“You meet someone of the opposite sex. He or she really catches your eye.
Then you get to know this person, and you find out he or she has a great personality as well.
To top it all off, this person sends you that “I’d like to get to know you better” vibe.
That is the beginning of a chapter in the book I kissed Dating Goodbye that I came across during my reading. I have used it because I couldn’t help but agree how much I related to that situation. It was one of those “story of my life” moments where I paused to enjoy the exemplary work of Joshua Harris, whom I consider a witty author. If, like me, you have decided to put romance on hold until you’re ready for marriage, what do you do in a situation like this? That is the question I would like to answer today as I share my own experience, having found myself in this situation several times. In the last post I shared on cross gender friendships and as I highlighted, one of the challenges that face cross gender friendships is attractions. As I promised, today I am going to share on attractions- how to deal with attractions as a Christian.
TO THE REAL STORY OF MY LIFE
A few weeks ago (three to be precise), I found myself in a situation very similar to the one at the beginning of the blog. I was taking my driving test when it happened and to cut the long story short, we ended up exchanging contacts. So, that evening I texted her since I felt an obligation to talk to her, now that we were acquainted. So we engaged in small talk before telling each other goodnight. After three days is when I texted her again because I didn’t want to engage her too much in conversation for I was aware that the “friendship” could easily get out of hand due to the attraction which seemed mutual. So on the fifth day I texted her and that is when I found myself trying to rationalize with the attraction. It went something like this: it doesn’t hurt to get to know a person… we are only texting… it’s not like I’m going to ask her on a date… we won’t talk about deep stuff…it’s just getting to know one another. But when I really searched my heart, I realized that I sincerely didn’t have honest intentions. So, I decided to stop texting her and that was the end of the attraction (oh, and I passed the test too in case you are wondering).
For those who are human like me (I hope there are no robots reading this), you have at one time or the other been attracted to a member of the opposite sex, which is very natural and shows that everything is okay. Maybe you had to deal with all the three (like me) or you just experienced the first, the fact remains that we all, at one time or the other, have felt an attraction (sometimes very strong) to a member of the opposite sex. Maybe it was a friend you have known for quite some time or someone you met and they caught your eye. Now, the question is, how do you react to such a situation as a Christian? There are two possible outcomes; to leave it at attraction or allow our imaginations to carry us away.
In reference to my own experience, I would like to quote Kathleen Dillard who has written that: “many attractions are completely foolish”. I agree a hundred percent with her and my experience is an example. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that it’s wrong to feel attracted but what I mean is that most attractions don’t hold any water. They are just that- attractions, and nothing more. Often people find themselves daydreaming about someone they’ve seen once or twice in school or work. The entire basis of his/her affections are founded on what he IMAGINES that person to be like, instead of what they really are. In my case, I had all the intentions to be “just friends” with my newly found friend but deep inside, I knew what my heart was telling me was contrary to the truth of the matter- that I was attracted to this person. I realized that since what had brought us together was over- the driving test, I didn’t have an obligation to continue texting her.
To some, this word may seem a bit far-fetched so let me come closer home: “crush”. This is the part where you say *oooooh, that one (the one we are used to saying in Kenya). We are all familiar with this word crush that is so commonly used when one has a strong attraction to someone of the opposite sex. To those who are still pretending they don’t know what am talking about, a crush is the constant thoughts about someone who has caught your eye, the heart palpitations whenever that person walks by or you hear their name, the hours spent dreaming of a future with that special someone. This is what we call a crush, and I know it all too well, having experienced it myself when I knew no better than to conform to the patterns of the world.
I totally agree with what Joshua Harris has written in the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He writes that many of us have a difficult time seeing infatuation as potentially harmful. But we need to examine it carefully, because when you really think about it, infatuation can be a sinful response to attraction. Any time we allow someone to displace God as the focus of our affection, we’ve moved from innocent appreciation of someone’s beauty or personality to the dangerous realm of infatuation. Instead of making God the object of our longing, we wrongly direct these feelings toward another human. We become idolaters, bowing to someone other than God, hoping that this person will meet our needs and bring fulfillment. God is righteously jealous of our hearts; after all, he has created us and redeemed us. He wants us to focus our thoughts, longings and desires on him. He lovingly blesses us with human relationships, but He first calls us to find our delight in Him.
I hope that we are now better placed when it comes to the issue of infatuation because I would like to highlight another flaw in infatuation other than diverting our attention from God. Infatuation is mainly based on illusion. When infatuated with someone, we tend to build that person in our imaginations as the perfect guy or girl. Of course, we can only sustain our silly crush because we have substituted fantasy for all the information we lack about that person. As soon as we get to know that person’s true identity and discover our “perfect” man or woman is human like everyone else, our dreams fade and we move on to another crush.
This goes out to men mainly but also to the ladies. Another very real danger of attraction and especially infatuation is the issue of lust. There is a very thin line between infatuation and lust. This line can be very elusive. You should not lust in the name of attractions. What I mean is that you should not give an excuse for your lustful desires by saying you are “appreciating beauty” or you are “just admiring”. You may go on to say how God created the female species to be admired and all that, but if lust is in your heart, you have sinned against God. You may give all manner of excuses and rationalizations to justify the lust hidden deep down in your heart but you cannot hide the contents of your heart from God. It is written in Jeremiah 17:9 that:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind,”
However you sugar coat it, lust remains to be lust and it is sinful in God’s eyes. (Ephesians 5:3). Let us also not forget what Matthew 5:27 says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
HOW TO DEAL WITH ATTRACTIONS
As I was undergoing discipleship, it was constantly made clear that having an attraction with someone of the opposite sex is not wrong but your reaction to it makes all the difference. Though it is not a sin to be attracted to someone, what you decide to do with that attraction can be. One of the ways to react to an attraction is to move from just appreciating someone’s beauty or personality, to being infatuated with them. As we have already seen, infatuation is a wrong way to react to an attraction as a Christian. This is because infatuation literally fuels the attraction. An analogy I could use is adding petrol to a fire or accelerating downhill. So, what is the godly way to react to an attraction?
Before we go on to how to deal with an attraction as a Christian, it is important to put across a precaution that will help in dealing with an attraction with the opposite sex. It is very important that you don’t tell that person you have an attraction on them. It doesn’t matter whether it is mutual or not. This is because it only makes the situation worse and if it is not mutual, the friendship that exists can never be the same again. It now becomes awkward and one party ends up being hurt. It is also important to behave in a manner that does not show you could be attracted to them by all means possible. The latter may seem difficult but let us not forget that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12). It is written in Philippians 1:27 that:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
As Christians, we need to avoid infatuation by resolving to not feed attraction. “Don’t nurse a crush!”, someone once said. Attraction only grows into infatuation when we pamper it. How do we pamper attraction? By constantly thinking about that person, by constantly being around that person, by allowing our imaginations to carry us away. Many are the times we pamper our attractions by fantasizing about the person who is the center of our attraction. Most of us are very good at fantasizing and daydreaming about the perfect date, the perfect family, wedding, kids… and the list goes on. We need to refuse to feed romantic expectations and let our hearts be carried away. Each time we find ourselves in such a situation we need to rewind our thoughts and tell our minds to hold up!! And change our train of thoughts by indulging in something else. We need to train ourselves to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7) and to take every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
ATTRACTIONS IN A FRIENDSHIP SITUATION
So far, I have shared mostly on how to deal with an attraction with someone whom you have just met or who is not really your friend. Like let’s say a classmate. Now, as I had promised in the earlier post, I would like to share on dealing with attractions in a cross gender friendship. This is whereby you have been friends with someone of the opposite sex and feelings of attraction start developing. We cannot overlook the fact that something “more” may come out of a pure friendship between a guy and a girl.
What to do
Kathleen Dillard expresses this so well in her article on Love Vs Romance: There are times when attractions can be more serious. Occasionally these desires toward the opposite sex can seem overpowering, but the only way to control these feelings is by making the right decisions and drawing closer to God. Since our romantic desires are often stronger than we are, the first thing you should do if you like someone is talk to your Father about it. No, I didn’t say, “Talk to your best friend about it…” I said, talk to your Father in heaven about it. Seek His permission. Often times we run to our friends because we want their approval; we long to hear them say, “Oh, the two of you would go so good together!” but what we should be really seeking is God’s opinion- His counsel. But all too often we are just afraid He’ll just say “Wait…”or worse, “This person is not the right one for you.” Yet if we are not interested in obeying God, all the counsel in heaven will do us no good!
If you really want to do what’s right, then don’t feed your desire, yield it to God. “The quickest way to let something die is to quit feeding it.” You should also go and get counsel from pastor, or an older brother or sister in the Lord, for “through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10)
I cannot overemphasize the clarity and maturity- spiritually and emotionally, needed to pursue romance. This takes seeking and knowing God’s will and is only possible through cultivating a close relationship with God by studying His word. To add on to that, prayer also plays a major role as well as seeking counsel. We can rightly seek counsel from our older brothers and sisters in the Lord as well as spiritual leaders such as our pastors. I would not like to share much on this topic right here (maybe in a later blog) but if you honestly want to learn more you can read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris or/and Romance 101 by Maggie Gathuku. Both are available at Christian bookshops. Thank you dear reader for taking your time to go through this blog to the very end.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”
- Numbers 6: 24-26