Communal Intimacy: The Balm of Loneliness

community

Lets be real. We all get lonely. But chances are if you happen to be in a “season of singleness” there is a sense of loneliness that you feel that others may not. We, as image bearers of God were created for two things: Intimacy and Community. But as a single person, sadly even in the church, sometimes it is hard to find these in  a way that acts as a balm over the sense of loneliness you may struggle with. Allow me to attempt to define these two words as well as add a personal story of how I found out I needed both.

Community

Community is defined as “a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule”. I love this definition because it highlights two aspects of Christian gospel community. A community “leads a common life” meaning that everyone in the group “does life” together. Meaning that my experiences, events, good or bad, are shared among the people in my community, and I am not left to suffer, deal, or struggle alone. The second highlight is the idea that we do life together according to a rule. That the reason, the thing that binds us together is a common agreement on a rule of living. For the church this is the gospel. The gospel, and all of its beautiful implications, is the binding rule with which we bind ourselves. We do this through the Holy Spirit, which we have because of Jesus’ death on the cross, which happened because God the Father being rich in mercy made a way for us to be reconciled to Him (Ephesians 2:4-9; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). In fact, it is in this Trinitarian view we see the Original Divine Community. In Genesis 1:26 God says “Let Us make man in our image”. The “Us” shows that God was talking to someone. We see later on that God was talking to God. And I know how that sounds. But it sounding crazy does not make it any less true. Being made in Gods image has many implications, but the one I want to highlight here is the fact that before time itself was even created, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had perfect communion with each other. So to be made in Gods image, is to be made in an image that requires communion. We were not made to be alone. We were made for community.

Intimacy

Intimacy can be defined as “Close familiarity or friendship; closeness”. The reason I chose this definition is because of the word “close”. Being close is what makes something intimate. Being close to something or someone affords a type of knowledge of them that goes beyond surface acquainting. The church refers to this as being “fully known”. A passage generally used comes out of 1 John 1:5-7, honing in on vs 7, which says ” But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin”. Notice it says if we walk in light, as he is in the light. The “he” here is God. God is light. He is truth. The above verses say that to walk in darkness is walk in a lie. We have no fellowship with God. But walking in the light is to walk in the truth, which not only affords us fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, but fellowship with others. With our brothers and sisters in Christ. God has set it up so that walking in light not only allows for light giving fellowship vertically, but also horizontally. And light exposes. Light uncovers. Therefore I am not called to simply go to church, shake a few hands, and leave. I am meant to walk into in such exposing light that my brothers can see me for who I am. And that as God forgives and loves, my brothers and sisters offer me the same love and forgiveness. This is intimacy. This is being fully known. And this is what I, and everyone else, was made for. As the church, I am made to fully know you, and you are made to fully know me.

Recently I sat down with a counselor I started seeing bi-weekly and I expressed how these past two weeks have riddled me with loneliness. And in this loneliness I made choices that produced fruit of which I am now ashamed. Basically, I sinned. He proceeded to write two words on the board: Idolatry and Intimacy. He made me define both words and then wrote two words under the word intimacy: “knew” and “fully known”. In Genesis, when Adam slept with his wife, the Bible said he “knew” Eve (Genesis 4:1). The word for sex in the Hebrew in this instance is translated to the word “knew”. The correlation the Bible has between “knew” and sex is saying that in a covenant marriage between husband and wife, the ability to fully know each other in exposing light is what gives way to God glorifying sex. But how does that translate to one who is undoubtedly single? My counselor told of his story where we was married much later in life. How he was able to stay pure and chaste during his singleness was the church. Not simple helping at church functions or cleaning up after service, but actually engaging with church functions and church members in a way that allowed him to be fully known even without a spouse. Being fully known by pastors, deacons, families, brothers and sisters in a way that allowed for intimacy to happen. The intimacy he was created for. It was at this moment that the tears of realization began to flow uncontrollably. I know that feeling. Throwing yourself into every church function, every small group meeting, every Wednesday night meeting, coffee on Tuesdays and Thursdays, early morning bible studies, just to have the intimacy you feel is missing from your life. I understood myself now. Self realization is a beautiful thing.

Community builds intimacy. And intimacy building stronger community. We were created to give both, and be given both. We created by a God who sent his Son to die for us so that we could have community and intimacy with Him first. Psalm 139 is a beautiful picture of the Psalmist reflecting on how God has always been interested and involved in the intricacies of our life. This same God knows us so intimately, He knit us together in our mothers womb, has known our unformed substance, and has searched our depths endlessly. We are fully exposed before Him, and fully loved by Him. That is our Creator. That is where our truest community and our truest is found. But being made in His image, we are created not only with the capacity to receive these, but with the ability to give these.

So to all my singles out there struggling with loneliness, ask God to provide you ways to be fully known. Challenge yourself to be involved in community. Ask the Lord for courage to pursue community even if its risky. In fact let us pray for community that is risky! We were not called in surface level community where my responses are “good” and “fine”. I am called to have relationships that search my soul and see the things I need to drag to cross, and walk with me as a drag them. You were made for it. And remember, community is a two way street. The same way I need community for myself, someone in my community needs me as well. We were made as vessels, poured into and poured out of. And remember in those seasons on intense loneliness, your desire to be fully known by someone has already been fulfilled ultimately in God through Jesus. And even though we groan with creation waiting for the King of this earth to come back and make everything right, we know that one day loneliness will fade away with with everything else temporary in this world. You are fully known, and fully loved.

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