Yep, I had a guy friend who was “just a friend” but so not just a friend. He knew about every test score, every daily struggle, my favorite ice cream flavor, my life plans for the next ten years, my favorite movie, and my math homework for the next day. He was so not just a friend.
But, in the midst of the everyday texts and the long conversations about our lives, I couldn’t see this. All I saw was my “best guy friend”. And, just like the frog in the boiling water, all of a sudden the heat turned up, and I was oblivious… until I got hurt, until I realized that the expectations I had placed on the relationship were not realistic for a “just a friend” kind of relationship.
Because, let’s be real. Even my friends who were girls didn’t know how many problems were in my math homework, or how many times I had watched Pride and Prejudice, or how I did on the reading quiz that morning. “Just a friend” didn’t even begin to describe the number of texts I sent that boy.
Each relationship is uniquely designed by God. Each relationship has a special purpose and beauty because we are all members of the body of Christ. Both dating relationships and godly friendships are integral to our Christian walk, but it is crucial that we see our relationships with godly young men the way that God sees them.
In the Amplified, Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].”
We influence our friends, and they influence us. It is inevitable. Just like others can sharpen us (or not), we also have that same capacity. We have a responsibility as influencers for the Kingdom to represent Christ in our relationships and to recognize when our sharpeners are getting a little bit dull. We can only sharpen something if we are as strong or stronger than it is.
So, back to my “just a friend” guy friend. Everything had seemed to be going so great, until it didn’t. The amount of time that we spent talking allowed me to form an emotional attachment that I realized was not healthy when he no longer wanted to put in that same amount of effort. And, I was so hurt by this. I had let him into so much of my life, and I experienced the rejection of what I perceived as him not valuing that vulnerability. But, really, that was on me. I had let myself go somewhere emotionally that had no substance in the context of a friend relationship.
When I hear the word “purity”, I usually think of its physical connotation. But, friends, the physical element of purity is only an outward manifestation of what should be going on in our hearts and minds.
Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Transformation happens in the mind. Battle happens in the mind. Emotions are interpreted in the mind. If the battlefield is in the mind, shouldn’t purity start in the mind? What is occupying your thoughts? I’m not just talking about the topic occupying your thoughts. I’m talking about the quantity of time you spend thinking about that topic. It’s not sin to cherish friendships. It’s sin to idolize them.
Philippians 4:8-9: “ Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. 9 The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.”
Our thoughts are inextricably linked to our peace. If you don’t feel at rest, take some time to examine what’s going on in your heart and mind.
Friends, I did some examination and realized that I made a crucial error in my “just a friend” friendship. When I got to college, I read a blog that talked about emotional boundaries, and I understood for the first time that I had crossed them. In other words, I had let myself think so often about him that I formed an emotional attachment that was unhealthy in the context of this relationship. Instead of focusing on the solid promises of the Word and God’s Love for me in Christ, I allowed myself to get a little sidetracked. I wasn’t fixing my eyes on my Savior (Hebrews 12:2). And then I wondered why I wasn’t at peace. But, on the floor of my dorm room, as I poured out my heart to the Lord, I found grace and peace and unimaginable hope in my surrender.
Although this was a painful experience, I can now look back on it with the perspective of God’s grace and see how He used it to draw me closer to Him. He taught me so much in this time. I learned a few really important things that I want to share with you. Really, they are all interconnected.
Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (AMP)
Guard your heart. Don’t let just anyone in. And, don’t let anyone occupy the place that God alone owns: the throne of your heart.
2) “Begin with the end in mind.” This is one of my favorite things my mom ever taught me. She used to tell me and my brother that every seed has a harvest, so we have to be careful what we plant. And, friend, that’s what I’m going to encourage you to do with your godly friendships with guys. Evaluate how you feel about him, and keep evaluating it. Emotions change upon familiarity, so check up on yourself. Have friends who will keep you accountable. And, even our friends can sometimes not see the truth, so that’s why we have to keep going back to the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that it is alive and active. It will discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts. We just have to open it up.
One thing I’ve learned is that it generally is not wise for me to have guys as my “best” friends. I’ve been on both sides of the coin, either getting hurt or accidentally hurting someone else. Be clear about your intentions, and set limits.
In Psalm 16:6, David says, “The [boundary] lines [of the land] have fallen for me in pleasant places.” (AMP)
Boundaries are beautiful. They don’t keep you from getting out. They keep the wrong things from getting in. I think sometimes we tear down walls for people who shouldn’t even be let through the gates of our heart.
3) Each relationship God has placed in our lives can point us to Who He is. One of my life verses is Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us…”
So often I imagine the “abundantly more” as some distant and future place. But, friend, I have to remind myself the “abundantly more” is in the here and now. His power is working through His people every single day. It’s in our relationships. It’s in our conversations. It’s in our laughter. God says that He is “I AM”. He is in the present, so we should be too. Look for how He is moving in your relationships, and you will see how He knits everything together in such an incredible way.
Know that you can have fulfilling friendships with godly young men. It is a special thing to have these relationships because we each have unique perspectives that can build others up. If you don’t have these relationships right now, don’t worry. God is making everything beautiful in its time. As I’ve gotten older, this has become more natural. I wish that twenty-year-old me could go back and tell fourteen-year-old me that boys do grow up (and that I would eventually not tower over every single boy I knew). So, that’s why I’m telling you this. Relax, and watch the Lord work in the relationships you do have right now and pray for Him to develop friendships rooted in His Love. That’s what I prayed, and it changed my life. God did the “abundantly more” in my friendships with guys and girls.
Right now, I have several guy friends who seek the Lord and His service. They inspire me to do the same. Intentionality is the key to maintaining purity in all aspects of these relationships. As long as I set proper boundaries, none of these friendships are “just friends” friendships. They are vibrant and funny and anointed because God is never the God of “just” anything. He is the God of the “abundantly more than we could ask or imagine”.
For all my single people (including me) out there, I have one last thought: remember that God has pursued you and loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). We can never look to a man to do what Jesus has already done and be satisfied. Remember that His Love for us is fulfilling on its own. It doesn’t need a supplement. It doesn’t need to be completed in any earthly relationship. When Jesus said “It is finished”, He sealed forever the freedom that we find alone in Him.