Father Richard Rohr shares his understanding of intimacy and what prevents us from experiencing intimacy with God and one another:
Intimacy could be described as our capacity for closeness and tenderness toward things. It is often revealed in moments of risky self-disclosure. Intimacy lets itself out and lets the other in. It makes all love possible, and yet it also reveals our utter incapacity to love back as the other deserves. None of us can go there without letting down our walls, manifesting our deeper self to another, and allowing the flow to happen.
True human intimacy or divine intimacy is somewhat rare and very hard for all of us, but particularly for men and for all who deem themselves important people, that is, those who are trained to protect their boundaries, to take the offensive, and to avoid all signs of weakness or neediness. God seems to have begun thawing this glacial barrier by coming precisely in male form as Jesus, who exposes maleness itself as also naked, needy, and vulnerable. The transmission of the inner mystery of God continues in space and time primarily through what Jesus calls again and again “the little ones” and “the poor in spirit,” which he himself became.
I think that many of us are afraid of intimacy, of baring our deepest identity to another human or even to God. Yet people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people. They feel like they have lots of “handles” that allow others to hold onto them and that allow them to hold onto themselves. People who avoid such intimacy are imprisoned in a small and circumscribed world. Soulful intimacy is a gateway into the sacred realm of human and divine love.
Therapists Jett Psaris and Marlena Lyons have found that our longing for intimacy can only be met when we soften the guardedness around our hearts:
We long to love from the fullness of our undefended hearts and we long to be loved unconditionally and without reservation. . . . The dual yearning of the human heart finds its satisfaction in the struggle to know ourselves at our most vulnerable levels. The deeper we know ourselves, the deeper is our capacity to know others intimately. . . . It is our deep hunger for this level of loving that moves us beyond our resistance, fear, and shortcomings to see what is special and unique about us. It allows us to see the profound core of another and to have that core be fully seen in ourselves. 
Father Richard concludes: We all desire true and intimate love. This longing seems to be hardwired into our beings. We have to want very strongly to love and to be loved—or we will never go to this strange place, and we will never find our True Selves. So, God obliges and creates us in just that way, with a bottomless and endless need to be loved and to love.
 Jett Psaris and Marlena S. Lyons, Undefended Love (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2000), 14, 15.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 159–160, 171–172, 174.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard’s collection of writings Essential Teachings on Love.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 1 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Jack Delano, View of crowd dancing to the music of “Red” Sounders and his band, at the Club DeLisa, Chicago, Illinois (detail), 1942, photograph, New York Public Library, public domain. Nathan Dumlao, Untitled, 2020 (detail), photograph, Unsplash, free use. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: In the center photo we see two bushes, separate but entwined, touching and sharing space. Human intimacy requires us to come as ourselves, undefended, co-creating a space for connection. Friends, lovers, communities who share raw hopes for change: we welcome each other into the intimacy of authentic presence.
Story from Our Community:
As a frontline nurse working through this pandemic I found the practice of reading the R. Rohr daily meditation emails first thing in the morning quite grounding and actually essential to my day. I realize my spiritual transformation is only at its very beginning. Thank you for challenging me to do better, be better, and try every day to look at the world, and all those in it including myself, with love instead of frustration.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.