Dating : What is spiritual intimacy?

h2>Dating : What is spiritual intimacy?

Charlotte Ashlock

Physical intimacy is between bodies, emotional intimacy between hearts, intellectual intimacy between minds. Therefore spiritual intimacy is what occurs when a soul touches another soul.

But what does it mean to touch someone’s soul? To understand spiritual intimacy, we must ask ourselves the question, “What is a spirit ?” The concepts of heart and mind translate pretty well into a materialist framework. Feelings are generated by hormones and thoughts are generated by neurons. But what generates the spirit? Doesn’t science scoff at the very idea of a soul?

Not necessarily.

Spirit doesn’t have to be a religious concept

Science fiction author H. Beam Piper addressed the question, “What is a spirit?” from a materialist perspective in his Little Fuzzy series. In the books, human colonists on an alien planet need to decide whether tiny creatures they discover in the forest (“little fuzzies”) deserve human rights or animal rights. In the past, lawyers have granted human rights to any aliens that know how to talk and build a fire. Over the course of the book, they update the legal definition to grant human rights to any species with the ability for self-awareness, reasoning, and growth.

I agree with H. Beam Piper’s definition, more or less. I believe the Spirit is the source of Being, just as the Heart is the source of Feeling and the Mind is the source of Thinking. Even the most hardbitten atheist will generally refer to “sapience,” with reverence and awe. It doesn’t matter whether your faith orientation encompasses God or not; the presence of self-awareness within an animal is still a miracle.

So how do I become spiritually intimate with someone?

What does it mean for your sense of Being to make contact with another person’s sense of Being? These are the experiences that tend to deepen spiritual intimacy:

  • Awe. A shared sense of awe around the same marvelous or transcendent experiences.
  • Grief. Experiencing the same tragic or painful life events, and creating a common meaning around those events.
  • Forgiveness. Sharing secrets or confessing sins, especially when those experiences are identified with or understood.
  • Compassion. Offering help to someone in need, especially when not constrained to do so by any form of obligation.
  • Questioning. Abandoning social forms in favor of naked sincerity when discussing life’s most important questions.
  • Answering. Witnessing or participating in another person’s moment of transformation or paradigm shift.
  • Dreaming. Working together to create or achieve dearly beloved dreams and aspirations.

Awe, grief, forgiveness, compassion, questioning, answering, and dreaming are activities of the spirit. What makes them different from activities that are merely of the heart or mind? I would say all these activities touch on the question of Being, or “Who am I?”

What do I value?

Awe and grief both touch on the question of, “What do I value?” We feel awe in the presence of what we value, and we feel grief when what we value is taken away. Shared awe and grief create spiritual intimacy (or facilitate spirit touch) because they co-locate spirits within an intense experience of a shared value.

What am I worth?

Forgiveness and compassion both touch on the question of, “What am I worth?” When someone forgives you, they acknowledge that your sin or failure cannot take away your worthiness. When you compassionately offer someone help in a time of need, you are acknowledging them as worthy even while the world treats them as worthless. Our spirits always touch when we honor one another’s worth.

Who am I?

Questioning, answering, and dreaming all touch on the question of “Who am I?” just in different tenses. When you ask questions about the meaning of past events, you’re exploring, “Who was I?” When you try to come up with meaningful answers, you’re saying, “Who am I now?” And when you dream of a shared future, you’re asking the question, “Who will I be?” These are all ways to join in a shared sense of Being.

What role does church play in creating spiritual intimacy?

Church ought to support the growth of a spiritually intimate community, but it rarely does. Church ought to be a place where we experience not just the awe of God’s presence, but also the grief of this broken world, the forgiveness for our deepest sins, and the compassion for our greatest needs. It ought to be a place where it is safe to ask the big scary questions and help each other find the big scary answers. It ought to be the place where we work together to bring God’s kingdom down to earth. It ought to be the place where we strive to create a future of perfect love.

Instead, church can be a place where we perform awe instead of experience it. Where we hid our shame and grief and even our needs. Where our doubts are concealed deep inside and we’re scared to ask each other for answers. These are the activities that help us touch and taste our earthly portion of Heaven.

When I told my friend that my ideal church was “spiritually intimate community,” he laughed at me. He said, “With my life experiences, I don’t get to think in terms of ideals. I’m just looking for enough to get by.” He told me when he hears the songs and eats the bread and drinks the wine, it can give him enough to get by. He hardly dares hope for more.

We deserve more than scraps. We deserve to feast on all the goodness of one another’s hearts. So what comes between us, and keeps it from happening? Well, that’s a question for another post. In the mean time, share your thoughts with me. Keep them coming.

Shared dreams are dancing in my head
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