Tag Archives: modesty

We Can’t Be Friends Because We Might Have Sex

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Friendships Between Men and Women
Image Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/533535887075052747/

Image Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/533535887075052747/

We were in the kitchen, one of our favorite places to spend time together, chopping onions and mincing garlic and connecting over our day, and I asked him, “So, when was the first time you felt like you received the message that the opposite sex was dangerous or that you were at least cautioned about interactions with women?

I think you all can guess at what age my husband received negative messages about women as potential friends or romantic partners.

If you guessed as a teenager, you’re correct.

Oh, the teenage years; that’s when I received a majority of the negative messages too. As a teenager my body suddenly became a danger zone to be covered and guarded, not according to appropriate societal standards, but according to the standards of the Modesty Police aka some Christian men and women in my circles. Granted, there were some women in my life, my mom included, that did not make me feel ashamed of my body, my interest in boys, or my clothing choices. I’m thankful I grew up around a few loving women because I know there are other people who were not as fortunate. Yet, the messages of shame were a little bit louder than the messages of love.

In my previous post, I wrote about the shame I felt while out to dinner with a man who was not my husbandI believe that I can trace those feelings of shame back to sermons, youth group gatherings stacks of books which included authors like Josh Harris, Elizabeth Elliot, and Eric and Leslie Ludy. Of course there were also some conversations with well-meaning individuals that I haven’t forgotten.

So after my dinner out, as I’m driving home, the question floats through my mind: Was I breaking my wedding vow of forsaking all others by having dinner with my dear friend? Of course not.

Was it a passionate meal? Yes, it was because we talked about things we cared about, things that we struggled with, and our faith and our hopes. Was it a chaste evening? Yes, it was because we value the humanity in one another and we esteem the vows we made to our spouses. Yet, the fact that the question even snuck into my mind brought me back to a place of reevaluating where the shame filled feelings were originating from.

Dan Brennan, in his book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, sites author Lisa Gee on page fifty-six and she states, “Why have we embraced a view of human nature which, at its most dumbed-down figures us semi-repressed sex drives on legs?”

That’s it; that is where my shame came from that night. The evangelical and conservative reformed churches in which I spent my youth had indeed embraced the above view of human sexuality. The narrative I’d been taught went something like this: A man and a woman become friends; they confide in one another and become emotionally close. Then, maybe they share a few meals, and then they have sex.

In the third chapter of his book, Brennan says he has also observed similar narratives being told, “In my thirty years of attending churches I have heard two narratives in Christian communities: 1) the marital/romantic story, and 2) the danger story. Both stories of course, involve an introduction, a plot, and a climax toward the same thing: sex.”

Now this is where I need to get honest about how I’ve recently struggled with this whole notion of accepting passionate, yet chaste, cross-sex friendships. It’s different for me to welcome cross-gender friendship, but when I observed another cross-gender friendship, I became the judge and I only left room for narrow narratives.

I walked into Starbucks a couple weeks ago and out of the corner of my eye I see this guy that was an acquaintance of mine in years past; it had been at least five years since I’d seen him. The last time I saw him was on a computer screen as I looked at his wedding pictures. So this guy is out enjoying some sun and having coffee with a woman. I quickly noticed the woman wasn’t the wife I had seen pictured, and you know where my mind went to? Sex. Infidelity. Heartbreak.

There was nothing to indicate that an affair of any kind was going on, and yet that’s where my mind went to. Certainly, my own past experience with infidelity may have something to do with my immediate reaction (I’m going to share more about how my first marriage has impacted the way I view friendships between men and women in the final post next week.). My own experiences aside, I found it troubling that I would have so little faith in humanity as to assume the worst before the best. I read the prescribed church-taught narrative about cross-sex friendships right into the coffee these two were sharing.  

So where are the messages that we, as the body of Christ, are called into union with our brothers and sisters, that cross-gendered friendship can be sacred and beautiful? Where are the messages that do not restrict oneness to marriage? Can a single person not be part of union because they have no partner?

I want us to be asking these questions instead of nestling in some weird Freudian interpretation of the sexes fortified with Scripture. For this way, friends, is not the way of the Gospel.

I believe the way of the Gospel includes enjoying the beauty, the passion, and the unique gifts in every friendship, be it with a man or woman. The way of the Gospel is not walking in fear, but in freedom.

Dan says, on page eighty-two, “Oneness in sexuality and friendship calls us to sacred unions both in marriage and beyond marriage while deeply respecting different kinds of “irreplaceable” friends and unions.” My husband is irreplaceable; we have a special bond that I do not share with anyone else. My best friend, Sarah; she is one of the greatest loves of my life and I treasure all that she is. My relationships with many women and men over the years are incredibly precious to me, even if we’ve lost touch or parted ways; they are precious because we formed unions together.

I want more of these sacred unions in my life because I want to experience more beauty, enjoy rich passion, and honor the men and woman in my life in meaningful ways. I think one way to honor another person is through the journey of knowing them.

 

{So here are a few questions I’d love to discuss, but feel free to comment on anything I’ve said here or add something new.

*What have your experiences been with church teachings on placing safe-guards around your relationship, to protect it from outsiders, during your dating life or within marriage?

*Do you think that unions with other men and women detract from the picture of marriage or hinder one’s dating life?

*Why are you drawn to cross-gender friendships? Or a better question might be, what draws you to friendships, in general? :) [Thanks, Alise!]

Thanks so much for reading and discussing! I loved our dialogue last week! I look forward to wrapping up this short series next week!}