Focus on the Family

What It Means to Be Intimate

by Shana Schutte

"Our souls crave intimacy"—Erwin Raphael McManus

Sometimes singles will do just about anything to get close to someone they find interesting, intriguing or just plain irresistible.

One single woman I know drives through Starbucks daily to get her dose of caffeine. One morning as she approached the speaker to order, she noticed that the man in the truck in front of her looked very attractive. She eyed him through his rear view mirror. Wow! Handsome! Hmmm. . . I wonder if he's single. In a split second she made a plan.

"Hi. Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you today?"

"Well to start, can you do something for me? Will you ask the guy in front of me if he's available?"

"You mean the guy in the truck? Suuuuuure. I'd love to. What else can I do for you?"

After she ordered her half-pump, no whip, soy, Venti mocha, she laughed at herself and thought, What in the world have I done?

She blushed as the hunky man in the truck pulled to the drive-up window. She watched as Ms. Starbucks asked if he was available. And then, in a flash, she watched as he drove away.

When she got to the window, she learned through Ms. Starbucks' giggles that he was indeed, attached, married even.

Sometimes singles—and everyone else on the planet—will go to great lengths and even make complete fools of themselves to get close to the opposite sex.

Why? Is it because our innate desire for sex? Is it because of loneliness? Desperation? Stupidity? Hormones? Of course, it can be all of the above, but the answer I'd like to focus on is: intimacy.

The human desire for intimacy, for love, drives us to do things that we never thought we would. But why, and what does it mean to be intimate?

Being Intimate Means "In-to-Me-See"

One evening over dinner with a friend, we spoke about intimacy and what it means. She shared a cute little phrase with me to remind me of intimacy's true meaning. "It means ‘in-to-me-see,'" she said. Ah yes, it's a blending of our heart with another's, so we can "see into" who they really are, and they can "see into" us.

According to Dictionary.com, intimacy is defined as, "showing a close union or combination of particles or elements: an intimate mixture."

Being intimate involves the mixing of our life with another's, a mingling of souls, a sharing of hearts. This is something we all long for because it's how God made us. We were designed to connect.

Real Intimacy is More Than Sex

Maybe you are wondering about sex. Granted, sex is a part of intimate expression, but it is not intimacy.

In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes:

"Sex can be the most intimate and beautiful expression of love, but we are only lying to ourselves when we act as if sex is proof of love. Too many men demand sex as proof of love; too many women have given sex in hopes of love. We live in a world of users where we abuse each other to dull the pain of aloneness. We all long for intimacy, and physical contact can appear as intimacy, at least for a moment."

When Janet married Ryan, she was convinced that even though they were not emotionally close before getting married, that sex would change all that. After all, she'd seen the movies; she had watched television where two hearts blended into one once they became sexually involved. Sadly, she was heartbroken when the emotional connectedness she longed for didn't show up after she made it to bed.

Real intimacy is not found just by merging bodies in sex. When Jesus said, "and the two shall become one. . . " I can't help but think that He meant more than just the physical. After all, how many couples go to bed at night, share their bodies, but not their hearts? Undoubtedly, many of these people would say they are very lonely. Why? Because just as a garden hose is not the source of water, but only an expression, or vehicle for it, so sex is not the source of intimacy, but an outlet (or expression of) it. No matter how hard you try, if real emotional and spiritual intimacy does not exist before sex, it most certainly won't after.

Real Intimacy Makes Us Feel Known

Real intimacy makes us feel alive like we've been found, as if someone finally took the time to peer into the depths of our soul and really see us there. Until then, until we experience true intimacy, we will feel passed over and ignored, like someone is looking right through us.

Sadly, we can miss out on intimacy that can make us and another person feel known, when we predetermine what we think we should see when we examine their life, heart, personality and soul. When this happens, we will try to mold and make them into who we believe they should be. As a result, we are blinded to their good qualities and love and intimacy are destroyed.

Many years ago, when I dated a young man, my mentor told me, "Shana, if you focus on all that he is not, you'll miss what he is." I've since learned that when we ignore another person's beauty and all that God made them to be, intimacy is lost. Why? Because intimacy flows out of feeling wholly accepted just the way we are.

Real Intimacy Begins With You

Perhaps you are wondering how you can build an intimate relationship. In addition to accepting another person just how they are, (Note: This doesn't mean accepting any form of abuse), real intimacy can only begin once you know yourself. Since intimacy means "in-to-me-see," how can anyone "see into" you and who you are, your fears, dreams, hopes and desires unless you know who you are and are willing to allow someone in? Experiencing true intimacy begins with being connected to your own heart.

Granted, sharing who we are with others is often not easy. All love is a risk. I admit, it can be uncomfortable exposing the deepest parts of ourselves. Thankfully, you don't have to do it all at once because developing intimacy is like peeling an onion—it can happen just a little at a time while trust is developed.

Intimacy With God is Real and Rewarding

Because God made us, He intimately knows us better than anyone can. For this reason, He can make us feel known in a way that no one on earth is able; and in this we can experience intimacy in an indescribable way. Intimacy with God through His Son Jesus has been the most rewarding and life-changing thing I have ever experienced.

My prayer is that you will first experience the joy that comes from having an intimate relationship with God and that out of that love you have experienced with Him, that you will find intimacy with a special someone who will make the load of walking the earth a little lighter.