Intimacy develops the most human part of our brain

Ugly,

beautiful,

scary,

venomous,

natural,

kind?

The way we respond to and share our perceptions of different things, deeply affects the way we relate, and ultimately allows our neocortex to take control of or reptilian brains and allow us to become intimate.

God made humans as the epitome of his creation, with mental capacities to love and be loved at a level that no other existing creature can experience. Part of this experience is our ability to mind map our own minds, and the minds of those around us. We do this all the time, but maximising the implications of this process is a beautiful thing.

Just as we considered our responses to the snake (above). The way we feel and think about it strongly affects the way we relate to it, ourselves and others. It also affects the way others will be able to respond to us. Neuroscientists tell us that this wonderful interaction of thoughts develops our neocortex, making us most human, and most like God, out creator. Another name for this process is: intimacy.

We are called to be imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2); to walk in the same ways he walked (1 John 2:6), and to keep his commandments (John 14:15). This process intimately includes us knowing who we are; how we respond to God, ourselves, people and situations; so that we can be authentic, intimate beings. Jesus was very aware of God and himself, and knew how to respond wisely. This ability caused intimacy between Him and all those with whom He interacted. Let’s be believers that choose the same.

So often I find myself, and see many people in relationships, living superficially because they are oblivious of the beautiful process of mind mapping and becoming intimate. Simply put, mind mapping includes:

  • Being aware of my thoughts on something;
  • Allowing someone else to express what they perceive my thoughts to be;
  • Being willing to listen to a description of my thoughts from the other person without taking offence,
  • Being willing to choose a constructive way of communicating how they have described my thoughts,
  • Doing the same for the other person.

When we are able to engage in this process meaningfully, mind-mapping is healthy and fulfilling and creates intimacy. It can sound a bit complicated, but, as I said earlier, we’re all already doing it, but our lack of self-awareness, and the offence we pick up in this process is the problem, and destroys intimacy.

To describe these struggles from a different perspective. When we choose our frustrations and offence over intimacy, we are allowing our reptilian brain to win. The reptilian brain is deep within the brain and is therefore the first part of the brain to develop. It controls our instinctual, survival mechanisms like the need to eat, protect oneself from danger by either fighting or fleeing, and also the need to reproduce (http://interaction-design.org/.literature/article/our-three-brains-the-reptilian-brain [24/1/19]). The neocortex, the most human part of our brain, is the last to develop. It is highly organized and processes motor, emotional and associative information (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/neocortex, 24/1/19). The neocortex develops the individual’s ability to eventually respond rationally rather than reacting irrationally to things.

Most addictive behaviours and sexually unhealthy behaviours are the result of the neocortex being disengaged, and allowing our basic instincts to rule. It’s not helpful to berate and hate ourselves for this, but we need to choose healthy interactions to allow our neocortex to rule.

So, I want to strongly encourage us to engage this process of mind mapping, so that we can create intimacy and cause our relationships to thrive. While sometimes this process can trigger strong emotions, let’s choose to grow past them (which also means acknowledge them), so that we can start enjoying life at a new level. Here’s something you can do with a close friend:

  1. Look at the picture of the snake together, and become aware of your thoughts and emotions.
  2. Allow your partner to express what they
    believe your thoughts or emotions would be concerning the picture.
  3. Respond (not react) to their perception in a meaningful way.
  4. Do the same process for your partner.

Obviously, a snake, is not a very real issue of life for many. Some other topics you might choose to grow in would be following this strategy concerning:

  • Your parents
  • Your workplaces
  • Your finances
  • (For married couples) Your sex life.

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za

The importance of intimacy

It is said that any ‘Sex and love Addiction is an Intimacy disorder’. It’s about time we started taking our intimate relationships seriously. Simply put, intimacy is ‘to know’ and ‘be known’. It is one of the most basic needs of all humanity – we all long to know ourselves, have others know us, and know others too.

The Origins of Intimacy

Before the beginning of time, the Father desired to have a family. Firstly, in the form of the trinity, and then with mankind, initially with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26). A significant part of this relationship included Father God’s desire to know Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and Adam and Eve, and then to be known by them in a deep and profound way. 

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul writes: ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known’ (NKJV). The Apostle, Paul, is making it clear that our heavenly bodies will be known completely, and we will know others, including the trinity, in the same way. Therefore, this knowing links us to heaven and is very significant to God. This knowing is what we understand as intimacy. Being intimate (knowing and being known) separates us from animals; gives us the capacity to confront pain, and allows us to find deep meaningful relationships. Intimacy makes us part of the heavenly family and re-instates each one of us to being able to experience the intimacy that Adam and Eve would have experienced with God in Eden.

Jesus was an intimate man – He had deep relationships with many people, both men and women. In the context of Jesus’ life on earth, his encounter with Mary Magdalene who anointed his feet, was deeply intimate (Mark 14: 3 – 5). The fact that she used perfume worth a year’s wages and then wiped His feet with her hair was alarming to the onlookers, because in that time, woman only let down their hair in the spousal bedroom. Her action was honouring what she knew of Jesus, and helping others to see His majesty.

Jesus understood intimacy, but he didn’t need to sexualize it. Jesus had close relationships with his mother and John, so much so that he made sure Mary had a family and home with John, when he died on the cross (John 19:25) – in this home, she would continue to be known, and be given the opportunity to know others. In this, we see that Jesus knew that family intimacy was essential. The whole of Jesus’ life on earth reveals Him as open to share his heart and life’s blood (literally too) and open to receive, listen, affirm, validate and love those who were willing to share their heart with Him.

These origins emphasise how essential being intimate is. An inability to be intimate with oneself and others is one of the most common causes of unhealthy sexual behaviour. This lack of intimacy is possibly the most significant reason people engage in pre-marital, or casual sex that creates havoc in their lives, and the generations that follow. One of the reasons for this is that a lack of intimacy causes people to yearn so deeply for closeness that they believe sexual interaction will make up for it – in other words, they sexualise this need for closeness. 

Sex, in the right context, is one of the deepest forms of intimacy because it is a complete exposing (physically as well) of our person, with someone else. Sadly, sex can also be had with little, if any, intimacy. If there is no meaningful desire to know or be known between the couples that are having sex, it’s as good as sharing a very precious, costly secret with someone who will not value it and protect it . Too many people mix up their need to know and be known emotionally and intellectually, with sex, which can too quickly create unhealthy sexual scripts that can become addictive. Many porn addicts attest to this being at the heart of their struggle.

Intimacy needs to be developed intentionally for us to become real, authentic human beings that can love extravagantly and be loved in return. So let’s deal with this now. Take some time to:

  1. Acknowledge who you are in God’s eyes – be honest.
  2. Consider how you feel about who you are – why do you feel this way?
  3. Share your revelations of who you are with someone close to you.
  4. Allow them to respond to you.
  5. Validate the person by pointing out something you notice about them.

This process seems very simple and far removed from any sexual behaviour, but be assured that filling ourselves up with the truth of who we are, sharing it accurately with others, and then validating others, is essential to becoming sexually healthy beings.

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za.

Wholehearted living – it affects our sexuality

To what can I give myself completely? 

What is the legacy I’m living for?

The ever-changing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to re-evaluate the purpose of our existence. One of the results of this purposelessness at this time, has been a sharp rise in the amount of pornography being viewed. It makes good sense when we understand that our heart’s longings to live wholeheartedly, and for a deep, lasting impact, come from the deepest part of our being, and when touched, can cause us to become very irrational.   

The God-given longings of our human heart are strong. More specifically, the healthy fulfilment of our longings to live wholeheartedly, and to have a deep and lasting impact, is essential. Good sexual health, is one of the positive consequences of this.

Jesus speaks of the longing to live wholeheartedly when he quotes the great commandment given to Israel, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37-38 [NKJV]). The use of the superlative ‘all’ three times is significant. ‘All’ means everything, without holding back: it includes sacrifice, because it seems that a life poured out for someone else releases deep satisfaction and contentment that can restore and heal. Such is the nature and the result of living wholeheartedly.

In many of Jesus’ parables, he speaks of the importance to live knowing that we will have a deep and lasting impact. He spoke of the faithfulness we show on earth being rewarded in the future, and for eternity (Luke 19: 11-26 [the ten minas], and Matthew 25:31-46 [the sheep and the goats]). Everything about God seems to imply a deep and lasting impact. Jesus’s last command for us to make disciples in Matthew 28 is testimony to the fact that the whole earth should know, love and obey Him, with an eternal purpose in mind – this is living with a deep and lasting impact.

While counselling someone struggling with porn addiction, we were able to get to the point where he realised his obsession with porn was triggered by a change in his position at work. This change had caused him to lose hope and the sense of purpose that gave his entire being meaning. To cover up the pain, he started looking at pornography, and experienced temporary relief through masturbation, followed by paralysing guilt. As we were able to identify the issue that triggered his perceived need for pornography, he was able to let God into the disappointment and have hope restored by trusting God as his provider of a fulfilling and impactful future. Pornography was merely a counterfeit fulfilment for this deeper longing. He made wise choices, was delivered from the spiritual impact of pornography, and restored many relationships in the process. He is now living a purposeful existence again – free from porn. 

Like the disappointment this client felt, many of us find ourselves in a place of insecurity because of a virus that has infiltrated our world and affected every aspect of our beings. The worthy, secure jobs and positions in life that we toiled and sacrificed for in the past, have changed. For many of us, this loss and disappointment has caused us to be half-hearted, with little excitement for our future.

There is no better time for us to realise that God has an answer for these longings, even at this time. He is the provider of all opportunities, and our destinies are wrapped up in His presence and us finding Him. Porn, or other sexually deviant behaviours, may appear to alleviate the frustrations of these longings. Let’s acknowledge these longings, faithfully approach God who gave them to us, and find healthy expressions of them, which will result in true peace and fulfilment.

Questions to ask yourself:
1. What bad habits have you found yourself engaging in in the last 6 months?

2. How has this pandemic affected your perception of what you are called to?

3. Write a ‘calling statement’, that embodies what you believe God has called you to be to the world?

4. How can you change your habits to better reflect the calling you believe God has for this time?

5. With whom are you going to share the changes you will make?

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za

Don’t be a pain – let it work for you!


Everyone experiences pain at some stage in their lives. Unfortunately, in the sex-negative world in which most of us have been raised, the mere suggestion of sex and sexuality can sometimes be very painful. We need to change this view, but this will have to include us identifying, quantifying, feeling and finding healing for our pain. Sexual hang-ups and addictions (especially porn addiction), are rooted in pain and we need courage to face it and find freedom.

Pain is an essential part for our existence as human beings – without it we cannot protect ourselves. Congenital analgesia is a medical condition where children are born with a genetic malfunction that causes them to not feel any pain. In some sufferers of this condition children have landed up playing sport with broken limbs; suffering septicaemia from undetected appendicitis or internal damage; chewing into the nailbed of a finger causing it to rot with the need for amputation, or struggling to distinguish between food and the tongue with ghastly results.

Just as this is the case in the physical, it is also the case for us emotionally and spiritually. If we are going to be healthy people, and enjoy healthy relationships, we need to know that pain is essential for us to know our boundaries, and how we can love.  If we do not acknowledge our pain, realise its extent, care for it and nurture it to healing, it will cause us to choose unhealthy means to make us feel better. In short, we need to claim our pain and find healing from it. Intrinsic in this process is the fact that we become human, compassionate and highly dependent on God. It gives true meaning to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Nowhere in scripture do we find God’s people finding any freedom by running away from their pain. On the contrary, it creates more pain and ultimate destruction. One of the definitions of addiction is: finding a comfort; a band-aid; some kind of panacea for pain. It is very rewarding to help those struggling in their sexuality to embrace their real pain and find true healing through Christ.

Many Biblical characters chose to embraced and see God redeem their pain.

  • Moses ran away from his pain (from Egypt into the wilderness), but after his burning bush experience returned to it and freed the Israelites.
  • Ruth chose to embrace the pain of moving with Naomi to a foreign land without a husband, work or protection. This choice caused her to find favour with Boaz, her Kinsman redeemer, and she became part of Jesus’ bloodline.
  • In the New Testament, Peter, who denied Jesus three times, faced this pain, and Jesus reinstating Him as the ‘rock’ on which the church would be built.

While there is no doubt that God wants to redeem every bit of pain we go through, we must not believe the lie that God is the instigator of pain. Pain is a bi-product of sin and there is no sin in God – He is love. However, because of sin (our own personal sin, that of others and the world’s sin) we experience pain so that we can know where there is disequilibrium in our lives, and pursue healing and freedom. In John 16:33, Jesus says, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Pain is inevitable, but as believers we are overcomers through Jesus! Jesus suffered intense pain in Gethsemane and on the cross as He endured the pain and assault of every evil demonic force. On the cross, Jesus’ pain was very real. Without acknowledging, embracing and learning from Jesus’ pain, our freedom would be cheap. As we embrace, acknowledging, learn from, and pursue God’s healing of our pain, there is redemption and more of God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

Becoming responsible with our pain by allowing God’s kind love to transform our hearts to forgive and be healed is challenging but also exciting. Healthy, positive sexuality should be the reality for everyone. If this is not your reality I trust that you will take heart and know that your pain does not have to define you – you can be healed from it – your pain can become your gain – use it!

The naked truth about Shame

God has this covered … in more ways than one.

As my husband counsels people who are burdened with shame or struggling with relational intimacy in marriage and friendships, I have pondered the issue of hiding secrets. I went to Genesis 3 to read about the first time a person felt the need to hide. I found there that God’s intention for His relationship with mankind was to be intimate without shame.  When man picked that forbidden fruit, he became self-conscious. Chapter 3 verse 7-8 says, “Then the eyes of both (Adam and Eve) were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” ESV

 

What I noticed anew in this story, is that when they realised they had done something bad, they tried to fix it themselves. Imagine trying to sew underwear out of bits of plants!! The thought of how to do it, to make a flexible, comfortable, non-scratchy garment to cover… ‘there’. The creativity was woven into man’s framework because he was made in the image of the Trinity, but imagine the brain scrambling that went on that day to complete a garment, made entirely from organic material, before the sun went down. Is this where the idea for ‘Project Runway’ was born? Or rather, project runaway?

 

I cringe to imagine the sight of those two appearing before the loving Father with scratchy, badly made and desperately inappropriate undergarments! I imagine them tentatively creeping out into the open, wide eyed and nervously afraid in the hopes that He would not notice their ill-fitting garb. Well, that backfired!  He not only noticed, but He modeled perfect parenting. 1 – He did not laugh. 2 – He asked questions. In typical human response, man blamed woman who blamed the serpent. Shame usually leads to blame, but this is no laughing matter to God. It caused God to shed the blood of an innocent animal – the first sacrifice – to cover Adam and Eve’s shame.

 

God, the first clothing designer, took the skins of animals (Genesis 3: 21) to cover the shame of their nakedness. There is so much shame and pain and humiliation around nakedness. Bullying, mocking, teasing and crass joking about private parts has been part of the human existence since Eden, but God’s plan has always been to restore this to healthy respect, cherishing the beauty of what He created. So much so that the underwear saga is raised  again by the Psalmist who prophesies about it in Psalm 22. If you have ever been sexually abused or mocked or humiliated or bullied in front of others, go and read the lyrics of this song / Psalm and know that you are not alone or abandoned in the heart of the Real Father. This verse is acted out in human flesh hundreds of years later.

 

The Creator’s plan for intimacy without shame was so precious to him that He sacrificed another perfect and innocent being, Jesus Christ, His Only Son, The Lamb of God, more than 60 generations later. What was the Son of Man wearing on the cross? PG rated pictures and movies cannot expose the shame that Jesus took – publicly humiliated as he was dragged, half naked, through the streets and then exposed, arms wide open, naked on top of a hill during a national festival. To top it all the military guys, the men of men, jeered at Him and, without realising it, fulfilled Psalm 22, as they gambled for His underwear: vs 17b -18 “They look, they stare at me. They divide my clothing among them and cast lots for my garment.” (AMP). This garment was, no doubt, sweaty and bloody after the torture he had been through the previous day. What terrible shame! This perfectly, seamless item of clothing woven in one piece of expensive fine linen, was an ultimate and intimate indication that no shame is EVER too great to keep you out of the Father’s love.

 

In Ezekiel 44. 17-19 there was a specific instruction to the priests ministering in the inner courts of the temple. “When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments….and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall have no wool near them lest they sweat. (Remember how Jesus sweated in the Garden of Gethsemane). And when they go out to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers … lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments.” Even the garments that the Son and Priest of God wore at the cross, were significant in revealing the holiness that God makes available to me and you at this beautifully horrible exchange.

 

You were designed to be loved and accepted and protected and covered by the Creator family: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son took your place so you can have His. He was the ‘first fruit’ of heaven and He became the cursed fruit (cursed is the one hung on a tree) so that we could be restored to the garden and live freely in the presence of the creator God. So, walk freely in this restoration because… God has you covered.