Sunday, February 27, 2011



It's what everybody wants. It's what hardly anybody seems to have. And, sadly, it's what too many of us are avoiding. Intimacy is a beautiful idea, but an elusive reality, as well as the gateway to pain, rejection, risk, heartache, and deep joy.

Intimacy is also the context for The Talk with your kids and teens about sex. Intimacy is both what leads to sex and flows from sex. Intimacy was designed by God to lead to marriage and give joy to a marriage. So when you go to talk to your kids and teens about sex, you'll want to keep it in the context of marital intimacy. Which means you'll want to consider what kind intimacy exists in your home. The more authentic you can be as you have conversations about intimacy and sex, the more effective you'll be as a parent.

This might all seem a little to idealistic. It may be. But ideas about intimacy flows out of a reflection on this poem taken from Song of Songs:
Place me like a seal over your heart, 

like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, 

its jealousy unyielding as the grave. 

It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.

Many waters cannot quench love; 

rivers cannot sweep it away.

If one were to give 
all the wealth of one’s house for love, 

it would be utterly scorned.

Here we have a few phrases from a love poem, the words of the woman, reflecting on the intensity of the desire for intimacy with her husband-to-be. The desire for intimacy, the experience of intimacy is powerful and surging and dangerous. And it is good. A husband and wife come together and build their marriage on their passions and decisions flowing from their budding intimacy.

But then...

Everybody is avoiding intimacy. This is not to deny that at some level they are longing for it, but the problem is that they are also hurting for it. ... [they are] avoiding intimacy... half of them have been brought up in broken homes and are disabled from intimacy.

Does that sound like anyone you know? If you didn't see much intimacy growing up in your home, how are you supposed to cultivate it for your own home? Where you do you learn intimacy if not from your folks? Popular culture becomes the most influential teacher on intimacy, followed maybe by the chatter of high school. Not all understandings and expectations of intimacy are valid, some are toxic, some are unrealistic, some are fantasy. It may sound crazy, but this is why so many people turn to the Scriptures for wisdom on intimacy.

The Song of Songs invites readers to summon up the strength to take the risk. The Song gives expression to intrinsic human needs. It presupposes the human need for loving-recognition and acceptance, for the sense of being special, which makes self-acceptance more possible.

The Song invites readers to recognize that relationships are always on the way and continue to involve risk. They cannot be taken for granted.

They also raise the question whether people can rekindle love when the flame seems to have gone.

People do find security in a love relationship that leads to marriage, but once they take that for granted, they may imperil it.

Part of the thrill of the not-yet-married relationship is its not-yet-ness. It has the excitement of being on a journey. This is also one of the attractions of having an affair.

So there is a sense in which couples need to not take each other for granted, and need to see themselves as still on the way.

One image in the poems is that of wanting to get away from everyone else, and couples need that.

~John Goldingay, Key Questions About Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers, pgs 315-6

There's some rich material here for me to hear and contemplate and put into action.

Can husband and wife rekindle intimacy? It is possible.

Are you taking your spouse for granted?

What are some goals and plans for the near as well as distant future you and your spouse can set for yourselves and your family? Being still on the way helps restore opportunities for intimacy.

When's the last time you and your spouse were able to get away and enjoy each other?

Here's a thoughtful definition of intimacy: Giving loving-recognition and acceptance, fueling the sense of being special, making self-acceptance more possible. What could you do to foster more intimacy in your own home according to this definition?

Asking thoughtful questions  and getting wisdom from the Scriptures can be very helpful as you try to figure out how to stop avoiding intimacy, how to kindle intimacy, and how to pass it on to the next generation. So is seeing a wise counselor. And being part of a friendly church community that can help your family nurture healthy intimacy. Building friendships with some wise, mature, Christian couples can be helpful. Praying for this kind of stuff is the kind of prayers God loves to answer.

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