Friendship at the Heart
(Names and dates have been changed to protect the identity of the persons in this following story. Okay, I confess, it was me!)
I’ll never forget that Tuesday night of Oklahoma camp meeting. As I got comfortable in my bunk I relayed this message to my cousin, “I’m in love and I think I want to marry her!” I am embarrassed by this confession. The truth is, I was twelve and she was an older woman, she was every bit of fifteen. Yes, at the age of twelve I was ready to shoot right past the communication and friendship stage and go straight for courtship and marriage. What can I say; I was mature for my age (yeah right)!
Sometimes it seems like we are trying to bypass one of the greatest benefits that the opposite gender can give us … and that is friendship. We live in a day and age of acceleration. Everybody is trying to speed up the process, but when it comes to dating and relating to the opposite sex, we need to “slow down turbo” and focus instead on genuine lasting friendships. This will help you discover your likes and dislikes and help you make a better decision later in life concerning with whom you want to get old and arthritic with. Oh, and by the way, here is the rest of the story; my confession of love and forever lasted all the way until Thursday of that week. I found out she wasn’t interested, and thank goodness because God had a plan and later I married my best friend. I know you hear people say that, but for me it’s true. Our marriage is built on the foundation of friendship and communication. The successful marriages and relationships I have observed and learned from always keep friendship at the core. So the million dollar question is, “How do I maintain solid friendships with the opposite sex?” To answer that completely would take a book, so I will just touch on a few ideas to get you down the path of relating and dating successfully.
Looks Aren’t Everything
I know what I’m about to say is going to sound crazy, but looks aren’t everything. Looks can be deceiving; if you don’t believe me, just ask Samson. Samson was a champion of Israel, a warrior of the Mighty God. He could whip Philistines by the thousands. He was an Old Testament superman, but Samson had a problem; he was smitten with the looks of Delilah. He was so infatuated with her looks that despite tradition, spiritual conviction, and even parental advice he went after her. “He saw a woman (Judges 14:1).” At first glance I am sure she appeared to have it all, everywhere except the place God looks; the heart (I Samuel 16:7). Samson was so compelled by what he saw when he looked at Delilah that he never got to know Delilah. Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, I am here to tell you that looks can be deceiving. There is nothing wrong with physical attraction, and that’s good because my wife is beautiful!
However, at the end of the day no matter how attractive a person is, if the heart is flawed, it’s a relationship destined to struggle. Speaking from personal experience, it is my wife’s heart that I’m in love with, because that’s who she really is. The outside is great, but it’s just a shell for the heart, and it’s the heart that makes a person who they really are. If looks are everything, then why is there such a long list of “beautiful” celebrity couples that end up in splits-ville or divorce court? Despite a visual attraction, their hearts were far from each other. In pursuing relationships/friendships remember that looks aren’t everything and the heart matters supremely. Do they have a heart for God; do they have character and respect for others? If you look for the right qualities you will find the right relationships. Too many times I see students pursuing relationships based on physical appearance alone. I think visual attraction is probably the starting point, but it definitely shouldn’t be the beginning and ending on how we relate to the other gender. Remember, what you see isn’t always what you get!
Only Fools Rush In
I mentioned earlier that I was twelve and ready to get married. To put it bluntly, I was dumb. Whether you are twelve or twenty-five, relationships aren’t something to be hurried. If you want to find the right one, date the right one, marry the right one, and someday grow old with the right one; what’s the rush? You only have the rest of your life, right? I read a statistic recently that stating that 50% of teen marriages end in divorce before the age of twenty-four. The key word here is before. That means that half end badly before the age of twenty-four, not to mention how many of the remaining half split up later in life. Those are dreams turning into nightmares, or rather reality. Why? I think it’s because they rushed into marriage. Our culture today wants everything fast; faster internet service, faster fast food, even accelerated relationships. Everybody is in a hurry to get “there,” wherever “there” is.
In relationships people are passing up friendships for the idea of forever, with no idea of what that means. We all know someone who is always passing up friendship for forever. You know who I’m talking about, they have been in twelve different relationships in twelve months and they were going to spend the rest of their life with each of them. However, that feeling was gone in a month and they moved onto the next relationship just so they can keep that forever feeling, that dream, that hope; all the while never building any true lasting friendships. Unfortunately these people marry young and divorce young because they are fixed on a feeling, not building friendships.
The Bible says that “charity suffereth long (I Corinthians 13:4 KJV)” another translation states “Love is patient, love is kind.” People in a rush are fixed on a feeling that they think is love, but it is just a feeling and feelings change. True Biblical friendships are based upon patience and kindness, not speed and selfishness. As a teenager testing the waters of relating and even dating, I encourage you to slow down and take your time so that you can succeed in building friendships that will stand the test of time.
In conclusion, relationships with the opposite sex can be a God-given gift and a whole lot of fun as long as we apply Biblical principles to them. Remember looks are important, but they aren’t everything. Don’t rush in, but rather patiently build friendships that will help you avoid some relationship disasters. If you keep friendship at the heart, I trust that someday you will find a friend that will last forever.