Before you go thinking that this blog post is a review of a Lillian B Rubin’s 1983 book on aging couples, I have to let you down. It actually has nothing to do with that book (though it is on my shelf and I hope to browse through it some day).
There is something I have discovered about myself that I want to make sure doesn’t creep into the lives of you dear people.
See, I know how to connect with people. I love those super fun ice breaker questions that tell you a lot about a person. In fact, when I was dating my first serious girlfriend, I even made a list of 30 or so fun questions for us to break out on road trips or when we were hanging out.
I know how to converse. Simply stated, you make sure you always put the ball in the other person’s court. Don’t be a word hog. Give the other person a chance to say something, and do not always try to make your story better than theirs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NiUsfEkVRDY).
But a great way to make people feel like they have connected with you is to share personal information. To have self disclosure. Make them feel like they trust you. Let them know that you care enough about them that you will give them a nugget about your life that others would not know. Or that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with everyone knowing.
Here’s the problem. I have the ability to make it seem like I am sharing my heart with you. It can seem like my whole heart is on my sleeve and there is obviously nothing else for me to say that can be said. Who else would I share such personal information with?
But I am an expert at this. I know the kind of things that make people feel as though I am self disclosing. Things like past dating failures, girls turning me down, hardships during college, or maybe even the most embarrassing moment of my life. All these things sound like they are too personal to make you think I am doing this as a show.
But this is why I call it the intimate stranger symptom. See, I can keep you at arms length by sharing something that is personal, yet it really isn’t the vulnerable part of me. Or it isn’t the vulnerable side of the story. Maybe it is something that I know we can relate to. Everyone can relate to heart break. We all get embarrassed, so why not let you know that I am human too?
But every relationship takes time. Every relationship takes real honesty. I will never be close to anyone by just having them read my blog or text with me. No person will be close with me just because we had a class together or I went on a trip with them. It takes too much time and real vulnerability to get close to someone to have just a few days into a strong bond.
So why do I worry about this so much? Because I think it can slip into my relationship with God. This isn’t just sad, it is idolatry. If I ever think I can hold God at an arm’s length, I have made Him into a God who is not omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, or imminent. I have made Him into a God who takes the 2nd step instead of the first step in a covenant relationship. I have made Him into a God who stands aloof while I hold the reigns.
For some reason, I think that I may not be the only one with this problem. Be honest with yourself, just as I am trying to be honest with myself. Intimacy and relationships take time. You can never fake it.
And most of all, you can never fool God into thinking He is intimate with you and you can treat Him like a stranger. It just doesn’t work that way. He is already intimately knowledgeable of us. It is time to step up to the plate and be overwhelmed by his love, mercy, and compassion which flow from his intimate knowledge of us.
We just might enjoy it.