The Rules of Proximity
The “INside track,” the “INner circle,” the “IN crowd.” Who doesn’t want to be IN?!?
These exclusive relationships, whether it be inside a gang, a team, a club, a fraternity, a romance or even a pair of BFFs, can make you feel so accepted. That much is obvious.
But these various “IN crowds,” can also provide you with an incredible illusion of intimacy. All the while keeping it far from you. To turn a phrase from one of my favorite movies,* it’s about “the rules of proximity.” Simply put, the reason I feel so close is because I am. At least in comparison to the 7 billion people who aren’t a part of my exclusive social arrangement.
But if I’m busy creating distance between me and those on the outside, I cannot be busy about growing closer to the other people/person on the inside. (“Those other people only wish they could be close to us. Right? Cause we’re so close! We’re tight! And they aren’t! At least they aren’t tight with us! Tight and out of sight! Dyn-o-mite!”)
That isn’t intimacy. It’s elitism. Which can make you feel really good, in an empty-sort-of way, but it won’t fill your heart’s longing. Again, this dynamic is at work whether I’m a part of a large group like a sorority or club or I’m paired off with my lover or best friend.
OF COURSE you can grow in intimacy with members of any group. You just can’t pursue intimacy at the same time that you’re protecting your group identity. Those social goals work at cross purposes.
Remember, intimacy isn’t about who’s in and who’s out. It’s about knowing and being known.
But the truth is most of us don’t want to be known too much.
Well actually we do. But not really.
That is to say we want to be known, but only so far as we feel comfortable.
Ahhhh the fearful wonder of intimacy. No wonder we’d rather join a club. We can feel connected (there’s a buzz word that’s bantered about all the time), but we get to “manage” that connection, limiting our vulnerability and potential for hurt. But we can’t grow in intimacy that way.
So not only is exclusivity the anti-intimacy. It’s a safe haven for many individuals who don’t think they can afford to be known too closely. They can get the illusion of acceptance and intimacy, without the risk. Even better, they might get the attention and admiration of those outside the group. How could things get better! Now we’re cooking with grease!
We’re also alone.
The saddest incarnation of this intimacy impostor?
Yes! Some people join a Christian church/club/study/group for the feeling of closeness and connection without the required vulnerability. And when they do they miss out on the very reason for which the church exists: to bring people closer to God as we grow closer to each other, coming to know Him as we are fully known by Him.
Exclusivity was never meant to hold a church together. When Jesus called the original twelve disciples together he didn’t do it to exclude anybody. In fact, everything about Jesus was INclusive. Not EXclusive. It’s one of the things the “IN crowd” of religious leaders in His day couldn’t stand about him. He’d hang out with ANYBODY. (Kinda makes you feel good, don’t it?)
Instead of excluding, Jesus COMMITTED. He committed His life first to serving His Father and then to serving His disciples. And this is what intimacy demands. Try to grow in intimacy without commitment and somebody’s going to get hurt.
Actually, Jesus did get hurt by His disciples. Indeed, He committed so fully, He opened himself up to be frustrated by them, misunderstood by them, abandoned by them, denied by them and, in the case of Judas, even betrayed.
Having set the example, it is that same Jesus who calls us to commit to Him first, and then to the important people He sovereignly places in our lives.
So take a close look at whatever exclusive community of which you find yourself a part. Are you held together by exclusivity or commitment? And if the former, what are you going to do about that?
Next week we’ll finish up our discussion of exclusivity by addressing the one foundational relationship God established to actually be exclusive. Care to guess what it is?
[This is post is part of a series called Relation^ology (it begins with this post) where we identify the greatest relational need of our heart and then ID the counterfeits we seek out or settle for instead. Relation^ology started out as a discussion series and can be booked for your college, youth or young adults group (or singles group, life group, cell group, community group or whatever they’re calling Bible study these days).]
* Yes, I know The Island has a sex scene in it. We fast-forward through it and encourage you to do the same.
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