I recently read an article about how to handle stressful holiday gatherings with family, which emphasized the importance of achieving intimacy with those to whom we’re inseparably connected.* The article focused on strained family relationships, particularly those that were difficult to maintain due to a family member’s addiction to drugs. This perspective was convicting for me, as I tend to resist intimacy when faced with difficult situations within a relationship. My hunch is I’m not alone in this tendency – do you also pull away when a relationship feels tense, unpleasant, confrontational? This reaction reminds me of the passers-by in the story of the Good Samaritan.
It’s hard for me to admit, but I unfortunately relate to the travelers in the story who walked past the injured man, who refused to enter into a painful, messy situation. I’ve known for a while now that holding space with someone, making an effort to grow more intimate with them, listening to and sharing not only their joy but also their pain, does not come naturally or easily to me. However instead of remaining stuck in feelings of guilt or inadequacy (as I’m wont to do), I’m asking God to soften my heart and give me discernment and discipline as I set up routines in my life (regular time in God’s Word, practices of self care, and conversations with trusted friends about “deep life stuff”) that better allow me to serve and be served. I know achieving true intimacy with God, and with those in my life God has blessed me with, is a pie-in-the-sky vision I’ll never perfect, toward which I’ll spend my lifetime striving, but the routines are things that I can work on now and that, when I manage to stick with them, produce fruit.
The idea of achieving intimacy with those to whom we’re inseparably connected also brings to mind Pastor Josh Miller’s message from Scripture in his sermon “Who Is My Neighbor?” (November 20, 2016). Pastor Josh reminded us that Jesus came down from heaven and made his home with us; he found all of us in need, separated from God and from one another by our sins, and he truly saw us. He did not distance himself from us but instead had compassion on us. He was “moved to the core,” saw things from our perspective, and connected with us in the midst of our hurting. Who in your life comes to mind when you think of someone hurting, who you’re connected to by virtue of your life circumstances, but perhaps not truly connected to in the sense of reaching out to them and having compassion? I pray that God’s intimate love for you empowers you to step into that person’s life and to share even in the messy, painful parts.
“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7 NLT).
*Grenny, Joseph. ”Feasting with Unruly Relatives,” Crucial Conversations Q&A Blog (November 22, 2016). Ask Elsa if you’d like a link to this article.