F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

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.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

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.

Let’s first define some things.   I’m not saying now, nor have I ever said, that you can’t have friends of the opposite sex.  That is not what the friend zone is.  I have had many female friends over the years.  The friend zone instead occurs when one person (usually a guy**) is romantically attracted to another person (usually a gal) but the feeling is not mutual.  What the woman says to the guy is that “I don’t want to date you, but I want to be just friends” or something to that effect.

What happens next is that the guy thinks that if he stays friends, and in fact increases his friendship with the woman (because after all she just invited that friendship verbally), that eventually the woman will see him in a different light and become romantically attracted to him.  The guy does all sorts of nice things for his friend.  The woman, may well appreciate some of those things, but at the same time doesn’t become more attracted, and in fact usually less so.  This is because that plan is no where in the vicinity of how female attraction works.

Some might say, what’s the big deal?  Everyone needs friends right?  What’s the harm?  In a way that is what the song/video seem to be saying.  That’s why its the Friend Zone Anthem.  Just a part of life, poor guy.

But the truth is there actually can be a lot of harm.

First, it isn’t really an honest relationship.  What I mean is that the guy is being a friend to “get the girl”.  That’s not usual friendship.  Also, many times when the woman says this, it is her way of saying no, not her way of saying let’s hang out more.

Another thing that can happen is that the guy can get mad at the woman.  This happens because in his mind he’s working to win her affection.  She gives it to other “unworthy” guys who don’t treat her as good as he does.  Let me be clear right now on this part.  No woman owes you her romantic feelings.  You owe no woman yours.

It’s also a colossal waste of energy, emotion and time.  If you spend all of your time as a guy trying to “win your friend” you just become more emotionally invested.  You don’t spend time meeting and trying to date other women.  The truth is, if you want to be married, you don’t have time, energy, emotions or resources to waste chasing someone who wants to be “just friends”.  It’s not worth it.  There are plenty of others.

Here’s the point:  The harm in the friend zone is that people get more hurt than they have to.

Look, I lived this as a young adult male.  I was always this guy.  So I’m not writing this as someone who has always been above this speaking down to you.  I’m writing it to implore you to avoid it.  Like the plague actually.

How do we do that?

First, let me say this to the ladies.  If you are in this spot where you have someone in the friend zone, I get it.  But you have to draw a harder line.  Say no.  Don’t say, “no but I want to be friends”.  Just don’t.  You are not being nice.  You are either being naive or you are using this guy for whatever he does for you.  The best thing you can do for him is tell him no and then not hang out “as friends”.  It might be hard.  But it’s right.  Better for you and better for him.

If you are a guy who finds himself in this spot, it’s time to change.  Right now.  Walk away from it.  Now.  You won’t be hurting her by doing this.  You aren’t missing an opportunity with her later.  She is not The One.  You are only hurting yourself.

Don’t be friends to get her to like you.  Don’t be friends and hang out with someone you break up with.  Don’t hang out with someone as friends who you went out with a few times and she still wants to hang out as friends but not date you.  Don’t do things for her thinking it will change her mind.  Walk.Away.Now.  Move on.

Again, is it easy? Probably not.  But is it the truth?  Yes.

What you don’t want be ever is the guy in this video:

This is a real life picture of what it looks like.  Even better, he’s still hanging out with her apparently:

Take a good look at this guy.  I’ve been this guy.  Don’t be.

Friend Zone Post Links

Get Out Of The Friend Zone

Avoid The Friend Zone

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Treat Her Better

Don’t be Friends First

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

Quit Being Nice

Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

** I understand that this can happen the other way around where the guy tells the woman that he just wants to be just friends.  However it is far, far less common and usually ends much, much more quickly.  But, if you are in that situation, everything I just described applies the other way around.

You Can’t Have It All

Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family.  This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.

Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid.  She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.

I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.

First, we have convinced ourselves that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40.  But that simply is not true.  We tell folks not to hurry and grow up, to enjoy life before marriage, to take advantage of singleness.  Frankly we worship youth in our culture.

One reason the secular culture (with the western Christian culture often tagging along) worships youth is that we don’t have a right view of eternity vs. the temporal life.  Without going into a complete ten page theological dialogue here I want to address this.

In the temporal life we have a physical, and even eventually a mental peak.  What I mean is that at first, physically we are growing and then maturing.  But at a certain point, we start to age in a different way.  We have passed our peak physicality.  This is true for me at 45 years of age.  I can get in the best shape possible but odds are I won’t jump or run or even lift what I did in my 20’s.  All of my reverse dunking on the basketball court is in my past, not my future.  Eventually my body will diminish even more.  Someday, my mind will probably start to do the same.  This is called reality.

In our current culture people don’t want to peak, so they come up with ways to extend the peak.  Now I’m not suggesting that we should quit working out at 40.  Not my point at all. But the goal isn’t to stay young, it’s to stay in the best shape possible because our bodies are from God (not to mention we will feel better and all the other benefits of that).

What I’m suggesting is that worshipping youth and denying reality is not healthy.  It is especially not healthy if it is used to justify not growing up, not being committed to growth as a person while denying consequences.  I think this mentality is one of the things that really hurts single people today.

We’re telling people, and in frankly in particular women, that you can have it all.  But you can’t.  None of us can. Our choices have consequences.  If we don’t talk about those consequences with young people we are setting them up to be severely disappointed as they get older.

Now I know that there are exceptions.  I also know that science and medicine have in many ways extended not only our age expectancies but also women’s fertility.  But there are costs even to that.  If a woman waits until her late 30s to start having kids she is more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and more likely to have complications affecting both her and the child. These are actual facts.

This doesn’t even include the fact that it is harder for a woman in her 30s to get married than a younger woman.  Again, we can cry that it’s not fair.  I get that.  But that won’t make it any less true.

Now here’s the thing, I’m not telling anyone what choices to make.  What I want to suggest is two things.

First, understand that you are probably not the exception.  In other words, count the cost of your decision making.  Do you want to get married? Do you want a big family?  Then go ahead and work for that.  If that’s not what you want, then don’t.  But don’t believe the lies that you can have all that you want whenever you want it without any cost.  Live in the real world.

Secondly, I want to encourage you regardless of what you want to see the eternal view not the secular one.  What I mean by that is that when you view your life as a believer from an eternal perspective, it changes the peak dynamic.  You will still have a physical and mental peak in the temporal life.  But that’s not the end.  Instead, when you die you will be with Jesus in the present heaven, which will be better than any peak you had here.  Then at the resurrection and renewal of all things – the final heaven – you will never peak.  You will continue to grow and grow and grow.

What this means is that I can go ahead and grow up.  You don’t have to fight to “stay young” so to speak.  We can have a long view and understand that God is growing us overall, calling us to grow more and more.  That even in my aging in the temporal life, God is growing me.  There is no need to delay adulthood.  There is no reason to delay responsibility.  In fact the opposite is true.  You want to grow as much as possible.

Should You Budget Money For Dating?

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.

To begin with, as a single person you need to have a handle on your money.  I’ve written once about this before, but you and your money are not less important because you are not married.  The biblical principles for money apply to all of us, no matter what our marital status is.  I messed this up quite a bit in my 20 years of singleness (as well as doing a few smart things) and I’ll share more about that later.

Secondly, I think it can be really healthy, if you are in search for a spouse mode, to intentionally budget both some money time in that direction.  It is ok, and in fact I would suggest a good idea, to be intentional about looking for said spouse.  As is well documented all over this blog, I’m not a big believer in platitudes that say, “It will just happen” or “God will bring you the one at the right time” or “being content with singleness“.  Again, there are probably double digit posts here on this.  We have to act.  Especially if you are out of college and living in the “real world” so to speak.

Now this is different than obsessing over it, making it an idol, being desperate for it, or letting it run your whole walk with God.  That’s all bad and admittedly it can be a fine line.  But intentionality, especially when involves doing it with God and within His guidelines, is always good.  In any context including this one.

That means I’m going to have to carve out time and, as the caller mentioned, carving out some budget money is not a bad idea either.  But again, I need to be intentional with both, because I don’t have a limitless supply of either.

Let me throw out a few ideas about how one might do that. A couple of caveats here.  I did some of these at some level, but I did not really handle my money as well as I should have as a single.  Also, these are just ideas.  I would really love it if some others would chime in here with either ideas that they’ve used or that they might try out if they thought about it.  Finally, this assumes that you actually have a budget.  If you don’t I’d start there**.

I think I’d start with an overall spouse search budget.  Then I’d have a couple of sub categories.

I’d have a meet people budget.  Depending on your mode of operation this could include different things.  But as an example budget an amount for online dating.  Look for deals.  A couple of hints here.  Rotate your paid subscription to different sites.  For example, sign up for three months of Eharmony, then if you want, sign up for three months of Match.  They’ll let you keep your profile for free so you can easily rotate the one you are paying for.  Look for promos.  Eharmony will do free weekends for example.  The point is, part of your monthly budget could go to this.***

Then have an an actual go out with these people budget.  If you aren’t in a relationship this does not need to be large amount.  I know there is debate in certain circles about the guy paying which I get.  I think in general it’s good for us to pay.  However, we should have a budget for what we are paying and frankly I wouldn’t bust your budget meeting someone the first couple to times.  It’s ok to go somewhere nice, but just be smart.  Too much too soon is not helpful anyway.

Now, if you get serious about someone, it is time to stop putting money in the meet someone budget, for now, and start putting more into the actual going on dates budget.  Eventually if things go really well, you could start a ring budget.

A question I thought of is this, “What if I have dating budget money left over at the end of the month?”  Maybe nothing shook out or led to any dates.  Or maybe a couple of inexpensive meet ups but nothing beyond that.  Great.  Now I have extra money.

I don’t think I’d roll it over into the dating fund of the next month although maybe now and then you could.  Perhaps put it toward savings or towards a particular purchase you’d like to make in the future.  Maybe some months you spend it on you.  The point is, you don’t have to spend all you have allotted each month, but you have it if you need it.

The point here is have a plan.  See what works.  Try different things.  But budget for it.

I welcome other thoughts here.  What do you think?

 

** For a great budgeting app go here.

*** This is a pretty good breakdown of some different sites.

Should You Be Content With Singleness?

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.

I addressed this particular angle long ago but let me just touch on it here.  If you are actually content in your singleness, meaning that you do not have the desire to marry, and/or feel that God has called you to celibacy for the kingdom, and/or you don’t desire sex then there would be no reason to get married.  This is an actual viable vocational path within the kingdom.

But if you want to be married and don’t feel called to celibacy for the kingdom, then you are either sort of feigning contentment or at the least simply trying to be content for a different motive.  The other reality here is that if you are over 24 years old or so, chances are that you are going to have to make and effort find someone to marry.  It’s not going to just happen.  That’s not how it works.

I also think that this can lull people asleep in the sense that it’s ok to be content being single for now.  This actually could be necessary for a time.  For example you may need to be focused on a short term mission or for schooling.  But even then, your desire at the end of the day is to be married.  Putting something off is not the same as being content without it.

The second reason people pull out the content with your singleness line is that they think that they are referring to what Paul says in Philippians 4.  The basic message from many well meaning believers is something to the effect of, “Hey Brother, this is where the Lord has you right now, so you need to be content with that, and trust Him.”  That sounds really holy.  The problem is that’s not what Paul says.

Let’s look at it.  Paul is closing out his letter to the Philippians.  In the preceding verses, he asks them to not be anxious about anything, but instead, pray about everything, make requests to God and He will meet you in it.  He then encourages them to focus on the things of God and do the things that he’s taught.

He then thanks them for being concerned for him in his current hard circumstances.  In verse 10-13 he writes,

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

What Paul says is that he can be content in any situation.  What he does not say is that he will be content with any situation.  There is a huge difference between those two things.

Paul is constantly urging change.  He implores people to action constantly.  He is continually advancing the kingdom.

Look at it this way.  If you are being abused should you be content with that situation?  If you are broke and jobless are to be content with that situation?  If you are overweight are you to be content with that situation? Would you say, “God has me overweight right now. If God wants me to lose weight I will, for now I’ll have to be content with it”.

What I understand Paul to be saying is this, no matter what situation you are in God is with you.  I can be content overall because at the end of the day, I have Jesus.  I know how this all ends.  I am content in Him.  It is because of this – that I can do all things through Him.  I can survive a current tough circumstance, for my entire temporal life if necessary, but I could also grow, change, act, heal, and advance, through Him.

Think about your current spiritual condition. God loves you right where you are.  But he doesn’t leave us where we are.  Through whatever circumstances or context, He is pulling (often dragging) us towards holiness and sanctification.

Let’s bring this full circle back to singleness.

It is good not to be anxious about your singleness.  That doesn’t do us any good and in fact is harmful on many levels, not the least of which it can make us desperate.

It is good to be content in Jesus in the circumstance of singleness.  Singleness (or any other context or circumstance) does not define us – Jesus does.

It is ok, to not be content with singleness.  In fact not being content with it is part of what drives us to actually work to get married.

Attraction Vs. Action

One of the constant conversations on this blog is the idea of attraction.  I’ve written a ton about it and even have whole posts about it.

Today I want to sort of clarify a few thoughts about attraction.  Many of these I’ve said before but I thought it might be good to put a few main thoughts into one post.

First off it is important to understand that the feeling of attraction is never, for any person, a choice.  It is not an in the moment conscious decision.  From day one, none of us, or at least no one that I know, has ever said, “I’m going to feel attraction for this person and not this person.”

This is true for every person.  This is even true, if I may be so bold, for people who would be attracted to the same sex – once or always.  Attraction is a gut level feeling.  I see someone or meet someone and I’m attracted, or I’m not.

Let me say again, the feeling of attraction is not a choice.

However, what we do with that attraction is a choice.  This is also true for every single person.

Attraction of course awakens desire to do something about said attraction.  But the truth is that I don’t have to, often should not, and frankly sometimes am commanded not to act on that attraction.

Here’s an obvious example.  Let’s say that I’m married.  I feel attracted to someone who I’m not married to.  I’ve made a vow not to act on that attraction.  I’m commanded in the scriptures not to act on it.

Here are a couple of other examples.  Let’s say that I’ve made vow to celibacy.  I meet someone and I’m attracted.  My desire says that I want to act.  But because of the vow that I’m committed to honoring I should not act on that.  Just because someone is called to celibacy does not mean they never feel attraction or never have the desire to act on that.

Or let’s say that I’m attracted to someone that I know is not a believer and/or is bad for me and my walk with the Lord.  I’m for sure attracted, but I don’t have to act on it.

This leads to a second point about attraction:  There are many things that influence the feeling of attraction.  Some of these things we can actually work on and might impact over the long run who we are attracted to.

Things like past sexual events in my life, what I believe about myself and God, looking at porn or reading “romance” novels, how I’m feeling that day, or even how much I’ve had to drink can influence my attraction to someone.

I can also feed or not feed attraction.  If I am attracted to someone that I know I need to not pursue, then I can either feed that or not.  If I start to respond to it, or put myself in the position where the attraction will grow, then I’m setting myself up.  This leads to the classic, “I know it’s not right, but I can’t help what I feel so I’m going to act on it at least a little” scenario.

Instead, I can admit that I’m attracted, but recognize that I shouldn’t pursue it and avoid situations that will further that attraction and increase the pressure to act on that feeling.  You may not be able to help what you feel, but you can for sure help what you do with it.  Again, attraction and acting on attraction are two completely different things.

The inverse here is also true of attraction.  Some people get frustrated because not enough people find them attractive.  We need to recognize that we can work on being more attractive.  We can learn what is and isn’t attractive. We shouldn’t have in our mind that we have to “perfect” to be attractive but that’s not a reason to not attempt to be attractive to the people that we want to pursue or be pursued by as the case may be.  I’m not talking about being “fake” here, but you aren’t going to pursue someone that you aren’t attracted to, so you can’t expect that from someone else.

Finally we have to think about how we handle ourselves when we feel attraction to a qualified person.  Do we start to try too hard, cling too much, become needy, desperate or controlling.  Or maybe the opposite.  Do we run, avoid it because we don’t know what to do with it.

Here’s what we can’t do.  We can’t pretend that attraction doesn’t matter.  That is living in the pretend world.  It absolutely matters.  Attraction is from God.  Now it’s all jacked up thanks to sin, no doubt.  But that’s true of everything.

There’s a lot of freedom here.  If we can understand that attraction is not a choice but that action is, we can work on both.  If we equate the two, then we will constantly be in trouble both in how we view ourselves and others.  I need to run both attraction and acting on it (or not acting) through the lens of my walk with Jesus.

Love Me For Me (Even Though I Wouldn’t Do That For You)

One of the amazing things about Jesus is that no matter where we are, what we are doing, what our story is, He loves us.  In the famous hymn’s words he loves me Just As I Am.  I can come to know Him just as I am, receive His grace as I am and start to follow Him right from where I am now.  I don’t earn it.  In fact I can’t earn it.  God loves you and me right now, no matter what.

The truth is that we all long for that.  We long to be fully known and fully loved.  We look for it everywhere.  As a believer we realize at least intellectually and theologically that God is really the only person who can fulfill that in our lives.  But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to experience that with another person or people.  It also doesn’t stop us from feeling hurt when we don’t experience it with other people even though again, we know intellectually that no one else can do that perfectly.

What’s really interesting is how this gets twisted up when we think about looking for a spouse and frankly later in marriage itself if we get married.

One way that it gets twisted is with the idea that people of the opposite sex should just like me.  If they don’t like me then it’s God’s fault of their fault.  In other words if I ask out twenty people and they all say no, there still is no reason to look at myself.  Women should like me for me after all.  Isn’t true love about loving the person no matter what?

Here is where we really fail our people in the church a lot.  We forget that getting a date is different than being in a dating relationship is different than being married.  They are three almost completely different skill sets.  We confuse attraction and love which really aren’t the same at all.

This is where the nice guy who is intimidated of girls he is attracted to says, “but they should like me for me.” or the person who is overweight or doesn’t dress up says, “I just want someone who will love me regardless of what I look like.”

But when it comes to getting a date, attraction matters.  There’s just no way around it.  For most of history there were no dates.  Attraction still mattered obviously.  But in most cultures marriages were at least somewhat arranged.  But that’s not where we are now.  And I don’t really hear very many people clamoring to go back to that.  So if we don’t want to back to that . . .  maybe we need to think about what we can do to actually get a date.

It’s sort of like when you need a job.  You have to apply. And most of the time you need to interview well.  Not always to be sure.  But typically.  So what do you do when you interview?  Study up.  Dress up.  Speak up.  Show desire for the job without acting desperate for the job.  Now obviously you could interview well, get the job and then be terrible at it.  No doubt this happens all the time.  The same is true of marriage.  People get married and then have no clue how to be married.  But this doesn’t change the fact that you have to pass the interview stage to get the job, you have to get a date to get married.

But here’s the good thing about all of this.  Most of the things (not all) that help you get a date are pretty good for you to consider anyway.  I shouldn’t be desperate for a girl.  I shouldn’t be insecure just because I like someone or I’m afraid of rejection.  I should get in shape physically anyway.  The list could go on.  Why not improve?

Now a couple of caveats that should be obvious.  I’m not suggesting that you have to be perfect or a perfect 10.  Not at all.  I’m not suggesting beating yourself up.  I’m not suggesting that if you do “everything right” that it will happen for you.  Heck I’m not even suggesting that you should marry someone that you think doesn’t love you for you.  No way!!

What I’m saying is that you can’t expect the person who doesn’t know you yet to do that. And if we’re honest here, you’re probably not doing that for anyone else either.  You’re not thinking, “I’ll marry someone that I’m not attracted to” or “I’ll marry the first guy that asks me out no matter who it is.”  Basically our message is typically, “You should love me for me – even though I won’t do that for you.”

I’m also saying, why not work on this stuff.  Why not look at the things that hold me back and deal with them.  What I’m saying is that if you “stay as you are” then you most likely will keep having the same results. What I’m saying is it’s a good thing to actually grow and develop – even if that means growing and developing in relating to the opposite sex.

The thing about Jesus is that while He loves each of us just as we are, He loves us too much to leave us there.  He’s constantly moving us forward, not because He loves us more if we move forward but because He loves us enough to want us to be free of our sin, fears, insecurities, and wounds.

Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus.  Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly.  That’s a ridiculous standard.  But are you overall submitted to Him?  If not, you need to try to move there.  If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction.  If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer?  Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?

The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role.  The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time.  With it comes responsibilities.  But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.

Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable.  We have to embrace them.

Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.

First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date.  You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.

Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?”  I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.

If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person.  It will not go well.

Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.

After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future.  We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town.  Ever.  My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”

I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian.  But that is not my life.  I told her that.  I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites.  We stopped dating shortly after.

The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you.  In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are.  We go to their turf.  It’s what we do.  I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it.  I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling.  This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person.  You talk to them more.  I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”

I thought for a moment because they were right.  But the reasoning was the problem.  I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se.  I like you.  I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference.  They are in it with me.  They show up.  They go with me as I go. You don’t show up.  My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going.  If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”

Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways.  But the general truth stands.  You can’t make everyone follow you.  Jesus let people walk.  It’s complicated.  Jesus pursues us yes.  He left His throne to do it.  And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response.  And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked.  A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.”  The gospels and parables are full of this.  Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk.  It’s true in life.  It’s true in ministry.  It’s also true in dating.

Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy).  They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways.  Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.

I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea.  There just aren’t that many women out there like that.”  Maybe.  But there are more than you think.

You need someone who will come with you.  When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what.  I know that both of those will get tested.  But they are necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.

I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**

 

 

* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post.  I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.

** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with