Tag Archives: friendship

Who Should I Disappoint Today?

6 Mar

I’m pretty sure I disappointed my best friend today.

She asked for a status update on my relationship. I told her I had decided I was single at heart and needed to tell him that. She asked, “What happened?” I told her honestly that nothing had happened, I had just realized I don’t like romantic relationships.

Cue radio silence.

Now this is just speculation, but I think she was staring at her phone with a complete lack of response. Lost for words, unable to think of how to respond to me. Of course, she might have been sitting there cussing me out in her head, or throwing her hands up in the air. I strongly suspect she decided today that I’m a lost cause.

My best friend is married, and happily so, for which I thank God. I adore her husband, and I adore them together. They’re approaching their 10th anniversary, if I’m doing the math right, and I am constantly grateful that he came into her life. A couple of years ago she told me that marriage is “the most amazing thing in the world”.

I’m happy that she is happy. But her brand of happiness is not my brand of happiness, and I worry that when we get together in person next, I’m going to be subjected to a long lecture (or possibly a rant) about how my standards are too high, or I need to get over this fear of relationships, or that I am going to end up an old maid. As much as I love my best friend, I don’t think she understands what it means to be single at heart.

Of course, I do test her patience from time to time. I tried that dating thing a few years ago for about three days, which was when she told me how amazing marriage is. Then I did it again this year. I’m going to promise this was the last time, unless he literally shows up with a string of thirsty camels and a nose ring, but I’m not sure even that will convince her that I’m not just holding out for something better.

I call myself a writer. I claim I can put into words what other people can’t. And yet I haven’t figured out a way to explain my lifelong singleness to someone who has known me for more than half my life.

I don’t know who I’m more disappointed in right now, me or her. She didn’t respond to my statement that I don’t want romance, which makes me think she doesn’t understand my desire to be single. But I can’t make myself understood, which makes me think I’m worse at this writing thing than I thought.

I’m a huge fan of the show Chicago Fire. A few episodes back, a character facing a possibly life-changing decision was talking to his father. This character, Severide, was thinking about leaving Rescue Squad, and he was worried about what the other people in his life would think. His father gave him a piece of advice that has been resounding in my head ever since. He told Severide to disappoint his girlfriend, to disappoint the other firefighters, even to disappoint his father–but never to disappoint himself.

I’m not saying that a single person has no responsibilities except to herself. As a single person, I have responsibilities to my friends. I have responsibilities to my coworkers. I have responsibilities to my parents. I have responsibilities to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have responsibilities to the rest of society, to a certain degree. But as a single person, I have only one person to live with–me.

Today, I think I disappointed my best friend. And her opinion means a lot to me. But in the end, it’s about living with myself.

And I can do that.

Reclaiming Friendship Love

13 Jan

Meerkat09 left a great comment on my last post–in fact, Single People Are Not the Enemy received a LOT of thoughtful comments; it’s obviously a hot topic! But I want to talk about Meerkat’s comment today.

Meerkat pointed out that married Christians might not realize what they’re doing when they deny us friendship, because “Singles don’t get to be friends with Christians of the opposite gender.”

It’s a sad but true phenomenon in many Christian circles that friendship between a man and a woman is seen as something dangerous. I don’t know if it’s just a case of too many Christians having seen When Harry Met Sally a few too many times or what, but right up there with belief in the triune nature of God and the resurrection of Jesus seems to be the “fact” that women and men can’t be friends without sex getting in the way.

What drives me crazy about this idea is that it isn’t an honest reflection of the Bible. Men and women in the Bible are friends and counselors to each other in many situations without sex getting in the way. Let’s look at a few:

Deborah and Barak (Judges 4 & 5)

Deborah was a prophetess, one of Israel’s judges. She passed along God’s order for Barak son of Abinoam to wage war on Sisera. What was Barak’s response? “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” Incidentally, this has always been one of my favorite stories in the First Testament, not only because a woman was judge, but also because of the gruesomely awesome way in which Sisera was defeated: while he was running from Barak, a woman gave him shelter in her tent. Sisera fell asleep, and the woman drove a tent stake through his head. Pretty badass.

In any event, Barak thought highly enough of Deborah that he wouldn’t go to war without her advice. When they won, they sang a long victory song together. Then Deborah went back to her husband Lappidoth and Israel “had rest for forty years.”

Paul and Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:1-3, Romans 16:3-5)

Paul met Priscilla and her husband Aquila in Corinth. They were tentmakers like Paul, so he stayed at their home and they worked together. Priscilla and Aquila were such good friends and helpers to Paul that when he left Corinth for Syria, they went with him. Later, when Paul is sending his greetings to them in Romans, he writes, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life…” That’s a pretty strong friendship!

Paul and Lydia (Acts 14: 14-15, 40)

Lydia was probably a wealthy woman, because she was a dealer of purple cloth, and purple was the color of royalty in those days, a very expensive dye. When Paul’s little band of missionaries got to Philippi, Lydia heard Paul’s preaching and was baptized. She invited Paul’s group to come and stay at her home. While they were there, Paul (that rabble-rouser) drove a demon out of a slave girl and got himself arrested. Lydia could have turned away from these dangerous missionaries, but she was a true friend to them. When Paul was released from prison, he went back to Lydia’s home to encourage them before he left town.

Jesus and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-45)

Let’s not leave out our Savior when talking about friendships between men and women! Jesus was incredibly liberal when it came to attitudes towards women at that time. He allowed Mary to sit at his feet and learn, which was a role usually reserved for men. We know Jesus was also friends with Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus, but look at how Luke 10:38 puts it: “he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.” It doesn’t say Jesus stayed with Lazarus, but with Martha. Maybe Lazarus lived with Martha, but that isn’t indicated.

Later, when Lazarus was sick, John says, “though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”, which I find telling–it lists Martha first. Maybe Martha was the head of that family, or perhaps her friendship with Jesus was stronger than the others. Martha’s faith in Jesus was so strong that, even when Jesus let Lazarus die, she knew said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Then she went on to confess she believed Jesus was the Messiah.

So often all we remember about Martha is that she was too busy to sit and listen to Jesus during one of his visits. But I think the evidence is there that she had a strong relationship with Jesus, both as a friend and as her Savior.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-3, John 20:11-18)

If we listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus. But what the Bible shows us is a relationship far more complicated and inspiring. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary, and she believed in him and followed him. Mary is one of several women who are referenced multiple times in the Gospels as being active in Jesus’ ministry. In fact, her friendship with Jesus was so important that she was one of the first to see him after his resurrection.

Okay, this is getting long, so I’ll stop here, but I think my point is made. The Bible provides models of friendships between the sexes, and the church is remiss in ignoring this important type of relationship. The fact is, men and women think in different ways, and both perspectives are important when you’re trying to achieve wisdom. After all, God created humankind in His image–“male and female He created them”–so both perspectives are necessary.

As Meerkat said, “I really think that Christians need to reclaim friendship love. Love does not always equal romance/sex. Friendship love exists.”

I’m pretty sure I’ll be returning to this topic in future posts, but for now, what do you think? Can men and women be friends? How do we reclaim friendship love?

Single People Are Not the Enemy

4 Jan

'dislike button' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

One of my friends lost someone he’d grown up with. They’d gone to the same church since childhood. They’d attended school together. They read the same kinds of books and watched the same kinds of movies, and even double-dated at times. Sure, he’d had a crush on her at one point, and at a totally different point she’d had a crush on him. But that was a decade in the past, and their friendship had never had a basis in romantic or sexual attraction.

It came to a tragic end when his lifelong friend said I do…to some other man. A man who felt threatened by my buddy’s presence in his wife’s life. Suddenly my friend found himself not only reduced to a brief smile in passing at church, but someone whose occasional phone calls or emails didn’t get answered. Shortly after the wedding, he learned she had de-friended him on Facebook.

This story is tragic.

Listen up, married people: Single people are not the enemy.

We’re not out to steal your spouse. We’re not trying to wreck your marriage. And if you’re too insecure to cope with the fact that your spouse wants to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, that isn’t my problem. It’s yours. And you need to deal with it, because I don’t deserve to have a friendship ripped away from me because you have a problem.

Your Insecurity =/= My Fault

Why did Mr. Insecure feel the need to end his wife’s friendship? I can think of a lot of reasons, none of which are my buddy’s fault:

– Mr. Insecure thinks his wife likes Friendly Guy better.

– Mr. Insecure is afraid his wife will leave him for Friendly Guy.

– Mr. Insecure resents the time his wife spends with Friendly Guy.

But is ending the friendship a good response? I say no, and the number one reason is this: ending the wife’s friendship with Friendly Guy is not going to address the obvious issues with her marriage to Mr. Insecure.

Instead of ending the friendship, why didn’t Mr. Insecure confront the reasons he felt threatened by the friendship? Why didn’t he spend more time strengthening his marriage instead of destroying the friendship? Why didn’t he attempt to cultivate a friendship with Friendly Guy, which would not only strengthen Mr. Insecure’s marriage, but also possibly bless him and Friendly Guy both?

Sure, it’s easy to blame the single friend. But it isn’t honest, and it isn’t effective.

Facebook and eHarmony Aren’t Killing Your Marriage

Sure, there are wives who reconnect with old flames on Facebook and divorce their husbands to pursue some fantasy. There are guys who set up secret eHarmony profiles to meet one-night-stands despite being married. Guess what? That sort of thing happened before the internet existed. It’s just the methods that have changed.

I read an interesting article today on the Atlantic website. Apparently some guy blames online dating sites for the way he can’t get a woman to settle down…ignoring the fact that he doesn’t put her happiness ahead of his own, doesn’t seem to care about his credit score or career, and wants to spend all his time watching sports and drinking beer.  Thankfully, someone who obviously has a much clearer idea of how adult relationships work wrote a response, pointing out the flaws in the argument. Maybe it’s not online dating that’s the problem, buddy. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is you.

Jesus put it another way: “Look to the plank in your own eye before removing the speck in your brother’s eye.”

Single People Aren’t Predators Looking for Marriages to Break Up.

No, I’m not actively looking for a spouse. But when I’m attracted to a guy who seems interesting, the first thing I do is check that left hand. If he’s wearing a ring, he’s automatically off-limits. That’s just how it works. Sure, there are people out there who don’t care. But I’m sick and tired of married people assuming the worst about me because of their own fears.

Think about this logically. If I’m looking for love, which is easier–to find someone who’s available and try to catch his interest, or to find someone who has already made an emotional and expensive commitment to someone else, which I must first sabotage and dissolve in order for me to experience my own version of marital bliss? Frankly, I’m just too damn lazy to try to break up someone’s marriage. Besides, who wants all that drama? Divorce is ugly. Especially if there are kids involved.

Your man may be great, but no one is worth me going to all that effort.

Not to mention…and I know this may be hard to believe, but…single people with ethics do actually exist.

The Real Question

So here’s my question: Why do people think married folks and single folks can’t be friends?

Jesus was a single guy, and he hung out with people like Peter, who had a mother-in-law, so obviously had a wife. Paul was a single guy, and he named Priscilla and Aquila as some of his closest friends. Yet people in the church seem to think a friendship between a single person and a married person is an infidelity just waiting to happen.

I think this is hypocritical, and I think it’s frankly dangerous. If you don’t address the real threats to marriage–things like married partners not putting each other first, married partners not talking honestly with each other, married partners not honoring Christ in their marriage–you’re not just hurting a single person who has lost a friend. You might just be giving up on that marriage before it really gets started.

*

As a postscript, I’m going to fast forward my buddy’s story ten years. After a decade of ups and downs, including a lengthy separation period and marital counseling and lots of heartache, Mr. Insecure and his wife divorced…even though Friendly Guy hadn’t been involved in the woman’s life since she said “I do.”

Pretty telling, isn’t it?

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