I was lucky and blessed to be brought up in an “intimate” home where you could never love too much. As argumentative Italians, we were taught that even when we experienced heartbreaks, losses, deaths or estrangements, the hurt felt was just proportionate to how much love was present. I was taught that it is always “better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. I still tear up when I hear my late mother’s voice repeat the expression in my mind. So, I always accepted that healthy intimacy was worth overcoming the fear of loss, hurt or rejection.
As an adult I am still resilient in this philosophy of thinking. I “love to love”, as someone dear once reminded me. I cherish that vulnerability within me. And yet I also tend to council myself more regarding love than any other topic. Loving with such depth is kind of a “double-edged sword” at times. Sometimes I feel that the depth of love in my heart cannot be reciprocated, for whatever reasons. I can fight fear that my heart may never be fully understood by others. It aches as I yearn for deeper connections. It can break when I see others abused or neglected by those supposed to love them. The challenges of daily life can stand in the way of the free spirit in me, whom desires to love everyone and anyone without condition or limitation. And although I try to stay lighthearted in mind and spirit, I also can’t deny my relationships that unexpectedly fail, or weren’t what I thought. Some relationships aren’t able to evolve in ways I wish. Others prove less desirable than my expectations. Some of my adult heart breaks can feel just as bad as my failed teenage crushes (if only life were as simple now).
Yet I choose to look at “intimacy challenges” like the training of a muscle (the energy of the heart muscle, specifically). We must allow ourselves to grow and stretch our hearts in order to enjoy, give and receive intimacy. The same uncomfortable openness that allows vulnerability can also provide for the most exciting processes of loving! When we let down our guards with others, we are able to let their light shine in on us. We get to know people we may not have thought we’d connect with. We find diversity in friendships. We develop attractions to personalities that compliment us. We find community when there might not have been any. And we find love that we didn’t know existed.
I’m learning that loving is simple and easy, but God’s plan for the loves of our lives is more complicated and interconnected than we can imagine. Still, I choose never to fear intimacy. Instead I prepare to be ready and willing to have the strength and resilience it takes to be human. I strive to love like God does… a sacrificial, open, child-like, unconditional, mindful and sometimes groovy-kind of love, for the sake of being fully alive in this life and the next. The courage to love this way feeds us and others.
I truly believe when we stop loving, we also stop living. It’s tough but beautiful work, to allow intimacy. We must balance our needs with others. We may need boundaries. We must trust our Creator with the lives we are sent to love. And we must be willing to receive love, even when we don’t feel worthy of it. When we fail to connect or reciprocate such love, we can always trust that God’s love is perfect, and never fails us. By our very nature, we are covered in intimacy. 1 John 4:18 “There is NO fear in love.”