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Running from Intimacy

We were in a room where, sobbing, my friend shared a secret – he’d been abused as a child. He had felt so scared and ashamed. The small group sat listening, and when he was finished, embraced him. Years later, the man has deep friendships that trace their origin to that room and that day and his…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We were in a room where, sobbing, my friend shared a secret – he’d been abused as a child. He had felt so scared and ashamed. The small group sat listening, and when he was finished, embraced him.

Years later, the man has deep friendships that trace their origin to that room and that day and his place of vulnerability.

We all want deep connection – intimacy – but do we understand the path to it and its cost? There is no depth to love (or intimacy) without the potential for pain.

Intimacy requires vulnerability. You will never get to an intimate place if you don’t first venture to a vulnerable place. Jesus repeatedly showed this.

Vulnerability requires risk. You step into the place of potential pain knowing that you may hurt more a minute from now than you do right now.

Going willingly to a place of potential pain requires either emotional reserves or desperation.

How do we build emotional reserves? By embracing truth and connection. Perhaps it begins with the recognition that you were wrong.

But desperation is a place many of us live. Unable to endure the pain, we find ways to numb it. 

When the desperation rises beyond our ability to numb it, we find ourselves more willing to embrace truth and seek connection. And it’s at that point that many of us become willing to risk. Maybe we say, “Yes, I was wrong – I messed up when I did that, will you forgive me?”

The payoff is the potential for intimacy.

How many people are you deeply connected to? The average man in America has two friends, friends who may not guess at his inner desperation.

How many have you trusted with your pain? Hiding from or numbing the pain is natural, but running from intimacy is no way to live. Intimacy is what gives richness to life. 

Today is a good day to think about how to find the intimacy you were made for.

Comments (9)

  • Seth, thank you for your encouraging words spoke in truth. My heart’s question is what do you do when you finally open that door, become vulnerable– reveal parts of your heart to someone who you feel Good had allowed you to fully trust and…. They walk out and leave your heart gaping. In your story of this man who in his small group revealed deep long bottled up hurts of past abuse…what if instead of finding embrace from these men –that they shunned him and he felt rejected like never before? What if by taking the chance for intimacy by becoming vulnerable, the men took the information & now turned their backs on him? I know the pat answer is to say there is the chance for that pain to happen…but that doesn’t help the person now with the gaping wound. The thing is, the pain he once carried and defined as manageable now has increased 100 fold. I know God can heal….but now the chances of him ever coming to a place to trust again may never happen. Any wise words….

  • Hi Kris, I’m Bex. Hope you don’t mind me chiming in. From my own experience… trauma symptoms make it more challenging than ever to connect. Small or even tiny pockets of vulnerability may help build up the trust needed for these bigger moments of vulnerability. I have had to explore the edges of my pain and share from that place. Maybe sharing a small piece of my trauma, and if it doesn’t devastate me, then I can learn who might be a safe person to trust with more. Sometimes the first step is the hardest.

  • Lord thank you for always initiating and pursuing us as your sons and daughters. That in our pain and loss you are rescuing our hearts moment by moment. Thank you for your perfect and unconditional love for each of us. That you know all of the bruised and broken places in our hearts and souls and offer us your very presence and healing in every one of those quiet, lonely and painful places. Lord may we be blessed with a fellowship of brothers or sisters in our lives that take after you – that are initiators and pursuers of hearts. That are a safe place to share, where Your unconditional love is present and your mercy and grace abound. Amen

  • This topic reflects back on the original design of God for man. The first relational crisis in the Bible was not genesis three, the fall of man, the beginning of the gospel message, but rather genesis two in the design of man revealed by the statement ” it is not good for the man to be alone”. This is before the fall, and Adam is SINLESS, exactly as God designed him to be! This is a design feature of every human you ever run into. It is not good to be alone! Comes after days of creation, all described by God as Good. Quite a contrast going to not good!
    Most of us are Known in many ways, BUT we all have a little areas of our life that we deal with absolutely alone. Satan uses embarrassment, pride, lies, fear of rejection, all to establish a foothold to whip up on us big time. The only way to kick Satan out is to be vulnerable, and share those areas with another person. This is risky, but also a great way to identify who your real friends are. I suggest most people shut down around someone being trans parent because they fear to share their own stuff. If you really want to love them as Christ loved the church, pursue those areas of their lives they are dealing with alone. If they totally refuse to go there, perhaps you need to find a new group to get open with.
    The opposite of being alone is intimacy, as Seth talks about here. There are three Hebrew words for intimacy that translate into “to know someone deeply”, “to be known by someone deeply” , and “to be moved towards caring involvement”. The only way to be fully loved is to be fully known, the good the bad and the ugly. Anything less than that and will never feel loved by others.

  • Grieve. Don’t harden your heart. Find a safe place to try again. Remember intimacy = into me see. To find true connection takes two people allowing themselves to be seen. It is practice of trust. Trusting that God is faithful even when people are not…so the risk isn’t as great as it seems.

  • Great questions, Kris. And I thought Bex answered them well. It doesn’t have to be a big dive into the deep end of the pool. Just put a toe in the water and keep risking at a level that allows you to expand your ability to trust.

    At the end of the day, people are a mess and they’re going to hurt you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We have to find those with whom we can be safe and do life with.

  • Jeff – I always love how you come back to this theme. It’s essential and it’s so often missed by Christians who are more interested in what to believe than how to love and connect.

  • For too many years this theme has come to mind in so many ways, like a broken record. I recently encountered a you-tube story of Daryl Davis, a talented black musician whose first encounter with racism led to 40 years seeking an answer to the question ” how can they hate me if they don’t even KNOW me?” His pursuit lead to interviewing leaders of the KKK, which led to leaders getting to know a black man for the first time and coming to realize they liked this black man, leading to them renouncing the principles of the KKK, quitting the organization and giving Daryl their old KKK robes. He has dozens of them. What a demonstration of loving your enemy by entering their lives and getting to KNOW them and allowing them to get to KNOW you.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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