For the purpose of this post, here are some disclaimers for those who don’t know me:
I am single.
I hope to be married one day.
I love my church community.
I have been uplifted, encouraged, and loved by the brothers in this community more than any other context I’ve lived in.
I am aware that getting married will not satisfy me but will sanctify me.
I would count it a privilege to live the single life if that’s what the Lord has for me!
With that said, as my years in the faith have increased, my age has as well. It no longer feels as easy as it once did to interact with the opposite gender. I’ve found myself to be in a category that doesn’t feel “safe.” I’m not young enough for college ministry, yet I’m unmarried so I don’t fit in the “building a family” category.
There are many layers and complexities in this season as with any other season but I hope to appeal to my dear brethren as well as hear some insights into this topic. I admit I’m in an awkward phase but I’m not without grace.
My experience isn’t universal, but there is one question in particular that I want to mull over: why is it so hard to actually do the “one anothers” in opposite sex, non-romantic relationships? The “one anothers” are:
Greet one another,
Comfort one another,
Forgive one another,
Build one another up,
Serve one another,
Bear one another’s burdens,
Encourage one another,
Meet with one another,
Pray for one another, and
Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving towards one another.
I often think of the relationships mentioned in Scripture. Epaphroditus and Timothy are mentioned as brothers known for being concerned for others and their welfare. I consider the mention of Phoebe and only think of countless ways she sought to love. I can’t help but think this love was not shown simply to other women. I think on Priscilla and Paul’s relationship and imagine it was filled with love and admiration.
Friendship offers the privilege and beauty of iron sharpening, of hearts being chiseled, and of redeemed sinners practicing forgiveness.
We may hesitate to pursue opposite-sex friendships because we don’t see the necessity, we are intimidated on how to proceed, or we’ve been hurt in these relationships in the past.
There are so many things I’ve done in both prospective romantic relationships and non-romantic relationships that in hindsight were not wise. They were often done unknowingly, without wise counsel, immaturely, and out of selfish motives. There is grace for those who have repeatedly struggled in this way. Because of Christ, I can push on with his mind and his motives.
Here are some observations I’ve been working on
1. Interact with single men not as prospective husbands but as brothers in Christ. This truth anchors me as I seek to love, encourage, and admonish those around me.
2. Expect awkwardness. For singles who desire to marry, there’s usually an awkward exchange that occurs when you first meet someone you are attracted to. It’s okay and it’s normal. Own it and move on without obsession. If sinful thoughts arise, go to our sympathetic High Priest, confess your sin, and ask him to help you see this person in a pure way.
3. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Let your yes be your yes and your no be no.
4. Discipleship is key! Healthy men pursue healthy discipleship. There is such an emphasis on women to be marriage-ready, while there’s a gap in encouraging men toward honest and healthy discipleship in this and all areas of life. Lack of good discipleship is to blame when you feel you can do things to your sisters in Christ that you would never do in a business deal.
5. Pursue Christlikeness and encourage your sisters to do the same! I must see Christ as my Saviour. You are not responsible for my spiritual growth but you are encouraged to wisely push me to that end.
6. Admit your weakness and find an older brother in the faith for accountability.
Sadly, there is a false perception that men must be stoic and detached while some of my Christian brothers are dealing with fears, anxiety, and deep-rooted issues. They are expected to assume leadership roles with unresolved hurts. Unresolved hurt hurts others.
7. I am weak and not made out of vibranium. I can be disheartened at failed attempts to just live among each other. I ought to be handled with care.
8. Brothers, I am sorry for the confusion and perhaps heartless rejection you’ve experienced. I pray that you’d be given a measure of grace beyond your experience.
9. Let God guard my heart. Don’t isolate yourself awkwardly based solely on assumption.
10. I’m not expecting a romantic relationship or the opposite gender to rescue me; you don’t have to come riding on a white horse.
I’m still wrestling with this but I believe when brothers and sisters isolate themselves out of fear, it is far too much of a distraction from the means of grace. There’s much work to be done. I am not made to carry on the “one anothers” in only same-gender friendships.
Let’s pursue and spur one another in love, understanding that our highly sexualized culture has sought to seize what is ours in Christ. I admit it’s a humbling and hard road. But I am convinced it is always worth it for the sake of living in harmony with each other and displaying this love to a dying and loveless world.