1 Corinthians 13:11-12
“11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
As a child, growing up with interactions of the opposite sex wasn’t something I was accustomed to. Though I had two half-brothers and a loving dad, my siblings were addicted to drugs, and my dad was crippled by a debilitating illness that would make relationships with either a challenge. To this day, those relationships still lack and suffer where I wish they didn’t.
In school, girls and boys sang, “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, Girls go to Mars to get more stars” and if I wasn’t careful, that’s how my belief of them would go- not that the gender of male was stupid per-say, but that I 100% didn’t know how to interact with them because I thought they were so different.
In a sense, that childish tune spoke clarity that the physical and social makeup of men and women are completely different. Women like to talk more than men, and men are more drawn to physical and sexual elements of a woman than vice-versa. Women have closer female friends, while men tend to like to be the alpha of a pack. Women like feeling, men like logic. The list goes on and on, for at its core, we make decisions differently, solve conflict in an arrangement of manners, and see life in so many different colors, it’ll make your head spin like a kaleidoscope. Regardless of these contrasts, however, we know from Scripture that both men and women are created equal and loved in the eyes of our beholder. Genesis 1:27 remarks, “27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Throughout the next few years, my perception of men would drastically and underlyingly be rooted in the sorrow of my own interactions with them, leaving me not only petrified of the opposite sex, but in avoidance of them like Jesus had released a newest plague that said, “Ew, boys have cooties,” except for me, it was more like, “Don’t talk to them, they will only leave you or hurt your feelings”.
In High School, my number of guy friends was relatively limited. I had probably 2 or 3 and interacted with a few in class about assignments, but that was its extent. I had a crush on a great Christian guy, but when he rejected me in more ways than just relationally, the confidence I had built up with the opposite gender faltered. I felt betrayed, broken, scarred, and absolutely anything less than worthy. More than that, not only did my self-value decrease but with it, my ability to think that guys and a relationship with them could be beneficial. Even outside the realm of romance, I developed an extreme fear of guys, for paranoia that they too would no longer want to be friends with me.
In college, I attended a private Christian school where, of course, all the “Good Christian boys” were the rave of the freshman halls and courting dating seasons I laughed at. As a commuter, I thankfully missed out on this “Freshman dating season,” but that didn’t stop me from being drawn to a few. In the end, and time after time though, they only seemed to be “Christian boys” and not the “Godly men,” I was looking for in both friendship and relationship. Junior year, however, I learned a lesson that I’ll never forget.
Deciding to become a hall Chaplin and small group leader for commuters on campus, I was given the privilege to get to know other male and female leaders that had a passion for bringing others to Christ. Of these leaders, one particular guy was kind to me, and though my friends tried to set me up romantically with him (and this miserably failed), the kindness he showed to me as a person (even in a rejection of romance, but acceptance of friendship) broke through those walls I’d built back up and revealed a different definition of the specimen species I’d spent so many years avoiding. He was a person just like me, and I finally began to see that maybe healthy relationships with the opposite sex, especially friendship ones, was vitally crucial to our existence as Christians here on this Earth.
From that moment on, and over the next two years in college, my interactions with the male gender became more prominent than those with the female and to say I was shocked would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe that I, Amber Ginter, a girl terrified of guys, would have so many male friends, yet I did. And to be honest, they began teaching me a lot. A lot about yes, how different they were than me, but also, how they too just longed to have friends, be accepted, goof off. And guess what? For the most part, they had true and genuine intentions in their interactions with me.
From the non-Christians I discipled to those in my dance class, I began to see them in a light much more like that of Christ, than that of my own tainted and hurt distortion. I began to see them as brothers of Christ that needed love, rather than guys I might fall for or a friend who might leave me. And as I began to grow in this, the number of guys God started to place in my life highly outnumbered my colossal of fears about them. From peers and fellow classmates to the random guys God would call me to go on a mission trip with to Canada (1 of which would become my boyfriend (yes, I still think God is crazy cool like that)), I have learned that interactions with the opposite sex are not only indispensably crucial to our growth as females, but to the impact and opportunity we have to make on the world.
But what does this mean for us today?
- We need to recognize that relationships of any kind with the opposite sex are not these misconstrued culturally confused phenomena’s in which the Church sometimes tries to tell us “men and women can’t be friends, it just doesn’t work.” – First of all, men and women are brothers and sisters in Christ that are called to engage in healthy and safe friendships with one another. Measuring boundaries, respecting one another’s space, and reflecting Christ in this mutual interaction is vital. We are called to support and build up, not avoid, tear down, or talk trash about.
- We must take a stand that segregation of sexes not only fuels the fire for division but annihilates the call of communion with one another that Christ calls us to. – Instead of separating our young adolescents into boys’ and girls’ groups so that “Boys won’t think about girls that way,” and “Girls won’t become obsessed with boys,” we are only adding fire to the flame. Attraction and exploration of the opposite sex are just a normal part of life, and the more we detour our young peers from that, the less they will see and experience what healthy relationships should look like.
- When pursuing and maintaining relationships and friendships with the opposite sex, we must know the difference between the two and establish clear boundaries. – It’s with hesitancy that I declare this point because I know it can be taken out of context, but friendships and relationships with the opposite sex are possible, though they take careful consideration and alignment with prayer and Scripture. Let me give you an example. Generally, when I used to pursue friendships with guys, it was because I had a crush on them and could care less about the friendship aspect; this was wrong, hence why they never worked out. However, when I started leaving this in God’s hands, I realized that being friends, and just friends, was imperative if anything more were to ever exist with anyone. As a young man of the Lord began pursuing me this time last year, my response was close to someone swerving from hitting an adorable bunny on the road. I wasn’t used to someone else pursuing me, someone else putting effort into knowing me, someone else setting healthy boundaries to protect me, but it was the right thing. Friendships breed the ground for romance, even if they never end in that.
- Realize that setting those clear boundaries is not only respect to yourself and your body, but the God who created you. – When striving for friendships with guys (and you aren’t dating someone-AKA me for 22 years of my life), be careful that you are pursuing clarity and friendship and not deceptive romance. Be their friend and have no hidden motives for anything more. Don’t do things that you should only do with someone you’re dating or married to, and respect their feelings, emotions, and overall well-being. Keep your intentions pure, and seek nothing out of the relationship, other than to “Be willing to lay down one’s life for his or her friends” (John 15:13). In the context of friendships when you are dating, don’t interact with other males in a way that would make your boyfriend worried. I have male friends now that I have a boyfriend, but I don’t flirt with them, hang out one-on-one without anyone else around, or push boundaries. They are simply friends and brothers in Christ that I can talk to, but they aren’t as close as my boyfriend. Primarily, my boyfriend will grow to become my best friend, and that’s what maintains the health and rigor of its quality.
- Accept that boundaries with the opposite sex in a relationship can be tricky, awkward, and painful, but lifelong, rewarding and Christ-like fruits of love, joy, and hope will be reaped to those who harvest well.– Though I don’t claim to be an expert, and I have little experience, when my boyfriend and I tried to date the first time, it was if someone went to Hades and released pure torture here on earth. We couldn’t get along and didn’t understand how we could be great friends, but not great boyfriend and girlfriend and that’s precisely where the problem was found. When we started dating again this past December, we both recognized the essential demand and necessity of maintaining that friendship, as integrated into our relationship. Instead of him focusing on romance and addiction to physical touch, for instance, we re-evaluated how we could better serve one another in Christ, and that came through authentic, vulnerable, and honest, transparent friendship.
And perhaps Jesus gives us the best demonstration of upholding this integrity with others no matter the type of relationship we possess with them. From a friend of sinners, to a single man who never lusted after or married a woman, He exemplifies how we are to treat one another. Ephesians 4:32 remarks, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” as Luke 6:31 reminds us, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
As Christians, we’re not called to freak out, shun, be timid, or avoidant of interactions with the opposite sex. But, we are called to do them right, and that includes praying about, reading about, and building them up in Scripture. The next time your child comes home singing that crazy tune about yucky boys, or you wonder when the right one will come along, and why in the tarnation the twelfth person this week has asked you if you’re married, remember this: Your life is not small, and surely God who created the Heavens and the Earth knows how to give you the relationships you need, when you need them, even and especially with those of the opposite sex.
Until next time,