Intimacy and Original Injury

WE learn from an early age that injuries can heal.

But we suffer from our earliest experience about what injuries reveal.

And what injuries reveal is that healing is a matter of the will.

This is true for injuries we sustain ourselves and this is true for injuries caused by others.

It’s true whether we are responsible for our own injuries through neglect or recklessness, or whether others are responsible for our injuries by accident or design.

It’s true for injuries of punishment and crime.

The burden is always ours to heal.

We learn early that what heals we are able to bear.

But wounds that won’t stop hurting we are unable to endure.

So we are driven out of ourselves to find relief.

We go in search of another body to join at the bone to brace our brokenness. We pursue a new soul to fill the hole. We look for a heart that can receive our pain and make it our gain.

This is the whole goal of intimacy.

When we find it we become partners in the creation of a masterpiece that leads to new life and lasts until death.

And as brilliant as this connection is with another person, it is only a shadow of what we need from intimacy.

II. The Nature of Original Injury

The heart of suffering is injury.

And the seat of all injury is the original wound.

The original wound is the knowledge that we harm ourselves and we harm others, in spite of our best intentions, because free will is a beast too wild to tame.

This knowledge about our powerlessness over wounding ourselves and wounding others is worsened by the fact that injury and death are so closely intermingled.

As a result, many of us feel over matched.

If we are victimized we may rely on character defenses that say ‘Never again will we trust so much that we allow someone else to hurt us.’

If we self inflict emotional or psychological injury we may rely on character defects that say ‘Never again will we make someone else’s happiness more important than our own.’

We turn our focus to treating the symptoms rather than the wound.

The process shrinks our hearts.

We should say that physical injuries from disease or accidents are not under our conscious control and many times do not respond to our will to get better. Terminal disease and catastrophic injury rarely reroute their course for us. And while this pain is devastating and deadly, it must be accepted because it is outside our resolve.

But it is not acceptable to allow our spiritual injuries to go untreated. It is fatal. And it spreads death to others.

There may be good reasons why we allow spiritual wounds to go untreated.

Perhaps we don’t follow the pain to the source because we don’t know how to recognize where the pain is coming from. Perhaps we know very well where the pain is coming from and we look away from it to make it go away. Perhaps we feel there is no healing on earth that can fix what hurts us.

But if we don’t do what is necessary through confession and compassion to heal our injuries and make our welfare about the happiness of others, it makes no difference what good excuse we have for letting our heart wounds ooze.

We will be eaten alive by resentment.

If our free will is restrained by pain that prevents the amends we need to feed our growth, we have no hope.

All we have is the conventional wisdom that time heals all wounds.

And even that is hopeless.

If by time conventional wisdom means the passing of minutes with no attention spent on the quality of the elapsing moments, not only won’t time heal but time will harden our edges and chill our center. And the more time we spend diverting ourselves in denial the more we seal our wounds and sear our souls against any remedy.

So time must be converted to Things I Must Earn, such as virtue, to work against human tendencies for greed and self-seeking.

Time must be converted to Things I Must Endure, such as suffering in the service of others, to work against the human tendencies for depression and isolation.

These conversions of time are not possible without intimacy.

III. Intimacy and Injury

We all understand the thrill of going deep. It’s exciting to greet meaning on our own terms.

We all understand the rush of ecstasy. It’s freeing to float above problems with the confidence that we have good grounding.

We all understand the attraction of mutual connection. It’s liberating to express ourselves by touching someone else.

This is the obvious part of what makes intimacy so unique and so universal.

What may not be as evident is that intimacy is singularly suited for healing.

Inasmuch as healing achieves the greatest good for everyone, intimacy gains the most we can get for ourselves by giving the most we can offer to someone else.

What gives intimacy its authenticity is the feeling of individuality that comes through union.

What gives intimacy its security is the feeling of well being that comes through vulnerability.

What gives intimacy its freedom is the expression of abandonment that comes through the act of commitment.

But we have terrible problems with intimacy.

We have problems finding it.

We have problems maintaining it.

We especially have problems because of it. We misuse it. We abuse it.

Most of our problems stem from a misunderstanding about what intimacy is for.

Intimacy is for love and for life. And the driving force behind intimacy is faithfulness and service.

That is not what American culture says. American culture says that intimacy is for pleasure and for profit. American culture says that the driving force behind intimacy is passion and gratification.

What. We don’t know that?

Of course intimacy is intoxicating because it’s urgent and urge-driven.

But the height of intimacy is self-giving.

Moreover, everything that is promised by intimacy is possible in monogamy. When intimacy is exclusive and longsuffering it becomes a masterpiece worthy of imitation.

We know this is true because the extraordinary familiarity we develop in monogamous intimacy continues to deepen and broaden as we persevere.

Needless to say there are no such benefits for intimacy that is reduced to something quick, casual or selfish.

Worse, when intimacy is not protected by monogamy, injury invariably damages the relationship and breaks the bond that intimacy creates. And the split is never clean. The split is excruciatingly uneven. Bone and heart tissue rip away as well.

But we must not lose faith in intimacy.

If we do our wounds win.

IV. The Hierarchy of Intimacy

We are used to thinking of intimacy that satisfies the passion of the body.

We are used to thinking of intimacy that meets the emotional needs of the mind.

We are used to thinking of intimacy that consummates the deep desire of the soul.

But intimacy is more than the three parts of a person coming together as a whole.

Intimacy is the communion of mutual self-giving for life.

And although we may not think of everyday intimacy in such an elevated way, it is only because we are not used to thinking of everyday life in such an elevated way.

We are sense-bound people, after all, and nothing releases the senses like intimacy.

But there is a realm we all experience that becomes eerily real the less we take in with our eyes and ears.

Few of us would describe our interaction with this life outside the senses as intimate unless we are among those few who have experienced its raptures.

More often we describe our interaction with the life of the spirit as ethereal or elusive precisely because the realm outside the body seems so hard to see and taste and smell and hear. We rarely would describe our intercourse with the divine life as a high or a rush or a charge as we would describe intercourse with our soul mate.

But we can have the same benefits of intimacy in our faith life as we do in our married life if we give ourselves to the God of our understanding as intimately as we give ourselves to our spouse.

It’s true that we may not feel the rush of arousal or the swelling of passion or the relief of release in our intimacy with God that we do in our intimacy with our spouse.

But it is also true that intimacy transcends nerve ends.

And it is intimacy at this level where there is not only an unconditional love that death cannot sever but also a true remedy for the original wound.

It is intimacy at this level that not only heals injury we cannot undo but also reveals the healer who makes all things new.

About Rob Ryser

Rob Ryser is an indigent artist and a second-chance storyteller who is fascinated by the power of serious writing to transform life.
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