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We have a deep need to be known.

The Biblical word for knowing is simply yada.  The first time this word is used in the Bible, Adam and Eve “knew” they were naked (Genesis 3:7). The very next time this word is used, is very telling: “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived…” (4:1). Clearly there is a sense of knowing that is more than just apprehending information.

Yada appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know,” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.”

It is interesting therefore to see how Matthew Kelly writes about the importance of knowing in his book on Intimacy. He is crystal clear about the purpose of a relationship – that is to say, the purpose of intimacy – of knowing and being known:

The purpose of relationships is for you to help others to become the best version of themselves, and for others to help you become the best version of yourself… Troubled relationships are those that lead us away from our essential purpose, those that encourage us to be lesser versions of ourselves.

This is a very good summary, and it gives insight to what we are after in relationships – especially those that matter a great deal to us. The Bible talks about the tandem values of love and respect. Respect doesn’t usually get the air time that love does, but Respect is one of the important cornerstones of relationships. There is a paradoxical aspect to respect: on one hand, we expect respect is earned, and on the other hand, respect is one of those great gifts that gestures a person to live up the the value of such an honour.

Respect fosters trust and encourages openness and honesty… respect reminds people of their innate and extraordinary value even if they have forgotten it themselves.

I contend that we were made to be loved and respected; we were made to reciprocate this; we were were made to know and be known intimately, and Kelly suggests three questions to consider asking your close partner

Three questions to consider:

  • Do you trust your partner?  What did he/she do to build this trust?
  • Do you believe that this person has your best interests at heart? What makes you believe this?
  • Is this person helping you to become the best version of yourself. In what ways is your partner doing this?

Even the most trivial activities of our lives take on great meaning when we approach them with our essential purpose in mind (to become the best version of ourselves). Therefore to love a person means to do everything within our power to help that person become the best version of herself, and never do anything that would hinder her form achieving this great essential purpose.

However, what often gets in the way is making understanding a condition of acceptance. We might think, “I don’t understand you, therefore I won’t accept you.” But Kelly suggests we need a radically more proactive approach: “I will love you and will accept you, even though I don’t understand you”… yet Kelly continues.

The first truth of relationships is that all relationships have problems. They all have unresolvable problems… the relationships that thrive despite their unresolvable problems are those in which the people acknowledge the problems, find ways to adapt to them and over time even find them amusing. They don’t allow differing opinions to become to a roadblock in their quest for intimacy.

I like to say that marriage is a living parable of Christ’s love for His Bride – us. Marriage is merely a foretaste of the relationship of knowing and being known in the most intimate ways for which we were designed. It is too heavy a burden to lay all these expectations on our spouse, but at its best, there are glimpses of glory, moments of resonance that speak to a greater intimacy of knowing and being known by the One who made us for Himself.

You guessed it: this is more enigma than dogma.

What insights have you gained on intimacy so far?