Ladies’ Thursday: Friendships Between the Genders

11 Oct

Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:  be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

The world has changed a lot in the course of my 54 years.

I was born just before the height of the sexual revolution.  When I was young, I became aware that many of my grandmother’s generation had been pregnant when they got married but they:  a) kept it quiet (it’s amazing how many people knew though, and passed the information along to my generation) and b) always got married to make their mistake “right.”

The sexual revolution (which came after the pill was invented when I was two years old) eventually set all of those former ways on their ear.

But the sexual revolution also “sexualized” many relationships that previously would be seen as innocent.  It gave people the tendency to assume that a relationship is sexual unless proven otherwise.  The precious old-fashioned concept of friendship which has been around since Bible days became the idea of “friends with benefits” that rules today.   

Remember that.  It has become the human race’s default setting to assume sex is taking place in almost any relationship where two people spend significant amounts of time together.  This is now the case even with two same sex people.  When I was a young naval officer, it was usual for two men or two women to buy a house together for the investment value (as junior officers, they needed to pool their money to afford a house, but they also knew that renting an apartment was throwing money away). 

Now, with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” many single officers don’t buy a house with a same sex roommate because it will be assumed that they are a couple.  For two gals who are hoping to get boyfriends at their new duty station, being known as lesbians can be a showstopper!

So, turning to relationships with the opposite gender . . . let’s project that out.

Our society is crazy about sex and about putting a sexual narrative underneath every relationship, no matter how innocent.  So we need to be forewarned and forearmed with that fact or we will get ourselves into trouble by simply being naïve.

The above verse is very appropriate here.  We must be wise as serpents but gentle as doves.  People love to gossip and they find gossip about sex to be the most titillating of all.  They don’t really need to have any facts in order to accuse us of sinful behavior.  If we are not careful, we play right into their need to be entertained.

And, as Christians, Christ’s name can be slandered in these situations.

I have many male friends, both at work and in my church and Bible study circles.  I want to address, specifically, the friendship between a man and a woman who are married to two other people. 

When I was a young woman, those friendships didn’t happen very much outside of a group setting in which couples got together for fellowship.  That was, and remains, a safe place to have friends of both genders.

However, as I have gotten older, the advent of cell phones, texting, Facebook, and private messages on Facebook have brought about situations where conversations do take place one-on-one, sometimes in person, sometimes on-line.  Sometimes it is just a case of you and that other person having an interest that your spouses do not share.   

Let’s just say it.  It is okay to not share every interest with your spouse.  There is no spouse on this planet who shares every possible interest with his or her husband or wife.  It can’t be done.  If it happened, that couple would have found paradise on earth and wouldn’t even need to look forward to heaven. 

Only Jesus fulfills every desire of our hearts.

In humans, we will find that our spouse meets many, but not all, of our needs.  Friends will fill in the gaps.  Sometimes those friends will be of the opposite gender.   (Disclaimer:  To repeat, Jesus is ultimately the One who meets all of our needs.  He uses people to do that.  Just want to make sure I am not misunderstood as overly exalting any human being, including a spouse. Also, not everything we perceive as a need is a need. But God graciously provides for us all good things to enjoy).

So how do we safeguard our marriages so that they are not threatened by our friendships with the opposite gender?

I have a few specific ideas that have worked for me and have, most of all, minimized the opportunity for others to gossip about my friendships:

1) No being behind closed doors with someone of the opposite gender who is not my husband.  In fact, I travel a lot with my workmates and one time we were in Los Angeles on a very cold week.  One coworker, who loves to build fires in hotel rooms with fireplaces, bought three of those preformed logs, one for his own hearth and two for those of us who were sharing a car with him.  When we got back to the hotel, knowing that I didn’t know how to build the fire in my room, he went in and did it for me, while I kept the door open and stood halfway out on the sidewalk.  I reassured him that that had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with not wanting to attract gossip.

2) Making sure my husband knows about my friendships.  I believe this may have been what doomed the political campaign of Herman Cain.  Remember?  He had exchanged about 100 texts with a woman and given her money when she was down-and-out.  Because his wife knew nothing about this when questioned, everyone assumed that he was having sex with this other woman. 

My take on that was that he was perhaps just unwise.  He was on the road, campaigning.  He probably got out of touch with his wife for a few days.  It is not, in itself, a sin to exchange texts with people of the opposite gender.  You would find those on my phone. With some good friends, you would easily find 100 of them, over the course of time.  The difference is that my husband knows about them.

I have also given money to a younger male friend whose house was flooded out as a hurricane came through Virginia Beach.  The floor needed emergency repairs.  I think his wife was still out of town when I gave him the money but, again, my husband knew about it.  Hard for people to make an accusation there.     

3) Try to make it a foursome whenever possible.  If you and your opposite gender friend have esoteric interests in common (for me, read:  theology), the eyes of your spouse and your friend’s spouse may glaze over sometimes in the conversation, but make the effort anyway.  Find out what interests the friend’s spouse and talk about that, too.

I always remember that it is my husband’s strong interest in and talent for finance that gave me the mental space even to be able to study theology in the first place. If he had not been a good earner from the git-go, I would have had to work a lot more hours outside of the home over the years and would not have been able to homeschool (where my son learned to share my love for reading by reading good books with me) and attend seminary.

4) I highly recommend that opposite sex friendships not involve any touching at all. The way God has created us, our feelings tend to follow touch. Probably enough said about that. Be wise.

5) Stay above it when petty things intrude into your friendship, just as you would in same sex friendships. People may talk at some point. Prove them wrong. Be willing to listen to the folks who teach that opposite sex friendships are an impossibility after marriage. You don’t have to agree with them to listen. And you may learn something new that will help make your friendships safer.

6) As in all parts of life as a Christian, exceptions will occur where we just plain need to be Spirit-led. If I could write an exhaustive list of rules for opposite gender relationships, it would tend to make us think we could successfully do them without God in the picture!

An example of this from my travel with my job was I once found myself in a Burger King, sitting with a coworker and counseling him about an abortion that took place when he was young. If we had been home, I would never have gone alone with him to get lunch and, in fact, I don’t usually do that on the road either. I had thought several of us were going and then it turned out there were only two of us. I didn’t have my own rental car, so I went. But notice, we were in a public place, not behind closed doors. I don’t intend to ever make an exception of that!

Also, notice that there were not any Christian men readily available to counsel him. I think that would have been the ideal. But if someone needs Christian counsel and I can’t find a man to do it, by God’s grace I am going to do the best I can do.

We are all different. In my case, I have always had many male friends. I remember being 13 and feeling terribly awkward, thinking I had nothing to say to a boy who was trying to talk to me. Then I turned 14, a switch seemed to be thrown, and I have not shut up since in friendships with guys.

There were several men I dated, off and on, in college, remaining friends with them while dating others. The only way to do this is, of course, to maintain chaste relationships in the dating years. Once more than a casual kiss becomes part of the dating relationship, it opens up the possibility of jealousy when someone is back and forth between several relationships. We are created to desire exclusivity in the physical realm. That is why is it best to leave the physical part largely for marriage.

Just as I found myself able to maintain several chaste relationships with male friends in college, there is nothing stopping me from having chaste relationships with male friends now (and my husband from having chaste relationships with female friends). A desire to please God in every sphere of life and a core belief that we are to express ourselves physically in only one relationship, marriage, will help these friendships stay on course.

6) Realize that, if you are Christians, God fits friends together in a unique way.  Since no husband and wife share every interest in common, you will share some interests with your friend that his spouse does not.  Keep the perspective that you are one unique voice in his life that God has brought into place (as he is in yours).  We are all members of one another and need each other.  Don’t think of yourself as too important nor as too unimportant in that friend’s life.  You are one piece of the puzzle that enables him to be the person he is.  And he is the same for you.

As I write this, I am looking at two postcards recently sent to me by a friend who is an airline pilot.  He and I were in a Navy squadron together back in the mid-1980’s.  We were both single then.  He is still single, but is in a committed relationship with a friend of mine.  I introduced them almost ten years ago. 

When we were single, I traveled overseas with his flight crew.  We also got together as a twosome after hours a few times while we were home in Jacksonville (he was and remains an incredible cook!).  And we talked and talked during those times.  No romantic attachment, just deep friendship and good discussion (well, actually I am going to “out” myself here and tell him, if he is reading this, that I did have quite a crush on him in the early days.  Never let him know that because I didn’t want to take the chance of ruining a good friendship.  And I turned out to be right, as we have remained solid friends for thirty years). 

The thing that jumps out at me is the fact that there were certain things that we talked about back then that he still brings up every once in a while, on a postcard or when he sends me a foreign newspaper because it reminds him of something we once did together or talked about.  That is an amazing thing.  He remembers our discussions of Russian Orthodox icons and still sends me things to remind me after thirty years.  His partner understands that we share that interest and rejoices that he has someone to talk to about it.  It is really a beautiful thing to look back on, as we have grown thirty years into the future. 

Opposite gender friendships can be rewarding, if approached with the proper perspective.  I am not an expert on them, but just share what I have found in life so far.  I covet input by other people in the comments section down below.   

Can You Be Sued for Using the Wrong Pronouns?

21 May

Turns out you probably can be . . . in New York City. But only if you are deemed to have done so with “malicious intent.” Which means . . . well, what does it mean? Since we can’t see inside a person’s heart to determine whether or not malice lurks there, it is a subjective judgment, isn’t it? Perhaps based on considerations such as whether that person believes and practices Genesis 1:27 as foundational to his or her faith.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

It is now becoming a crime, specifically a hate crime, to believe in binary genders. Or that God created binary genders.

This ruling, however, will undoubtedly lead to some unintended consequences when even the various progressive beliefs about gender collide. For example, there are progressives that believe each of the following mutually exclusive things about gender:
1) It is set at birth, is unchangeable, and is located in the brain. If the brain and the body don’t match, the body may be surgically or chemically altered to match the brain.
2) It is fluid and can change many times during a person’s lifetime.
3) Gender is only a concept that some believe in; it does not actually exist.

There are, it seems, many progressives who may recognize that those and other theories about gender are mutually exclusive but they don’t worry about the fact that all three can’t possibly be true because “each person’s reality is his or her reality; they get to define what they believe, we don’t.” The problem with believing three mutually exclusive things will surface when the lawsuits start. Because remembering the separate realities of seven billion people on earth is untenable–at some point someone will get mixed up and offend someone with an incorrect pronoun. And since there are people in every group who are just plain greedy for money, the race will be on to prove “malice” and to sue.

I have seen some Christians, some of them progressives, who don’t think this is a big deal at all. “Just call the person what they want–you know Genesis 1:27 is true but you don’t need to shove it down anyone’s throat.” So this does what? Reduces our faith to such a private dimension that we are not even allowed to attest publicly that we believe God’s Word is true? Doesn’t that sort of put our faith on the level of a mental illness–a belief we might have that is not rooted in reality and had better be kept inside our own mind?

Interestingly, seven billion people on this planet are all being given the power to express their own reality about gender *unless they are in agreement with Genesis 1:27 and gender being binary, established at conception and always aligned with the body (except for intersex births, which are rare genetic mutations, not a legitimate third gender).

It is symptomatic of a world that has given up the concept of God that we have all become, in effect, our own god. At least in the area of gender. Anyone asserting that they have a right to pronounce themselves rich or royalty or a great athlete or a brilliant mathematician would be told that they are delusional. Those things are regarded as objectively determined, by amount of money possessed, birth into a royal family, athletic skill and training, or inherent mathematical gifting and study. But on the topic of gender, we can be our own god and remake our own universe in our own image. At least until we interact with other people with their own personal realities on gender. With them, we can force them to speak our language when they are around us or we can sue them for vast amounts of money.

The most astounding thing about all of the above paragraph is that this entire transition is happening without the backing of one shred of scientific evidence. These realities are all internal in the mind. I call the non-binary gender theories as delusional as the theory that I am the Queen of England and should live in Buckingham Palace. But, in fact, I can’t prove nor disprove these theories since they are all constructed by individuals to explain the realities they believe they encounter. I can’t prove nor disprove them, nor can they.

So, for those whose reality is defined by standing on the Word of God, by believing in a good Creator who made us all for His own good pleasure (and ours), where do we go from here?

In the intertestamental period, when believers in Yahweh were still ardent practitioners of the Jewish law, including the dietary laws, the Greek rulers offered Maccabee believers in Yahweh a deal. “Just eat a bit of pork and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The Maccabees instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

In the early days of the church, the Roman rulers offered Christians a deal. “Just offer a pinch of incense to the emperor to signify that he is a god and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The early Christians instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

So far, the deal in New York City is *only that a Christian will not be able to both believe in binary genders (an essential foundation of his or her faith) and own a company or a rental home without eventually running afoul of the law, but that is just an opening salvo. What will we do as 21st century Christians when told “Just speak the pronoun, even if you don’t really mean it, and we will let you practice your faith in peace”???

Questions about the Transgender Experience

3 May

This sums up almost exactly the questions I have had about transgenderism. Since Trevin Wax is not reading my thoughts, I have to believe that I share these questions with many other American Christians of good will.

Some Call Him A Dinosaur from Another Era; To Me, He Makes Scientific Sense

29 Apr
Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme

Remember, when you ask the transgender movement adherents for the science behind their idea that, when the body and mind disagree, the body needs to change, they usually offer only anecdotal evidence (stories of people who thought they were unhappy at one point in their journey and, at their current stage, now think they are happy). Anecdotal evidence, remember, is only one point in time and does not sum up a person’s entire existence, including any future regrets.

An Extraordinary Insight into Same Sex Attraction

28 Apr

Passive Racism

27 Apr

Yes, this!

Mike Lee

multiethnicMost self-respecting Christians would not consider themselves racist or guilty of racism. But for most that’s only when we think of racism in its active forms (racist slang terms, demeaning jokes, discrimination based on skin color/ethnic background, closed church to people of different skin color/ethnic background, etc.).

On Sunday I preached that Christians can be guilty of passive racism. How does this show itself? I think in statements like this…

I don’t think they would feel comfortable in our church.

I don’t think they’d like our style of music.

We moved to another neighborhood in our city because the schools were better.

We home school (or send our kids to a Christian/private school)  to keep our kids away from negative influences.

We moved because there was a bad element moving into our neighborhood.

I know lots of ___________ people.

All of these statements could be true with no hint of…

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Is the New Scarlet Letter “A” for “Awkward”?

17 Apr

This post reminds us that we can all say wrong things, unless we go through life as a total introvert, never initiating conversation and rarely responding.

It makes me remember the folks who have said that the new unforgivable sin is being awkward.

Kind of resonates, doesn’t it? I mean, we will tolerate the office gossip, or even bring her close within our social circle, so long as she has good timing in her sarcastic observations.

We will do the same with someone who has a total “potty mouth.” As long as he says things with self-assurance, instead of awkwardness, we are good to go.

We will even forgive moral lapses before we will “forgive” a person who is socially awkward.

I recall a number of years ago when I was at an “awkward” graduation at a small Christian school.

The valedictorian was a very studious girl. When she walked the platform, she got enthusiastic applause from her parents, accompanied by polite applause from everyone else.

Next came the salutatorian, who was somewhat of a party girl (she ended up a single mother within a year of graduation–not knocking single mothers, but just saying that this was a Christian school, after all). This young lady got loud celebratory screams from all directions when she walked the platform.

The contrast could not have been greater. And it broke my heart. Not that a party girl would get applause but that a good student would not get them as well.

But studious people are sometimes socially awkward. Or they don’t care as much about their image so it can seem tarnished with awkwardness.

My prayer is to keep getting better in encouraging people, rather than saying the wrong thing. And my motive is to do that to honor Christ in my relationships to other people.

Hopefully I will never be perceived as awkward, but if I ever am, I hope the people around me will forbear making me wear a scarlet “A.” LOL!

Actually, No One Ever Promised Things Would All Just Work Out

14 Apr

I love the post, above, as I have been pondering similar things for weeks now.

I have gotten fond of Dear Prudence, the commonsensical advice columnist in the Washington Post. Since she is an atheist, I do, however, often find myself silently arguing with her. Here is why.

Prudence claims the same principles that the Bible says govern the universe. Only
. . . as an atheist, she can’t do that. Not without acknowledging that she is actually a post-Christian-era personage who is actively rejecting Christianity while trying to retain its logical underpinnings.

Did anyone ever actually promise non-believers that everything would just work out right? Actually, no. God, in creating the world, created common grace so that the rain falls on the crops of everyone, not just those who acknowledge the God who creates the rain. But, beyond that common grace, things can badly misfire in the lives of unbelievers because, um, the events of their lives are supposed to act as an impetus to draw them to Jesus. That is specialized, saving grace, applied to the individual.

The Bible does say that all things work together for good to those who love God. But that is different than what is normally quoted.

Another point I often ponder is that, if there is no God, then there is no reason to tell people to not be superstitious. I mean, wouldn’t a superstitious person have just as much of a chance of being right in his estimate of how a world works without God in it? What would make a logical person better than a superstitious person, under those circumstances? Either the world would operate randomly or it would be held together by some inexplicable system that was never devised by a God. Either way, superstitious beliefs should seem more valuable to an atheist than to a person who believes God exists and is in sovereign control. Right?

And, as Prudence often says that life is not a zero sum game, I especially have to challenge her on where she got that belief, if not indirectly through the Scriptures. I mean, she constantly tells women who are not rejoicing with their newly engaged friends that life is not zero sum and that they too could meet the man of their dreams any day now. I mean, each happy bride does *not decrease the possibility that a single girl will get married. There are roughly the same number of heterosexual people of both genders and the same percentage of them would make good mates. So there!

But the most humorous superstition/zero sum belief that Prudence has to oppose on a weekly basis is the idea that, when one couple conceives, they have just decreased the chances that their friends will conceive at the same time. She regularly has infertile couples (or others who are slow to conceive) practically cursing their friends who have had the audacity to conceive a child in their vicinity. They act as though the couple who have conceived a child have sucked all the oxygen out of their world in order to do so. And they justify unbelievable rudeness and displays of ill manners toward the expectant couple as a result.

Back to the idea that, without God, we don’t have a predictable world system and . . . well, how can Prudence prove that life is *not zero sum? What if the universe really does have a random pregnancy lottery and . . . once the hundredth couple conceives each day, no one else gets to conceive? Just sayin’

What actually happens, I believe, is that Western atheists enshrine the mores of the Golden Age of Greece and enthrone logic and philosophy. How very Western-centric of them, eh? Only . . . there are so many other times and places from which we could draw ideas, if there were really no God.

Do our American atheists really mean to suggest that logic and philosophy are, in and of themselves, Gods? If so, at least acknowledge that that is the starting point, for other atheists in the world may disagree.

As for me, I am glad to believe in a sovereign God, for I don’t have to worry about waking up one day and finding that I, myself, am the most advanced life form there is! LOL!


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