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Intimacy and Sexual Wholeness
Intimacy and Sexual Wholeness

Divine Intimacy 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Richard Rohr reflects on our need for human and divine intimacy: 

The big secret is this: an infinite God actually seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, or desire for such union, only the intimate language of lovers describes what is going on: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and, of course, suffering. This is the vocabulary of the saints. Our biggest secrets and desires are only revealed to others, and even discovered by ourselves, in the presence of sorrow, failure, need, when we are very vulnerable, and when we feel entirely safe in the arms of love. When that happens, there is always a broadening of being on both sides. We are larger people afterwards. Those who never go there remain small. 

It’s only when we are in such a tender place that God can safely reveal the “innards” of God to us. Those who are self-sufficient remain outsiders to the mystery of divine love because they will always misuse it. Only the need of a beloved knows how to receive the need and gift of the lover, and only the need of a lover knows how to receive the need and gift of the beloved. 

How does this secret of intimacy become unhidden? Only when we stop hiding—from God, from ourselves, and from at least one other person. Such risky self-disclosure is what I mean by intimacy and it is the way that love is transmitted. Intimacy happens when we expose our insides—and this is always scary. We must be prepared to be rejected and the pain of rejection after self-disclosure is so great that it can sometimes take years for us to risk again. 

Richard shares what his practice of celibacy has revealed to him about intimacy: 

I wonder if we know how to be intimate with God if we have never practiced mutual self-disclosure with at least one other human being. I sincerely doubt the possibility. Sexuality creates an obvious and ideal container for true intimacy, at least now and then. Celibacy reveals that an awful lot of sex is not about intimacy at all. Healthy celibacy and healthy sexual encounters demand deep, true intimacy; unhealthy expressions often contribute to an effective avoidance of it. (I write this after almost 50 years in a celibate community of men, and after counseling lots of others in a sexualized world.) 

Intimacy is not just a well-kept secret of the soul, not just a mystery that defies logic, not just a poverty that we avoid; I believe vulnerable intimacy is the entrance into and the lynchpin between all human and divine love. It really does not matter which comes first; it is just important that we pass through this gate of fear and find what lives inside. Intimate love is the true temple that we all desire. I guess we have to want to love and to be loved—or we will never go there. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Human Intimacy and Divine Union,” Radical Grace 25, no. 2 (Spring 2012): 3, 22. 

Image credit and inspiration: Nina Hill, untitled (detail), 2020, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. The connective energy of human touch, entwining our hands and our hearts. We are not alone. 

Story from Our Community:  

As a gay Catholic man in relationship with my husband, Leo (40 years of faithful love), and the institutional church, I am living the Paschal Mystery in my life each day.… How do I handle [the church’s rejection of my sexuality]? I allow myself to be transformed by Love. My prophetic stance is to remain active both in the church and as part of my own union. I feel confident that the church will someday change its teachings on homosexuality— even though it may not happen in my lifetime.
—Joseph G. 

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