So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends. It’s all over pop radio right now. The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone. In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.
Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years. (Some posts are linked below). But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.
The other day while driving I was listening to some Dave Ramsey. In case you’re not familiar, briefly, Dave wants people to live biblically with their money, meaning stay out of debt, control your money instead of letting it control you and be generous along the way.
He has a radio show and people call in with all kinds of scenarios asking his advice. Very rarely do I ever see Dave not have an answer. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it . . . until the other day.
A young never married guy called in and said, “Hey Dave, I’m following your plan. No debt, I have a budget etc. I’m not married but I want to be. Here’s my question, how much should I budget for that pursuit?”
One thing about Dave is that he’s always honest with people and he just laughed and said, “I have not been in that world for so long, I have no idea.” After both he and the caller laughed a little, he did toss out a couple of thoughts, but it made me think of a couple of important ideas and some practical ones if you find yourself in that position.
One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.
Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from. Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”. In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry. Just typing that makes me laugh.
It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes. I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy. I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers. (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues. The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).
One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin. Nothing else on earth can sin.” That, friends will preach.
I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex. That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.
One of the debates that I’ve seen in churches and even among singles in churches is should we or should we not have singles groups. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches in my over 20 years as an adult single. I’d like today to offer a few practical thoughts on this.
Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom. While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.
As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past. These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.
Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.
In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify. Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it. It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe. We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on. In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on. Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to. We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.
Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe. But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us. This includes whether or not we are single or married.