Why is it that we all hunger for intimacy and yet fear it at the same time? Why is that we long to be loved by others but we fear getting too close? Where does that come from? Lillian Rubin, social psychologist, calls this "the approach-avoidance dance." She explains how this is reflective of our struggle for intimacy:
Intimacy is an idea that excites our imagination, a word that seems larger than life to most of us. It lures us, beckoning us with a power we're unable to resist. And just because it is so seductive, it frightens us as well-seeming sometimes to be some mysterious force from outside ourselves that, if we let it, could sweep us away.
We long for intimacy and yet we are frightened by it. Why?
First, I think it’s reflective of our being made in the image of God. God himself has close community and intimacy within the Trinity. Our being made in his image means that we are relational beings that desire this same intimacy. This is why only human beings have capacities for love. In the very beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And so, we know that it is God’s heart that we become closely connected to Him and to others so we can image forth the intimacy He has with Himself. Thus, we hunger for intimacy because God has placed that longing in us that we might seek Him, and in our relationships with others, point the unbelieving world to Him.
So, if we hunger for intimacy, why do we fear intimacy? In one word–sin. The Bible says that ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden all of us have inherited their sinful nature and rebelled against God too. We don’t want him to get into our lives much less be the King of our lives. And so we search for independence apart from Him and try to find our satisfaction in pursuing other things. Like Adam and Eve, we try to hide the reality of our brokenness, and in turn, we fear true intimacy because it may expose who we really are.
In short, we become trapped in this struggle for intimacy with a hunger for it and a fear of it. So what do we do? The answer is found in the cross. Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment of our sins so that we could be reconciled to God and to others. He became the one and only mediator between God and man. So he is the bridge that brings us to God through our faith. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” To bring us to God. This is the cry of the human heart. The cry for intimacy that can only be answered in Jesus Christ.
But you may ask, will we still struggle with this paradox of hungering and fearing intimacy even as Christians? Of course, the answer is yes! Our indwelling sin and the temptations of the devil draw us away from intimacy with God and others, which is why we must keep going back to the cross. At the cross God breaks down the barriers of fear and loneliness and shame and beckons us back to the grace of resting in the finished work of Christ. There we are reminded to rest in God’s presence and in the presence of others because of what Christ has done on our behalf.