Intimacy! It’s a complex word and a hard concept to live, particularly for men. It is also one of the cornerstones of Christ-like Masculinity.
In our modern, common understanding of the word, it is most often connected to sexual behavior, and yet ironically with the proliferation of sexual content in our world, sex in general has become far less intimate. “Friends with benefits” cannot possibly contain the biological, emotional, or spiritual power that a mature intimate relationship is intended to create.
I want to take some time today to explore intimacy in its fullness, beyond the sexual, and from a “manly” perspective. I will do so by trying to answer the following questions:
What does mature intimacy look like for men?
What stands in a man’s way of achieving deep and vulnerable levels of connection?
How do we, as men, create intimacy in our lives and relationships?
Who are our role models of “masculine” intimacy?
In-to-me-see! It is the clever and often used phrase that visually describes intimacy. It implies a level of complete openness between two or more people. Regardless of the setting, it describes a state of being that is powerful and intense, ironically because it is rooted in a vulnerability that leads to profound connection.
When I think of intimate moments, I see eyes. I feel someone’s touch. I hear deeply what is being said directly to me, in a way that no distraction can interrupt. Taste and smell can also be present depending on the circumstances. True and complete intimacy is a full sensory experience that allows me to merge with another.
Intimacy can result in losing myself in another, which may explain why we, as men, may fear intimacy. Are we afraid of losing ourselves if we enter into intimacy? The paradoxical formula for achieving mature intimacy seems to be a willingness to lose myself in another, while not losing myself to another. So, the answer to the second question about obstacles, while unique to each of us leads to one common response: Me! You! We! Our unique fears are what stands in the way of realizing intimacy.
Much of our fear is often justified, based on past self-betrayal, and the betrayal of others. Having made ourselves vulnerable in the past, only to be hurt again, why would we open ourselves up to intimacy? And therein lies the illogical answer. We open ourselves up to intimacy, knowing that statistically we will be betrayed and hurt, because the desire for intimate connection is so powerful. And so, we choose to go to that place again and again seeking that life giving connection that only true intimacy, rooted in vulnerability, can provide.
Which answers the third question, “How do we create intimacy in our lives?” The answer is simple and powerful. Courage! Knowing that the probability of pain is high, we choose to move consciously forward into intimacy, because the promised destination is the deepest of human desires, intimate connection. It’s worth the risk.
Hopefully, we have experienced intimacy in our lives with parents, family, friends and/or lovers. Hopefully, they taught us to trust enough, so that we had and have the courage to initiate intimacy on our own.
To whatever degree we achieve intimacy in our lives, there is one sure guarantee, it won’t be enough, because we are always left wanting more. And almost as certain is that our intimates will disappoint us, perhaps even to the point of betrayal. So, who can we look to as a role model of complete and courageous intimacy? For that I invite you and me to look no further than Jesus Christ.
Jesus modeled the full sensory intimacy to which I referred at the outset. His words went deep into the hearts of those who would open themselves to him, as in the case of the woman at the well (John 4:6-30), who after her encounter with Jesus ran back to her city to proclaim, “29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
His eyes looked deep into the soul of those who sought a love and connection that only he could provide, as when he said directly to the father of a possessed boy, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” In response the father cried out, with tears in his eyes, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9: 23-24)
Most often he shared intimacy through his hands as he touched and healed those who would receive his embrace: as in when he washed the feet of his disciples (John: 21-26); sat with John at the last supper as John reclined on his bosom (John: 21-26); and received and blessed the little children (Mark 10: 13-16). And he continued to love and offer intimate connection even when he knew he was being betrayed: he ate with Judas (Matt 26: 20 -25) and washed his feet along with the other apostles.
Most of all, Jesus had an intimacy with his Father that meant they were one, even while remaining distinct, and allowing him to say that “he who has seen me, has seen the Father,” (John 6:46 and 14:9).
Finally, he surrendered his will to his father in Gethsemane and on the cross, which is different from surrendering himself. He remained and will always be the Son and the Savior of the world, even as he merges his will with his Father’s, becoming one with Him.
There is something special about men showing and sharing intimacy; perhaps because it goes against cultural norms; perhaps because it is a rare occurrence; or perhaps because it evokes memories of him who was the most intimate of all giving everything he had, including his life, for those he loved. Whatever the reason, the invitation is for us to catch the vision, identify and overcome our obstacles, and create intimate connections by becoming men like Him, intimate in every aspect and in every key relationship of our lives.
Imagine a world of mature and intimate men, unafraid to share themselves and connect with friends, family members, associates, even strangers, and especially lovers in ways that are made alive through mature intimacy. Won’t you come and join us to make that dream a reality?