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I Call You Friend

Enuma Okoro

Our culture seems obsessed with romantic relationships. Entertainment television and magazines report on who is dating whom in Hollywood, and we find ourselves caught up in the dating lives of people we’ve never met. Romantic comedies play out a predictable plot: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl can’t stand boy. Boy woos girl. Girl eventually falls for boy. Everyone is happy. Or this variation: Boy and girl have been friends forever. Girl suddenly realizes she likes boy. Girl doesn’t want to tell boy because she’s afraid romance will ruin their friendship. Boy starts dating different girl. Girl can’t take it and tells boy how she feels. Surprise! Boy admits he feels the same. Boy and girl kiss. Everyone is happy.

 

Friendship to Romance

With a focus on romantic relationships, our culture has mostly ignored the possibility of healthy friendships between people of the opposite sex. When a boy and a girl enjoy each other’s company, dating isn’t automatically the next best step. Sometimes allowing time and space to grow in friendship is the most beautiful and anxiety-free way to discern if the relationship should naturally grow into romance.

devozine Study Partners FTR TS 149401836Learning how to be a good friend to someone of the opposite sex is important in its own right, but it can also be a solid training ground for future romantic relationships. Anyone who has dated for a long time or is married will tell you that giddy romantic feelings of new love eventually fade away. If the relationship is not built on something more solid than physical attraction and intimacy, then both people will likely become dissatisfied and unhappy.

Scripture compares the relationship between God and the church with the relationship between a groom and bride. God loves the church and all God’s children who make up the church as a groom loves and treasures his bride. But before using the analogy of a romantic relationship, Jesus calls his disciples friends (John 15:15). Friendship with God in Christ Jesus is the primary relationship upon which the love between God and the church is built.

 

Friendship

One of my best friends is a guy named Scott. We have so much in common; and we love spending time together, talking, watching movies, and sometimes even shopping. We are attracted to one another in many ways, and some people have asked why we’re not dating. The answer to that question is simple: As our friendship grew, we had the freedom to get to know each other and to speak frankly and honestly, without the added complexity of romantic involvement. We were not worried about how we looked to one another or about physical boundaries that have to be considered in romantic relationships. As friends, we were open to hospitality and enjoyed spending time with other people. All in all, at this point in our relationship, friendship seems to be the best fit.

devozine Friends in Harmony TS rbrb_1448 No one teaches teenagers and soon-to-be young adults how to discern what is most appropriate for the different seasons in their relationships. Does liking someone always lead to dating? Should we spend more time developing a friendship before we even think about dating? What are the benefits of being just friends? These are questions worth considering.

Christ calls his disciples friends because by walking with him in ordinary circumstances and by sharing with him the ups and downs of life, they have come to know Jesus and to be known by him.

 

DIG DEEPER

Get together with a group of friends, both guys and girls. Watch the movie 84 Charing Cross Road. After the movie, talk about these questions:

  • What seemed unusual about the relationship between the man and the woman?
  • What kept their friendship alive and thriving?
  • How did their friendship open up to hospitality?
  • How would their relationship have been affected if they had become romantically involved?
  • If you were asked to write a screenplay about a friendship between a guy and a girl, what would be your storyline? Whom would you choose as the lead actors? How would the movie end?

 

Enuma Okoro , of Raleigh, North Carolina, enjoys writing, leading retreats, salsa dancing, and practicing yoga. Her memoir, Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community, is available from Upper Room Books.

—from devozine (July/August 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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