I would like to hear what you think about my new word: intimacity. (Actually, the word is googlable, but they usually mean intimacy.) I am working with it this way: intimacity is our capacity for being intimate.
During the Advent retreat, I had a moment of clarity on the prayer walk I was assigned to complete. I realized that I and the others I had been talking to were all struggling with getting to the place where we could connect. Most of us were relatively obsessed with it – clinging to life rafts of intimacy (even if they gave us splinters), chafing under the bits of our loneliness, restlessly scanning our horizons looking for moments when we might feel together, touched, or at least relevant. But one of the missing factors in our equations of connection was our own intimacity.
We need intimacy with God and others to stay in the process of growth. But intimacy is exactly what is broken between us. And we never seem to know why. At least I am often a bit foggy on just how I operate. I think we all have a tendency to think all our relationships just mysteriously happened. We might be a bit in denial about what we bring to the situation – namely our capacity for intimacy, or intimacity. Our ability (or usually lack of same) needs to be named. We need to develop.
If we ever get to figuring out what’s wrong or undeveloped with our intimacity, we often spend a lot of time and energy starting at the wrong place: with other people. We lay awake nights wondering why they broke up with us. We minutely (and often wrongly) list what is wrong with us, based on off-hand comments and body language. We dissect the lacks of our parents and how we adapted to them detrimentally. We flood our therapists with stories (thank God for Circle Counseling!) about how we are stuck and stumbling. But our broken relationships with other people are often symptoms of a core issue: our intimacity in relation to God.
During Advent, we get another chance to see God’s great intimacity. God, who is so totally other than us, becomes so totally one with us – in our bodies, in our sorrow and sickness, in our unforgivenness and death! All the tender feelings we feel when we see Mary holding the baby should seem as amazing as they are – God just came out of her womb, vulnerable, open to the mother/father love he IS. The beginning of my own intimacity starts with reconnecting with the source of it. Trying to get there through endless attempts at human relationship repair is kind of backwards.
But I, and probably you, do quite a few things backwards. Just in our small group during the Advent retreat (which was actually rather intimate, even though we’d mostly just met), we all demonstrated our fear of being vulnerable. I know that the whole experience got me pondering how easy it is for me to resist the impending experience of lack of connection rather than resisting what I do to help create it. I am working on seeing my withdrawals and avoidances as sins against the call of the baby Jesus to be trustingly vulnerable.
We can share the Lords ability. Once he was born of the flesh. But what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Post-resurrection, our intimacity with God is even greater. The more we open ourselves to that Spirit-to-spirit relationship, discipline ourselves to receive the love, repent of the sin that has tangled up our relationship with God so far (mainly not being open and receiving), we have a chance to relax enough to explore how we can connect with all the people we would love to love, and would love to love us.