I’ve heard a lot of people say that they want to marry their best friend but then consistently fail to put the time in to build a foundation of friendship with those of the opposite sex. Most of my friends who are happily married also emphasize friendship with their spouse over anything else as key point in the success of their marriage. We stand to learn so much from opposite sex friendships if we pursue them God’s way.
When I was younger, out of fear, I would try to protect myself in my friendships. Instead of seeking security in God, which would give me the confidence to be vulnerable, I would put the men in my life through all sorts of tests, that in my mind would prove to me whether it was ‘safe’ to give more of myself. I looked for certain responses or reaction, and when they did not come I drew my own conclusions and withdrew my heart. I realized that by doing this I was only setting myself up and robbing myself of enjoying the friendships. Over time I learned what it really meant to be a friend and enjoy it.
Galatians 5:6 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
One of the things about Christ’s love that resonates with my heart the most is the utter acceptance of his love when I fall; he still loves me and roots for me. My best friends do the same. It’s the people who see us in our utter weakness or at our worst and still love us that mirror Christ’s love to us. He gave without wanting anything in return and when we fall short he doesn’t shame us or turn away. Instead, he cheers us on and supports us. To be able to love people in this way takes courage and great vulnerability. It requires me to be so filled with Him that I can give to others without expectation. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy and when it comes to friendship with the opposite sex where attraction comes into play there will be times when we want something in return, but with Christ we can check those expectations.
As single Christians we are called to two basic principles: 1) to encourage each other and 2) to be pure. If I just keep it simple it really helps me to keep things in perspective and have so much more fun in my friendships with the opposite sex.
Pv 22:11 “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend”
1Tim1:5 “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Encouragement should be godly. My experience has taught me its best to keep it real and keep it light. A wise woman once asked me, “What do you give in a friendship vs what do you reserve for a relationship, emotionally and spiritually?” This question helped me to set some great boundaries and helped me distinguish between the two. It also freed me up to enjoy my friendships more without added pressure or trying to interpret “signals”.
Ephesians 4:15-32 (excerpts) “[…] speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ […] put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor…do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs so that it may benefit those who listen…Be kind and compassionate to one another[…]”
I am free to enjoy great friendships with the opposite sex and unless someone explicitly states his interest, I don’t need to try to “interpret” anything. In the past, when I have been tempted to do this it has been because I had stepped outside my own boundaries and had given too much too soon. Note, if someone does express interest but it’s not reciprocated, be respectful and honest. Don’t be ambiguous. Apply the principles laid out in Ephesians 4 above.
I’ve learned that if you’re walking into friendships already looking to protect yourself or looking for what you can get out of it, you are removing God out of it, not allowing him to use you to encourage, and not letting yourself learn and be encouraged. To get to know someone takes time. Some will chose to marry and take that time in marriage others of us may do this prior to taking the plunge. There is no “right” way; there is just a way you prefer.
1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
In my experience, it’s best to check your motives. If you’re trying to be someone’s friend, actually be a friend. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on them or set them up to fail by testing them in ways that only your ideal person can pass. To be honest, I’ve done this. I’ve met attractive guys who peeked my interest and pursued the friendship more out of the attraction than with a heart to encourage. I had to check these motives at the door and it resulted in some great friendships. I’ve also found the, ‘I thought I could love at hello’ men become more human with more conversation and time. They may not have been the one but they may be a friend for life.
James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
I’ve found that deliberate communication is best. Open-ended conversations can take my heart places I don’t always want to go. However, at the end of the day, we all have our own personal boundaries and it is our responsibility to protect them not the other person’s. It is up to you to be a grown up and reinforce your boundaries so that you don’t end up hurt and blaming the other for “leading you on.” Remember, when we are called to protect our hearts it’s from sin, not from people. The boundaries I set for myself are to protect my heart from sin not ones of self-protection. When in doubt ask advice of someone of the opposite sex.
Prv 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Ultimately, we all want to be part of an epic love story but too often the idea of that story can hinder us from having some really amazing faith building and mutually encouraging friendships with those of the opposite sex in the here and now. The men in my life have taught me so much about their kind. We have fights, they have disappointed me and I them, but we also have heart-to-hearts and memories filled with laughter–the loud kind that leads to gasps or snorting. I’m grateful for the ways my male friends have taught me patience, greater self-acceptance and spurred me on toward love and good deeds. I still don’t know who God has in store for my epic love story, but until God makes that clear I can continue to build great friendships, go on dates and continue to pray for God to mold me into the woman I need to be to be a great life partner to my best friend, whoever he turns out to be.
Colossians 1:17 “He (God) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
The best things truly are worth the wait but waiting doesn’t have to be idle. The more people I get to know and the more friendships I have, I learn about what I need rather than what I want. I learn about who I am and who I can become in Christ. Live your life to the full now, if God has someone in store to join your epic adventure he will make it clear. My epic love story starts with me and God.
Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”