There’s something about intimacy that scares us to death AND becomes a central hunger for our lives.
From sociological studies showing modern society becoming more and more lonely, to small groups of Baby Boomers forming support groups to talk about death and dying, to the perennial stories of men and their lack of close friends; modern humanity is struggling with a dual challenge: A deep-seeded (and God given, in my humble opinion) desire for community and a terrifying fear of letting anyone get too close.
It is a perfect storm of psychological warfare that creates all kinds of problems for we humans.
Let’s face it, we were made in God’s image to become in His likeness, and God knows Himself as Persons in Communion. The old saying holds true “we were made for each other.” We were made to be in communion with one another. We were made to experience a closeness with friends and family and faith where we can be open and vulnerable and known, faults and all, in a safe environment where real personal growth and spiritual maturity can happen. That is the intent. That is the purpose. That is the goal of the Kingdom of God – The Church. For our Orthodox faith, salvation itself is all about becoming like Christ. And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit invite us to enter into the same kind of communion God enjoys within Himself. In fact, it is this very communion, this Eucharistic life, that is at the heart of what the faith means when we say “salvation.”
But, seriously, how many of us experience this reality? How much energy do we expend “hiding” our true selves from friends, family, and brothers and sisters in Christ? All the while our hearts long to be known and loved and supported!
Our fear of discovery clashes with our longing for close friends and true family. And this dissonance sets us up for all kinds of dysfunctional relationships, disappointment, and heart ache. Which, in turn, feeds our fear and deepens our hunger for a solution. Sounds like a vicious cycle, if you asked me.
But there is a way out of this hell. And you probably aren’t surprised to hear that it is both risky and scary!
The path out of this hell and towards our God-given longing for communion and community and closeness is humility and love.
Look at our Epistle Lesson today on this Feast of the homegoing of the Lord’s Beloved Disciple, St. John: “NO MAN has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:12-19
It takes our willingness to humble ourselves and accept love to actually enter into loving relationship. It takes a radical redefining of love in the light of the Person and Life of Christ to correct our wrong views of love. It takes humility to finally admit what we long for AND why we are afraid of close relationships. We won’t get out of this perpetual and soul-wearying fight without humility, without love.
Our first relationship that must be corrected if we are to ever have other healthy relationships is our intimacy with God. If I love others, God lives in me. To the extent I do not love others, God is distanced from me. Notice I didn’t say God distances Himself from me. Not at all! I deafen myself, I do the impossible and distance myself from Him through my lack of love for others. As I learn to humbly love others, not noticing their faults, not holding their mistakes against them, not expecting them to live up to a standard I, myself, don’t live up to; I watch my heart become capable, through God’s grace, to love even my enemies. And that humble agnosticism of the faults of others releases me to be in authentic and loving relationships that give me the greatest gift any human can receive.
Living in this kind of love gives me the unbelievable opportunity to discover my own weaknesses and faults in a safe and loving environment where I can then present these broken places to God for His grace and healing!
Today, know that close friendships, healthy relationships depend on your willingness to be humble and loving. Waiting for others to be humble and loving before you take that risk is never going to work! Today, you are invited by love; the love of God towards you (after all He didn’t wait to love you until you became lovable. He loved you before you even knew He loved you) and the love for God in your own heart, to humbly take no notice of the faults of others and only see your own faults. thereby setting all around you free from unreasonable expectations that destroy relationships and setting you free to singularly focus on your most important work – your own spiritual maturity.
Today, my precious and beautiful and wonderful friends, you are invited to actually have your heart’s deepest desire and achieve the very central notion of your creation in God’s image – intimacy with God and with one another.
Never lonely again! Sound good?