I am frequently working with people to help them with issues in their relationships.
Tim Keller, in a sermon from Proverbs that he entitled “Repairing Relationships” makes the point that relationships are always in need of repair. We live in a fallen world, among fallen people, and we ourselves are fallen. Our relationships require a lot of work to keep them working well.
One component of the work I do is to address the issue of what intimacy looks like in relationships.
I think intimacy is a term that has lost meaning because it is used casually in our conversations. When we hear “intimacy” some of us think immediately of sexual intimacy. The word intimacy has become a term to talk about sexual intercourse (and intercourse is a word that has suffered the same fate I am claiming intimacy is suffering today).
You might be wondering “What is he going to say about the forms of “intimacy”?” Is this some sort of guide for sex?
Yes and no.
Intimacy is a very rich word. It has a lot of content. In comparison, sex is a limited term. I also believe that sex is a poor substitute for intimacy.
We experience intimacy in different forms. There is emotional intimacy. There is spiritual intimacy. There is social intimacy. And yes, there is physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is a subset of sex. It is the purer aspects of sex.
Sex can be selfish. We see all around us the selfishness of sex. Sex focuses on my pleasure uses the other person, whether inside or outside the boundary of marriage, and sex is at that moment something selfish. We see this most clearly in porn addictions. I can speak at length about this, but for this blog I am going to focus on intimacy.
Intimacy cannot be selfish or divide those who experience it together. Physical intimacy is always something that connects people. We cannot deceive, use, or harm others while we share intimacy with them, without damaging intimacy. Perhaps we destroy intimacy by these actions.
It can be restored. But that requires a change of relationship that understands and builds intimacy.
We also cannot experience one “variety” of intimacy and ignore the others. We cannot experience great physical intimacy and ignore emotional and spiritual intimacy at the same time. We are embodied spirits and we cannot break ourselves apart without damage. We cannot break apart the intimacy we experience without damage either.
If we want to build any form of intimacy we have to be working to build them all. I enhance my physical intimacy with my wife by building my emotional intimacy with her. I also build both my emotional and physical intimacy with her by building my spiritual intimacy with her.
Let me say that again, perhaps more clearly. If I am looking for a more wonderful sexual union with my wife, I build that by sharing myself with her spiritually. When we worship Jesus together we build our total intimacy. As we grow in our spiritual intimacy we will also grow emotionally and physically intimate. As we grow in intimacy, we will also grow in how we express that intimacy physically. We will be safer, more honest, and more deeply connected with one another. We will have so much less blocking us from each other and we will find it so much easier to touch each other.
I am only trying to introduce some thoughts today, but I will write more about this in the future. Check back to see when it gets posted.