“Friends love through all kinds of weather…” Proverbs 17:17 (The Message)
I am so excited to venture into the next couple of months as we address the topic of intimacy in friendship. Mission: Intimacy started at the outer parameters of intimacy when we discussed intimacy in our communities (neighbors, co-workers, church groups, etc.) but now we get a little bit closer in, as we take a look at the relationships where we are even more connected, our friends. These are the relationships where we have deeper involvement in each others lives, where we have built trust and confidence in one another.
In the coming weeks we are going to address obstacles to intimacy in friendship as well as the opportunities to grow in intimacy. We are going to address this topic from a woman’s perspective, and a man’s perspective. You don’t want to miss the weeks ahead!
Keep in mind the definition that we are using for intimacy in Mission: Intimacy is a mutual, intentional, close, safe, growing relationship where there is authenticity, transparency and vulnerability.
Today I want to address some of the obstacles to intimacy in friendship.
Time and Energy
Friendship rquires being intentional about cultivating and sustaining relationship which takes time and energy; something that most of us do not have in abundance. That said, it does not have to be draining. Choose these closer friends carefully; seek God about which relationships you are to invest in. These deeper connections are to be life-giving at their core. That does not mean there are times where one gives more to the relationship than the other. We all need the kind of friends who will stand with us when we feel we have nothing to give. However, this should not be the overriding factor in a close friendship. It is standing with each other in the good times and the challenging times; being able to give and to receive. Life-giving! So yes, relationships do take time and effort and we must be willing to pay the price. I would ask you to consider this “price” as an investment into God’s plan for your life.
Another obstacle to intimacy in friendship is the fear of being transparent and truly known. I understand this way of feeling, as this was me for much of my life. I feared that vulnerability and deep connection was not worth the risk of being hurt, misunderstood, criticized, or not loved. It felt safer behind the walls. However, I eventually discovered that those self-protective walls were not selective. I was not only keeping out the possibility of pain and betrayal, but those walls also kept out the depth of the life-giving treasure of God’s design for relationship. Those walls kept out the wonderful gift that allows me to be truly known and truly loved. When I kept so much of my heart to myself, I always had the thought, if people really knew me, they would not love me. Now, being authentic and vulnerable in relationships allows me to give and accept love in a much deeper way. It also allows me to have the depths of friendship where God can use those people to speak truth into my life, give me new and wonderful perspectives as well as “built in” accountability. These friends are also people that “get me” and we can laugh and cry together, rejoice and reassure one another. We do life together.
We, as the broken human beings we are, can be so creative in our walls that it can look to others as if we are being open and vulnerable… however, in reality we are not. I was a professional at this game. I knew what to share with whom, so that they thought I was engaged in an honest relationship. Due to my walls I made sure no one person knew too much about me; I was very calculatingly. This can seem on the surface like wisdom, but if this sounds like how you live your life, be careful. Yes, we are to be wise in what we share with who… wisdom is so important! However, what I am writing about can disguise itself as wisdom, but in reality can be deceptive and keep you from the deeper connections that God has waiting for you.
Risk of Hurt and Betrayal
Another obstacle that keeps us from growing in intimate friendships is the fear of hurt and betrayal. Many of us have been hurt by people close to us and the reality is that without God’s healing, it will hinder future relationships. The only way we can move past this obstacle is to forgive those who have caused us pain and ask God to heal our hearts.
Forgiveness is a choice, ask God to help you make the choice to forgive. Don’t let that person who caused you pain prevent you from the authentic relationships that God has for you; release them into God’s hands. Then ask God to heal your heart completely. Sometimes we want to just put a band-aide on our hurt and go on with life, yet the infection stays hidden inside. I urge you to do whatever it takes to cleanse the wound and allow God’s complete healing.
This pain may be caused by a relationship from your past that is preventing you from moving into new relationships, or it may be a current friend that has wounded you. Don’t look for the person who hurt you to heal you… they can’t– that is God’s department. When you have a healed heart, it is so much easier to go to the other person, if needed, and talk to them about the issue. When we go to the other person still wounded, it can allow for even more misunderstanding and pain. Trust God with your heart and allow Him to be your healer and protector. It is then you can move past pain to engage in God’s design for relationships once again.
These are only a few of the many obstacles that keep us from intimacy in friendships. What are some obstacles you have experienced? How have you gotten past them?
I look forward to the weeks ahead as we continue to discover God’s plan for friendship. Join us as we discover God’s plan for authentic relationships throughout Mission: Intimacy.