Intimacy requires courage. (Not becoming emotional introverts.)

Last weekend I spoke at our men’s retreat on becoming godly, spiritual leaders. We took aim at three profiles after setting the groundwork of the Gospel:

  1. FACE DOWN: A Kingdom & a King (Isaiah 6:1-13) [Friday night]
  2. UNLIKELY WARRIORS: unashamed courage (2 Timothy 1:1-12) [Saturday morning]
  3. CULTIVATORS: borrowed creativity (2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:1-7, 14-26) [Saturday night]
  4. WISE MEN: beyond smarts & cynicism (2 Timothy 3:1-17) [Sunday morning]

Though I did not reference the quote below, it strikes a chord with the tone we set on working hard to courageous build intimacy with others:

Life’s hardships give us a unique perspective. Our relationships grow deeper as we become more honest. “Often, the very part of ourselves that we are most embarrassed by or feel most vulnerable about is the exact gift others need from us,” writes Phileena Heuertz in her book Pilgrimage of a Soul. “Regardness, embracing parts of ourselves is crucial to intimacy.”

Speaking the unsaid isn’t always the verbalizing of our deep feelings. It also takes form in the simple loving expressions capable of breathing new life into our grayed relationships, life-giving expressions, with the power to comfort and heal. Phrases like “please forgive me” or “I love you” or “I’m so proud of you” or “you are special to me” can break down stiff barriers, invite intimacy, and make our brokenness relatable. These actions and words act as steppingstones that lead us to the deeper healing we all want and need, a deeper love.

20120509-070857.jpgAll of which requires a heavy portion of work. As a result, we oftentimes like the idea of getting close to others than the reality of it. Fear stands in our way. We fear rejection. We fear losing the relationship. Afraid of intimacy, our interactions barely scratch the surface, our deeper feelings left alone.

A relationship of intimacy requires courage, the ability to look past uncertainty and see what could be. Courage looks beyond our fears and permits us to express feelings that lead us toward intimacy. It requires courage, for example, to confess to your wife that the distance in your relationship is driving you toward depression or even an affair. It requires courage to loving tell your friend that she’s headed for a fall with her family if she doesn’t make serious changes in her work life. It requires courage to admit and to confront. But “the wounds from a lover are worth it” (Proverbs 27:6).

The idea of courage indicates there may be a risk. Relationally, the risk comes from knowing we may be hurt. Our past indicates that relationships aren’t pain free. The daughter who never felt the love of her father, the son who lied, the friend who stopped calling — these types of things fill that baggage that we carry into our newly formed relationships. These experiences can cause us to want to keep our feelings bottled up, to resist trusting someone fully, to hind our true thoughts. If we let them, these wounds turn us into emotional introverts.

Early in our faith, we learn that to cultivate a deep intimate relationship with Christ, we need to confess and pray to him. We pray to confess the pain we have caused, asking forgiveness of those we have hurt. We pray to share our pain, asking for healing when we experience hurt. As Christ forgives us, we learn to forgive others and ourselves.

When we “speak the unsaid” with our Creator, we experience growth, life, and true relationship: communicating to God from the depths of our being, inching closer and closer to Him, becoming familiar with Him. In Christ we see fear cast aside and we see healing in our lives and in our relationships, and we find courage in the confidence we have through our relationship with Him.
—Timothy Willard & Jason Locy, VENEER: Living Deeply in a Surface Society, 169-171.