Valentines Day: Intimacy and Love by Gord Alton
On Valentines Day, we celebrate the experience of love. But, what is love? I find that the church and our culture often send conflicting understandings of love. Within the church, love is frequently defined in terms of commitment. During a Christian wedding ceremony, commitment is celebrated and stressed through prayers, ritual, and a pastoral reflection. Within our culture, we get a different message. Love is regularly seen as sexuality. Whether we watch TV, videos, and movies, love is often portrayed as two people making love to each other. What we generally forget is that commitment and sexuality can have nothing to do with love.
While nurtured love can lead to commitment and acts of sexuality, commitment and sexuality can be void of love. In fact, when love is missing, commitment and sexuality typically become substitutes for love. A commitment, without love, becomes simply an obligation, a relationship of “shoulds” and no desire. Sexuality, lacking love, becomes reduced to lust and chemistry, a relationship based on “making” love happen through technique. However, when is love is missing, both commitment and sexual experience can feel empty---something feels not right.
So, what is love? If love is not commitment or sexuality, then what is love? The best word I have found is “intimacy.” When we feel close to someone, we are having an intimate moment. This sense of closeness arises through talking back and forth with one another whether it is around the kitchen table, at the coffee shop, in the car, or in the bedroom. This sense of closeness also arises when we share life experiences together like a loss in the family or successes at work or watching our children perform at school.
Intimacy also involves depth and self-disclosure. Talking about the weather or whether the Leafs won last night doesn’t nurture intimacy. However, as we share our feelings, hopes, desires, disappointments, challenges, and ourselves with someone else, intimacy enters the picture. This vulnerability scares us, but there is also a strong desire to be loved, validated, and known at this deeper level. This is why it is so important to nurture a safe environment so that this depth of sharing can happen. Without this sense of security, little intimacy can happen.
This is the beginning of my sermon message on Sunday February 1st. Please join us as I, explore with my community, how we can nurture intimacy in all of our love relationships.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
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