What would it look like for there to be no shame with expressing love and affection among a community of people? This is the question that I am processing, and here are some thoughts from my personal journey.
“Father, I desire that they would be one; just as you and I are one.” -Jesus
Our western church culture says that we must be fully capable on our own; to need nothing but Jesus. In much wrestling, I have recognized that to need Jesus is to need His body as well. Many would agree in word, but our day-to-day lives better communicate what we truly believe.
Sarah Bingaman, with Heart Living, has said that “a major part of emotional maturity is seen in the ability to recognize and communicate the needs of your own heart.”
Discovering the primary needs of my heart
As I have reflected on this, I have recognized a need for security and comfort within relationships. I regularly battle a fear of rejection. Often I need to feel security, to know that through various interactions, we are good. I also need comfort, to feel assured that I am not alone.
Two of the primary ways that I experience these needs being met is through physical touch and verbal affirmation (noted from The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman). Touch communicates the opposite of repulsion; it shows “I want to be near you” and “I trust you.” Verbal affirmation intercepts the lies that cycle through my mind about how you perceive me.
It just so happens that both of these are difficult for me to receive.
I was expressing to a friend a difficult situation that was really hurtful. She expressed sympathy, saying “I am so sorry.” My immediate response was “Oh thank you, it’s fine though, I’m good.” I did not allow myself to simply receive the love she was offering me.
Touch has been a bigger breakdown for me however; especially with other guys. I recognized a moment when a guy friend touched me with his knee, as we were sitting close together. I immediately recoiled. I reflected on this and realized that when I experience intimate moments with people, I am often filled with shame and fear. Then specifically with guys, I fear my intimacy being interpreted as gay. No wonder I experience insecurities and bouts of depression. I am unable to receive what my heart is needing, what I was created to receive from Christ through His Body.
I am seeing these areas of broken relating, now what?
I have learned from experience that when God reveals shame and fear, He is bringing freedom in that specific area. His love disarms shame and drives out fear.
After acknowledging my experience, I have found three helpful ways to respond:
One is intentional times of prayer with the Lord. Though He operates through His body, He is the source of healing. It is important to be mindful of when we are making His body an idol. Are we looking to people to be God or are we allowing God to work through people?
Second is the internal heart work as I engage community; having awareness of how my heart is responding to interactions with others. For example: a guy friend was sitting close to me, and I became aware that I was guarded and shut off. I simply asked the Holy Spirit to help me open my heart to him. I was able to receive the love he has for me, being expressed in time and nearness.
Third is to be vulnerable within community; sharing with safe friends the needs and desires I am experiencing. They may not be able to respond the way I would like, but being known and accepted draws us deeper in the healing process.
Questions of Reflection:
What needs do you experience? How do you receive love? Have you talked with the Lord about it? Who are safe people in your life that you can share this with?
Are you aware of the needs that individuals in your community may have? Are there any ways that God could be inviting you to show love?