into the relationships God gives us, we will experience hurt at times because we are all human and prone to fail God and each other. We as human beings will always disappoint one another.  We are all products of our experiences – good, bad, and ugly.  Trust building experiences and trust destroying experiences. 

I’m trying to learn how precious the moments are when we are invited into someone’s life in powerful ways.  Some of my friends and I were on a trip recently.  We were packing up our suitcases and it was almost check-out time.  One of my friends began to share a dream she had had the night before.  We started to ask questions of the dream to see if God was speaking to her through the dream.  Then all of a sudden it happened.  Her heart opened.  We were invited into a painful moment of time that occurred when she was a little girl.  Yet we needed to check out of the room.  But I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Don’t leave this moment.  You might not get back here for a long time if ever.”  So I went for it.  God moved into the room in a life-changing way and ministered to that little girl’s heart inside the woman.  Another friend quietly called the hotel’s front desk and asked for a late check-out and one thing led to another and five women experienced relationship with each other and God in an intimate way that does not often avail itself to us.  We were able to see one another’s souls flickering in our eyes.  As Henry Blackaby teaches “We joined God in what He was doing.”  There’s something dynamic that we experience when that happens.  It is relationship as God intended between friends.

One of the things that has bothered me in the last couple of years was the lack of my connections outside my church community.  Recently, a young woman and I were having coffee at a local restaurant.  A delightful young man was waiting on us and making conversation as he refilled our coffee.  I began to feel it was a God moment.  As we chatted with him, he shared about his mother being seriously sick and we were able to pray with him in a very non-religious way right there in the restaurant.  I went back to the restaurant this week for a few minutes of escape to process the deluge of emotional events of the week.  As I sat there, the same young man appeared.  As we talked, I began to hear the hurt in his life.  He shared about a job he was looking at because it provided stability and how he needed that.  I asked him if he had not had a lot of stability in his life and just like that, he opened his heart to his hurt and the struggles he had with his sexuality – the death of childhood dreams – the lack of being understood – and I felt like I was having a real encounter with another person’s soul.  I was thrilled to be invited into that place and hoped that more days would come to engage this young man in his search for purpose.

Are we to make every conversation a divine moment?  No, we can’t make it happen but we can become aware that sometimes God is inviting us into those moments.  We are not called to participate deeply in everyone’s lives.  Even Jesus said that he did not commit himself to some people because he knew what was in their hearts.  We need wisdom and balance. Yet most of us err on the other side of the equation – the side of not participating in other’s lives. 

It seems so me that the cry of the human heart is pretty much universal: 

Do you want to know me?  Can I trust you with my heart?  Will you treasure the deepest secrets of my heart? Please understand me.  Please know me.  

We have Facebook and MySpace and eHarmony, and they are basically a cry of the heart which says, “Here is who I am.” (and sometimes,  “This is who I want you to believe that I am.")  These things are all indications of a society crying to be known, crying to be loved, crying for intimacy.

At times we are invited to live life deeply with others.  We are given the opportunity to hold others hearts in our hands and are entrusted with another person’s most vulnerable treasures.  My prayer is that God will teach me more how to see other’s hearts. To be able to hear the message underneath what they are saying.  To be willing to give of myself to others so that they and I live more fully. 

One of  my most cherished friends recently said to me as we discussed friendship and what it requires for us to be fully alive, “If you tell me who you are and I tell you who I am, I’m no friend if I allow you to be anything else." And so she issued a challenge to the group of friends who met to connect with one another.  Would we dare to open our hearts in deep and meaningful ways and would we hold one another accountable to living as who God really intended us to be – not just an image of a person living behind a glass wall?  A person we can see but not truly touch.  

It is risky to truly engage another’s soul and to allow them to engage ours.  We will be hurt at times.  Yet, we will also  breathe deeply – love fully – grieve intensely – belly laugh- live with our hearts awakened to God and others – live without the walls which are made to protect us from intimacy and we will experience the fullness of life which only comes from being connected with God and others. Do we dare?

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