And there he was. Strolling into my room with some of his own heaviness, sharing the understanding that we were perfect company for each other in that moment. He came in and sat on the edge of my bed. We bounced back and forth about what was weighing us down, did our best to lift the chin of the each other and remind them, they could totally make it through this. And eventually settled into a calm quietness of the comfort of a friend.
Everyone had left at this point, and we sensed he should to. But then something shifted. The air was different than it normally was with us, we both got a little nervous. I had been half working on school work this whole time and looked up from my computer. Finding his eyes made it clear what he was thinking…what we were both thinking.
We had come to this moment we all come to at some point. It only lasts a second, but that’s all it takes for you to step into water that was never meant for you. To end up much deeper than your intentions ever were.
And by the grace of Jesus, we snapped out of it. I forcefully said I had work to do, he clumsily stumbled out of my apartment. And while we endured the most awkward goodbye of our friendship to date, we both confirmed afterward, that we’re really glad we decided to be ‘just’ friends that night. Because now we get to keep being friends and there’s nothing in the way.
Ever been here? Ever been here and made a choice that ruined a lot. Ever been here, and made a choice that made too many rooms awkward, cost you someone you care about, or just added another thing to the complications of life?
If so this post is for you. This post is me trying to answer questions most people probably don’t want to ask out loud, but have been screwing up for a while.
So let’s get into it.
I think a lot of the problem lies in this reality:
We value relationships way more than friendship, and we have an unmet need for intimacy. And I think these two things may be deeply related.
If we back up to square one, we are hungry for intimacy.
We know we need it and want it. But no one taught us (or even acknowledged that hunger in us) (especially if you grew up in the church) how to understand our own need for intimacy, and how to healthy have it with anyone honestly.
Often the by-product of this is latching onto the first person you can have a ‘real’ conversation with. It’s falling in love with someone who ‘gets me’. Sound familiar?
The danger of this is that we’ve mentally associated intimacy completely with romantic love, and when we do this a few things are inevitable. 1) When you stop feeling understood by said person you become confused. 2) You have a deep quality talk with someone else (not your s/o) and immediately feel guilty, afraid you chose the wrong person etc. etc. 3) At best you float through the world looking to be understood by someone, placing tall orders on individuals, and likely experiencing a lot of pain.
These are just guesses. But I think we’ve all be on the search for that ‘spark’ one time or another. But this is what I’ve learned.
We’ve carved an idol from what was supposed to be a normal, healthy, commodity of community. So when we do in fact experience this gift of intimacy (no not physically, but emotional, mental, etc.) that was intended for us to have, we act reckless. We try to claim it as our own so no one can take it, and likely end up strangling it like a baby bird we squeezed too tight.
The second unfortunate fallout of our misunderstanding of intimacy is that we (or maybe it’s just me) cannot separate intimacies.
I remember one night with a friend (who I was not romantically involved with). We were with a large group of our friends staying at a house, and everyone else had gone to bed. I found him out on the porch looking up at the stars. I love the stars so I walked out, asked if I could join, and we laid there on the porch talking about constellations and how we couldn’t see them like this from the city. Then-get ready, we got up and went to our rooms to sleep.
Crazy I know. But that my friends, is friendship. It is sweet, and special, and truly a gift. But I know the more common ending to that story for me and many I know is at worst: we then proceeded to hookup right there on the porch, or at best, we went to bed wishing we had. Hear me when I say, feeling a ‘spark’ is not always your cue to marry the guy! It’s actually just a gift that Jesus gave us to connect with MANY people, male and female, in different moments, with proper boundaries.
Wow, what a gift to know that ‘feeling’ we all treat like some buried treasure is ready to be harvested in the treasure of the people around us.
Anyway-that potential hookup does not have to be the story!! We can understand that a moment of healthy intimacy with a friend, DOES NOT have to lead to a moment of physical intimacy. The pie of intimacy was not made for us to consume in its entirety every moment, and with only one person.
The third tragedy our misunderstanding has created, is a deep fear in one another. Our lack of understanding in our own friendships, simply signifies that likely our significant other also does not understand the intimacy pie. And when they get more of it from someone or something else, they are likely to harm what you two have labeled as a committed relationship. And even if they don’t, that fear breeds a lot of jealously that simply would not exist if we were confident and trusting in the ‘friendships’ of the people around us.
The good news is, we can be! In fact, we are CALLED TO BE. Actually, more than friends, but BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. WHOA. This is who we are before and after anything goes down. In Matthew Jesus calls us his brother, sister, and mother. In Romans we’re a part of one body. In 1 John, we are called brothers. In 1 Timothy we’re told to treat those who are older as fathers and mothers, and our peers as BROTHERS AND SISTERS. IN 1 Corinthians, we are told to not sin against our brothers. Proverbs tells us our brother and sister are born out of adversity….
Are we getting this? These are pictures of intimacy. Working together, loving one another, experiencing pain together, forgiving one another-these are intimate events and the bible outlines each one happening with a friend-in fact a close intimate friend. One who is like a brother and sister.
A full life is full of SAFE intimate moments with the people around us. Have we been missing out on the fullness of this?
But Emily, how can I get close to a guy when I know one of us will fall for eachother-and then that just gets awkward.
I get it. But I honestly believe this is an issue of maturity.
I have done all of the below:
Left a friendship because we couldn’t stay on that level.
Agreed with the other person to PROTECT our friendship from romantic elements.
Moved forward in a serious relationship with a once friend.
There’s not a wrong answer, and every situation is different…but if we trained ourselves to build friendships BEFORE dating, we might be able to 1) avoid unwise relationships in the first place and 2) care about someone enough to work through the feelings with them, in vulnerability, and decide together to protect your friendship from complications.
Knowing that every piece of the pie is on the table, but having friend relationships that are so valuable, that you guard them against the pieces that just don’t fit. These kind of friendships are SO possible, but both parties have to be willing, and mature enough to enjoy the gift and not control it.
I think part of this is waiting for the right people. And not looking over the great one’s you already have. The greatest compliment a guy can give me is being someone who genuinely wants to know me, spend time with me, and care for me as a friend without expecting a physical benefit from it. I love my brothers. They out their ladies.
*This topic is REALLY big, and this is only a scratch on the surface. If you think I didn’t touch a specific thing enough, or have questions on a more specific situation comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for later posts!