Three more stages remain for us as we consider Erik Erikson’s model for understanding the development of emotional maturity.
Last week we discussed the stage of Identity vs. Role Confusion. Remember, the assumption is that we cannot successfully move on in the growth of our emotional maturity if we get stuck at any one of the previous stages. If we have learned a sense of meaning, identity and purpose for our lives, we are in a position to move into the stage of Intimacy vs. Isolation.
This stage, as all of its predecessors, has its own challenge. If we learn and practice the giving and receiving of physical and emotional connection, support, love, comfort and trust, we become able to experience honest and reciprocating relationships. We become able to bond and commit with others for mutual satisfaction. This connection can be experienced with a mate, with our friends and in our workplace.
If we do not learn and practice these skills, we get stuck at this stage feeling excluded from the usual life experiences of dating, mating and mutually loving relationships. We end up feeling lonely, alienated, socially withdrawn and disconnected from life and others.
Intimacy, at a deeper level, can be a remarkable experience. God designed us for intimacy. Intimacy is defined as a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group; a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc. and the quality of being comfortable, warm or familiar.
All the good things that make intimacy the valuable thing that it is are available to us in a personal relationship with God. Adam and Eve had it at one time. Jesus invited 12 men to a relationship of intimacy. He spent three to three and a half years developing that familiarity, detailed knowing, affection and warmth that we call “intimacy.”
David, the Old Testament king of Israel, had an intimate relationship with God. The Bible describes David as being a “man after God’s own heart.” Literally translated, that phrase in Hebrew means that he knew the heart of God.
We can know the heart of God. He has relentlessly pursued a relationship of intimacy with each of us. He wants us to “know Him,” just like His friend David did.
Have you ever heard the statement, “You trust the people that you know the best?”
It’s true. Trusting God in a genuine and deep way comes from knowing Him well. and knowing Him well comes from spending quantity as well as quality time with Him.
There is also another interesting life principle to think about: “You become like the people you spend the most time with.” Wouldn’t it be an amazing experience to see ourselves becoming more and more like God because we were spending so much more time with Him?
Practicing the giving and receiving of love, support and comforting of others is satisfying in itself, but it also prepares us for our next stage, Generativity vs. Stagnation. Intimacy involves risk, courage and deliberate/purposeful loving.
Are you ready to connect?