HELLO THERE, FRIEND!
(we'll keep this short & sweet)
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Jen is a frustrated young wife who has been married for three years. “I want my husband to rise up and be the leader in our marriage. But he seems to just wait around for me to move things forward. I’m really tired of trying to be the man in this relationship!”
After talking with Jen more about this issue, it became clear that the problem she was facing in her marriage actually started long before she and her husband were even romantically involved. It happened during the friendship stage of their relationship. Jen admired the qualities she’d observed in Matt, and wanted to get to know him better. So she took the initiative. She reached out to him, invited him to coffee, sent him texts and emails, and let him know that she was interested in building a friendship with him. At first he seemed perfectly happy to let her take the lead in the friendship, and to be the one to initiate a romantic relationship. But after marriage, he seemed to lose interest in rising up and taking charge of their home, their spiritual growth, and their marriage cultivation.
It’s a common story among young wives today. They take the lead in the friendship stage of the relationship, and from that point forward things are out of balance. That’s why it is crucial that the friendship stage of a relationship is based upon Christ’s pattern, and not the world’s.
Many young women feel that the only way they can get to know a guy is if they initiate a friendship. “I don’t know him very well, but I’m just going to call him and invite him to coffee. How else is he ever going to know that I am interested in having a friendship with him?” It sounds like a logical line of reasoning. But taking the initiative with a guy, even in the friendship stage, can be dangerous. God designed men to be the leaders, the initiators, and the pursuers in male/female relationships. Even if it seems harmless to ask a guy out to coffee or email him and let him know you want to get to know him better, it subtly undermines his masculinity. And as we discussed earlier, even though guys might at first seem to like it when girls pursue them, the reality is that when their masculine role is diminished, it hinders them from becoming the strong, confident leaders God intended them to be.
If there is a guy in your life that you feel drawn to get to know better, remember that the way you approach the friendship in the early stages can set the tone for the entire friendship and, if it ends up becoming more, the entire romantic relationship.
The Bible says:
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (1 Ti 2:12-13)
When a woman takes a leadership role, even in a friendship, she subtly disregards a man’s authority and position. To “usurp authority” over a man means to “govern” him. If you take the first step in starting a friendship with a guy, the weight falls upon your shoulders to guide and govern the relationship from that point forward – completely backwards from God’s intent. You forgo the opportunity to be pursued and won by a heroic man. Rather than him proving that he is worthy of your heart, you now have to prove that you are worthy of his. How unromantic is that? As hard as it might be to wait for him to take the first step in reaching out, you will be blessed for honoring God’s perfect design. Even if the friendship never turns into anything romantic, by down-playing a man’s role as pursuer you are chipping away at his ability to be a Christ-built Warrior-Poet who will honor, serve, and protect femininity. Don’t give into impatience when you see a guy you are attracted to or interested in. Instead, take it to God in fervent, heartfelt prayer. If God desires the friendship to happen, He is perfectly capable of moving upon the guy’s heart to take the first step in reaching out to you. Show that you trust in Him with all your heart by letting Him write the story without any manipulation on your part!
If there is a guy in your life that you feel drawn to, honor God’s design by reaching out to him in subtle and Christ-honoring ways, without undermining his position as the initiator. Here are some practical suggestions for getting to know a guy without sacrificing your femininity:
Protecting your feminine mystique doesn’t mean you need to hide in a corner and go out of your way to avoid guys. It’s not more spiritual to act shy and insecure in a conversation with a guy. You can be friendly, outgoing, and confident toward any guy you meet. The key is to be God-honoring in the way you speak and interact with guys. Scripture is abundantly clear that all our words must be carefully weighed before God.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:3-4)
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph 4:29)
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col 4:6 NKJV)
Far too many of us get caught up in the “playful banter” that goes along with male/female interaction, disregarding the purity of speech that God requires of His children. When you casually chat with a guy, don’t allow crude words, sarcastic words, impure words, profane words, sensual words, gossipy words, etc. to creep into your conversation. Joking about the latest Hollywood comedy or T.V. sitcom might seem completely normal, but does it honor Jesus Christ? Flirtatious or teasing comments might seem innocent and fun, but does that behavior reflect the stunning purity of our King?
The other day I was among a group of Christian young adults during a casual conversation. One of the guys began to tell a story about how a woman had caught him with his fly open that day at work. At first it seemed like a funny, harmless story, but the descriptions and visual illustrations he used quickly put it into the “awkward” category. Even though the girls listening to him were passionate about purity and living a set-apart life, for the sake of social polish they began laughing and joking back with him – participating unwittingly in the “course and foolish jesting” warned against in Scripture.
You might feel uncomfortable remaining silent instead of laughing when a guy makes an inappropriate joke or comment. You might find it awkward to abruptly change the subject when a topic arises that doesn’t bring glory to God. But if you don’t send signals that indicate what your standard of purity is, how will a guy ever get the message that you are a set-apart young woman? How will he ever know that you expect something more from him as a Christ-professing man? How will he ever be inspired to rise to a higher standard?
When it comes to talking casually with guys, choose to exchange all foolish, idle, flirtatious conversation for edifying words that build faith and bring glory to God. Beware of downplaying spiritual things so that a guy doesn’t think of you as strange. Let guys know without question where you stand – that Jesus Christ is the number one passion and focus of your life and heart. If a guy looks down upon you for being consumed with Christ, he is not Warrior-Poet material anyway – and not worth your heart.
A lot of young women I’ve talked with feel restricted in talking about spiritual things with guys right off the bat. There seems to be a general feeling in modern Christianity that conversations about Christ and His Word should be reserved for deeper, more intimate friendships. But it’s more than possible to engage in spiritual dialogue with guys you are just getting to know. In fact, that’s how you build a friendship upon Jesus Christ.
My friendship with Eric was hallmarked by spiritual conversation from the very first day I met him. Not only was he willing and eager to talk about Jesus Christ – he didn’t even seem to want to talk about anything else! Even though we didn’t share intimate prayer times or personal stories about what God was doing at the deepest levels of our soul, our entire friendship was built upon mutual spiritual passion. We discussed Scripture, applied Biblical Truth in regard to cultural issues, shared stories of how we’d seen God work on mission trips and outreaches, and shared worship songs we’d written. There was an immediate like-mindedness between us, and cultivating spiritual discussion only created more of a kindred bond and set the stage for a Christ-centered, Christ-focused, Christ-honoring friendship.
Don’t shy away from steering your conversations with guys toward the things of God. It’s one of the best ways to get to know a guy’s true heart as well as build upon the right foundation from the very beginning. Of course, there are guys who might use spiritual things to try to manipulate your heart. Allow God’s Spirit to give you discernment as you get to know a guy. If he asks you to share things that are too personal under the banner of “spiritual discussion,” don’t hesitate to let him know your boundaries. If you sense that he is merely saying all the right things but not truly living it out, it’s a good idea to be cautious rather than charging ahead full-steam in the friendship. If you are led by the Spirit of God rather than your own emotions or impatience, your heart will be protected and you will have wisdom and clarity for how to handle each and every situation you face.
And by the way, there are other ways to get to know a guy beyond just talking. Sharing experiences together goes a long way in acquainting you with someone’s true heart. Participating in the same ministry ventures – such as inner-city outreaches or short-term missions trips is a great way to share life experience without getting overly personal. Spending time together around your family members – as unexciting as that might sound – is an excellent way to see his true colors and let him see yours. Don’t think that one-on-one discussion is the only way to build a friendship. Often, actions can speak about someone’s character and heart far louder than words.
Not long ago, I stood in the midst of a large Christian gathering for young adults before the official “meeting” began, as people were socializing and congregating. It was interesting to watch the physical interaction between the sexes. Guys teasingly tickling girls. Girls playfully tackling guys. Guys bellowing loud greetings and giving girls bear hugs. Girls giggling and jumping on guys’ backs. The physical touch between men and women was aggressive and prevalent - not just among dating couples, but among casual friends and acquaintances. It’s something Eric and I have seen in nearly every Christian group of singles or young adults we’ve visited. In a world where it’s normal to have sex with a complete stranger, playful physical interaction among Christian guys and girls hardly seems worth making a fuss over. Compared to what the rest of the world is doing, it doesn’t seem like a big deal? Why should we even make an issue out of it? After all, we don’t want people to think we’re stodgy and prudish, do we?
Interacting with guys, even Christian guys, usually involves a good amount of physical touch. Even if you barely know a guy, it’s normal and accepted to hug him, hold his hand, stand close to him, put your arm around him, ruffle his hair, playfully hit him, etc. The casual, careless way that girls interact physically with guys is yet another indication of the decline of feminine dignity and mystique. It used to be the opposite. A girl wouldn’t allow a man to touch her until he proved he was a gallant Warrior-Poet worthy of her heart. Even then, it was carefully measured and guarded – sacred things being saved for sacred moments. Women garnered respect from men because they didn’t give their physical body – even in the form of casual touch – to any random guy they met. I remember hearing the story of my great-grandmother in the carriage with her groom-to-be on the way to their wedding. He leaned over to kiss her, and she pulled away, saying sweetly, “There will be plenty of time for that after the wedding!” These days, such a scene seems laughably ridiculous. But I think we could use a lot more of my great-grandmother’s decorum in our modern femininity. Just take a quick peek at what God says about male/female interaction:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (1 Cor 7:1)
Though some translations interpret this verse as “it is good for a man not to marry” in reality the word “touch” here means physical contact. It’s the same word used all throughout the New Testament for every kind of touch – even casual. Physical touch between men and women is very powerful, and is not to be treated flippantly. Our Christian culture may make light of casual touch between guys and girls, but it’s not a light thing to God. Our Maker designed physical touch between men and women to be the catalyst for sexual intimacy, and when that fire is ignited out of context, it leads to harm. As it says in Proverbs:
Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? (Proverbs 6:27-28)
When you make your physical body “off limits” to the opposite sex, you guard the feminine mystery, intrigue, and mystique that God created within you. It may seem that all guys enjoy girls who carelessly offer their bodies to be casually touched, but Christ-built guys are fascinated, intrigued, and captivated by women who are mysterious and guarded. Warrior-Poets have far more respect for a woman who is guarded and discreet than for one who is aggressive and cavalier with her body. As we discussed earlier, women have an incredible power to seduce. Even if it is not your intention to arouse lustful thoughts in the opposite sex, if you are flippant about your physical interaction with guys, you risk leading them to stumble sexually. Not to mention the fact that you send a compromising message about the sacredness (or lack thereof) of your body. It may be completely normal for every other Christian girl you know to be physical when interacting with guys. Casual touch and sensual behavior may be treated lightly among modern Christians. But what is God’s perspective?
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, to keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. (Proverbs 6:23-26)
We must answer to God for the way we choose to use our feminine power. If we interact with guys in a sensual, flirtatious way; if we use our eyes, words, and body language to temp him sexually; and if we are haphazard about physical touch, we are participating in the “way of the evil woman”. God’s prescription for male/female interaction is simple and straightforward:
Treat…younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Tim 5:2)
Purity in this verse is not just talking about maintaining physical virginity until marriage. It means “without sin” – in other words, to be Christ-like and above reproach in every dimension of our interaction with the opposite sex; to be watchful and vigilant over our heart and the hearts of the guys in our lives.
When it comes to your body language toward guys, don’t take your cues from pop-culture, movies, or even your Christian friends. Rather, keep the sacredness of your relationship with your husband always in the forefront of your mind. You may not know his name, but every decision you make right now – big or small – in relating to the opposite sex will affect the purity and beauty of your future marriage.
So what kind of physical interaction is appropriate with a guy? Here’s a great test question to ask in every situation: If you were married (and wanted to stay that way) and your husband was standing next to you, would he feel comfortable with your actions? Eric wouldn’t mind if I held another guy’s hand during a group prayer, but he certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable with me tickling another guy, standing super-close to another guy, giving a tight front-hug to another guy, or jumping on another guy’s back. Anything that you wouldn’t do with another guy after marriage is something that you shouldn’t do with another guy before marriage.
It doesn’t matter if you think that you might one day marry the guy that you are getting to know. Until God makes it clear that this is your life-long covenant marriage partner, live as if you (and he) both belong to someone else. And even after you are in a relationship headed toward marriage, it is always healthy to be extra-cautious and guarded in the area of physical touch (something we will talk about more later in this book.) When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Even if your standards seem old fashioned, prude, or extreme to others, why should that bother you? The only thing that matters is protecting the glory of your King and the sacredness of your future marriage. A Warrior-Poet will appreciate, respect, and cherish a woman who guards mystique and saves every aspect of her physical body as a sacred gift for him.
Remember that God’s ways are perfect. Only when we follow His pattern can we experience the very best He has in store for us!
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