by Rob Furlong
How would you define intimacy? In a world drowning in social media, reality TV and an endless stream of advice on sexual fulfilment, it's a good question to ask.
I came across a good answer several years ago which defined intimacy as:
Knowing and being known
Loving and being loved
Serving and being served
Forgiving and being forgiven
It captures the essence of intimacy because it puts it in terms of the other person. There is a clear intent to know the other person deeply, love them unconditionally, serve them sacrificially and to freely forgive them when it is required.
True intimacy in a relationship also fosters other traits.
When a couple bond together in intimacy, when they become "one", they have courage to face life together. Solomon said that "two are better than one", going on to describe the peril of falling into a pit on your own. Sharing life with another brings the security of knowing that they are there for you in difficult times – you can both face whatever life throws at you together, courageously!
It also encourages the gift of love that chooses. I am so grateful to my wife, Karen, who held out her heart to me early in our relationship and basically said, "This is who I am – will you love me?"
And I did the same with her. And we both chose to love each other, despite our failings and weaknesses.
Love that chooses is a precious gift indeed. Honesty is also the fruit of true intimacy.
Genesis says that Adam and Eve both stood before each other "naked and not ashamed".
The nakedness spoken of here is spiritual, mental, psychological and physical nakedness.
What freedom there is when you can stand before another without wearing any masks, to be truly "naked" before them and to feel no shame!
And what happiness we cheat ourselves of when we simply interpret such a statement as referring only to the physical!
Christopher and Rachel McCluskey explain it well when they write:
"...it is important that husbands and wives enjoy intimacy without necessarily needing to be sexual, and because (unfortunately) husbands and wives are often sexual without being intimate...there is a world of difference between simply having sex and truly making love. The world uses these phrases interchangeably and, indeed, the acts themselves are the same. But the spirit of making love is entirely different from simply having sex."
Not surprisingly, this leads to greater depths of intimacy between the couple who are prepared to take the path of truly knowing each other.
What a wonderful thought lies behind this idea of truly knowing someone!
You may be familiar with the term, "...he knew his wife..." and which is so often viewed from a sexual standpoint.
But the same word is also used to describe a person as "knowing God". The concept speaks of knowing someone "thoroughly and deeply".
Intimate couples are those who know each other thoroughly and deeply – they seek to know the other person and they in return, feel thoroughly known.
There are things I know about Karen that no one else has ever known and never will know. And it is the same for me with her.
In our seeking to know and be known by each other we have built security, understanding and deep love.
One of the greatest gifts Karen has ever given to me was the day she said to me, "I feel safe with you!"
Please don't be under any illusions about what I am saying here. The path to true intimacy is filled with pain, tears, hard times and frustration but I would not exchange it for what so many settle for – a shallow existence with someone they barely know.
Far better to embrace the One who made you for intimacy and the one that you call husband or wife.•