Thursday, December 22, 2011

Intimacy Lost - The Fear of Being Known

Glynn Wolfe died alone in Los Angeles at the age of 88. No one came to claim his body; the city paid to have him buried in an unmarked grave. This is sad, but not unusual. It happens all too often in large cities where people tend to live disconnected lives.

Glynn's situation was unique, however, because he was no ordinary man. He held a world record. The Guinness Book of World Records listed him as the Most Married Man, with 29 marriages to his credit. This means 29 times he was asked, "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife…forsaking all others do you pledge yourself only to her, so long as you both shall live?" Twenty-nine times Glynn Wolfe said, "I do," but it never quite worked out that way.

He left behind several children, grand-children, great grand-children, a number of living ex-wives, and innumerable ex-in-laws—and still, he died alone. He spent his entire adult life looking for something he apparently never found—and he died alone.

The fact is, if we look for ultimate fulfillment in marriage, romance, friendship, or family, we will never be satisfied. As important as these relationships are, they cannot take the place of the Ultimate Relationship for which we have been created.

Mr. Wolfe is not alone in his search for intimate relationships. Many of us are surrounded by people every day, but still long for deep relationships where we really connect with others. Where we know and are known at the deepest level. It’s just so difficult for us. We often think that marriage will solve the problem, but at times even marriages are made up of two people who share the same bed but little else. Scripture has something for us concerning our desires for meaningful relationships.

One of the clearest pictures of intimacy and intimacy lost is found in Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden. God had created our world and everything in it, “and it was good.” There was only purity and innocence. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, were able to know and be fully known by God and by each other. Their nakedness "with no shame" was a picture of that. The only thing that God asked was that they would not eat the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In Genesis 3 Eve was tempted by Satan to eat the fruit. It looked good to eat so she gave in to her desires and ate the fruit. She then shared with her husband Adam and he joined her in her sin by eating the fruit as well. Immediately, in the verses following, they realized their shame and their nakedness and sought to hide from the One who had created them. Intimacy was lost. Life was no longer a journey of intimacy, love, and trust. It was now a path of survival. It was necessary to hide, blame, and not let anyone close enough to know their guilt and shame.

It would be great if that was where it ended, but that was really only the beginning of the end. We all have now been enslaved by sin and the natural desire to hide ourselves. To somehow explain away our guilt and responsibility. To lower the standard of holiness so our sin does not seem quite that bad. To hide in the shadows, the darkness, or behind a self-righteous mask.

Like Adam and Eve we have responded to our sin and our sinful world in a similar way. Because of our guilt we are afraid to let others know what we really are like. Because of our sin we move away from God when we are purposely sinning and rebelling against what God wants for our lives. We pass the blame on to others. We minimize the seriousness of our sin. We war against the consequences instead of letting them turn us back towards Christ. We move away from God and from others when moving towards them is what we so desperately need. But why do we do this?

It begins with our rebellious hearts, but we are also influenced by our culture and media. On television, internet, and magazines we see beautiful people, with good minds, and great wealth enjoying a great life with a lot of friends. It seems like this type of “perfection” should be our goal. The only problem is that it’s not real.

The false message we receive from this is that to be loved you have to be perfect. Since none of us are perfect this faulty way of thinking gives us two choices. We either show our real selves and do not receive love or we be fake (act perfect) and receive a false love. But even this false love will not meet our need because we will know that they are not loving us for who we really are.

Intimacy is only possible to the extent that someone allows themselves to be known. But that scares us. We are afraid of rejection and failure. So we hide. We wear the mask of "loveable-ness" and perfection, afraid that our secret will be discovered. We fear truly being alone, but we believe that will be our destiny if we ever truly show ourselves to others. So we flee from the authenticity and honesty that will bring intimacy and become satisfied with being loved as an impostor.

If this does not work we settle for other strategies that have some semblance of intimacy. You could call this counterfeit intimacy. This is “taking it into our own hands” instead of trusting God to fulfill our need. Examples of this would involve fantasizing with the use of pornography, masturbation, romance novels, soap operas, romantic movies, daydreaming about a coworker or a friend’s spouse, non-committal sexual encounters, or even lusting after someone that you see on the bus or at the mall. It’s settling for imaginary intimacy because you believe that true intimacy is not available.

If we are ever going to break free from this way of thinking we must go back to Genesis 3. Adam and Eve acted as if God didn’t know and as if God could not find them. Somehow their hiding would make everything better. They were more willing to endure the pain of the separation that their sin had caused, than being exposed for who they really were. We often do the same. We ignore or justify our sin hoping to somehow avoid the consequences of it all.

Like Adam and Eve we run and we hide from God, but He already knows everything about us. In 1 Cor. 13:12 Paul writes, “then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Luke 6:15 says, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.” Hebrews 4:13 states, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” We fear because surely this righteous God will reject and punish us as our sin deserves, but in the midst of God knowing everything about us scripture writes these two key verses. Romans 8:1,

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

We can run and hide from it, refuse to believe it, or rebel against it, but the fact is that we are fully known by God. That is the bad news that leads us to the good news.Only in Christ can the sin and guilt be removed. In Him we can truly be ourselves, be found guilty, be forgiven, and be truly loved for who we are. Christ is the key to intimacy, but we usually hide and run from God just like we do from people.

For us to experience loving intimacy in our human relationships we need to first experience God's love for us. You cannot consistently demonstrate this kind of love toward someone else if you yourself have never experienced being loved in this way. God, who knows everything about you and still loves you perfectly.

As we rest securely in the intimate love of God we are then able to make ourselves vulnerable with others in a way that will make intimate relationships possible. It is definitely a risk and at times there will be pain, but if our foundation is in Christ it gives us the security to open our hearts, expose our faults, and to be fully known by another.

This is the key to intimacy. If we will move towards God through confession, surrender, trust, and obedience we will experience intimacy with Him. We then will have all we need to be ourselves and be open to more intimate relationships with those around us. May we move towards Him so we will be enabled to move towards others.
[1] Steve May,,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. As a pastor, the temptation is to want to be the perfect spiritual leader. You want nothing more than to prove to God, yourself, and others that you can meet all expectations. But God knows and loves us just the same. So thankful for this reality.