Don’t just love your friends

One of the top needs of a young person is to be accepted and liked by others. It is also a need shared by adults. Feeling like you belong is an essential need for all humans. That’s why God put us in families to fill that need.

But sometimes family isn’t enough and we want to expand our social circle. Sometimes we feel like our family doesn’t get us, so we want to prove that we can make others like or love us. It’s this need to prove ourselves that has us searching for groups of friends who are just like us or whom we want to be like. To accomplish this we put ourselves in cliques and friend circles that represent who we are.

But far too often I’ve seen these cliques become a dangerous stronghold for bullying, mistreatment and isolation. Having friends is not wrong. But it’s important to make sure that you don’t limit your identity to only that group.

What’s your group?

Having a great circle of friends is priceless especially when you need a crew to make it through the school days. Your buddies can look out for you, have your back and keep you going on the right path on days you want to quit. If you have positive friendships in your life, then celebrate those people and let them know how you feel about them. Even if you’re in an interest group, for example a sports team, you might not be friends with everyone but you can share how you are grateful for their contributions. It’s in our friendship circles that we feel most comfortable and relaxed. In our special groups we can learn more about ourselves and from others with the same interest.

The outside group

But how do we feel toward the “outside” groups? An outside group is any group that is not in your friend circle. Let’s say you’re in the school band, do you make friends with someone in the football group? Should the jocks stay away from the nerds? Should the Christians be seen with the atheists? There isn’t one answer to all this, but there is a way to find your answer. One way is to stop thinking of outsiders as a group of people who are all the same. Scientists have shown that when you are in a group you tend to see people in an outside or other group as being the same. That means that is difficult to identify the differences that exist in a group that you’re not in. However, when it comes on to the group that we are in, it is quite easy to identify the differences among ourselves. We can identify the differences in our own group because we spend time with them and take the time to learn about them.

God loves all

With that in mind then we need to ask ourselves if what we know about the “outside” group is truly correct. The thing is God did not create us as his beloved children in order for us to segregate with our friends. God is the one who made us and gives us our interests and talents. So is it wrong to have a clique or a tight group of friends? Of course not. I hope you find a nice core of friends that support and encourage you to be great!

On the other hand, we should be careful about making judgments or generalizing people in other groups because our information about them may be inaccurate. While on earth we’ll have many identities – brothers, sisters, cousins, daughter, husband, chess player, surfer, etc. All of these labels identify us as being a part of a certain group. But there is one identity above any label we might have, and that is child of God.

What I’m saying is take the time to get to know people for who they are. God loves all people, and we should too!

Don’t let group labels prevent you or distract you from getting to know others. Also don’t allow labels to influence you to mistreat or look down on others. Before you are a jock, nerd, rich kid, nice kid or whatever, you are first and foremost a kingdom member. That means that our interests go beyond our small group. Our interest is our brothers and sisters and showing the love of God to all. I’m not saying that we should include ourselves in every group, but I’m saying that our school labels shouldn’t be what we live life by. Choose your friends wisely and give others a chance. They might surprise you.

How do I know if someone is “the one?”

“How do I know if someone is THE ONE?”

That question tormented me all through high school…and college…and my twenties.

“What if I miss him?”

“What if I marry the wrong person?”

“What if I never meet ‘the one’?”

And then it would all come back around to: “How do I know if someone is ‘the one’?”

I’m not even going to pretend to know the answer to that question. I may be married, but that “knowing” still feels very much a mystery.

However, I do want to share the things that made me feel incredibly confident that I wanted to marry my husband James.

I never thought I’d feel confident about getting married; I was terrified of the prospect with the guys I previously dated! And yet…I walked down the aisle without fear. Full of excitement.

So this blog is about why I was quite sure that James was “my one.” And how meeting “the one” three times helped me find “my one.” You might be surprised to learn that I have met several “the ones” throughout my life.

First there was Eric. (Not his real name.)

We dated freshman and sophomore year of college. My first boyfriend. He was everything on my three-page wish list for a future husband. The right height, right hair color, played the right instruments, was in the right ministries, and…oh yeah! Had the right name. (Sadly, I’m very serious.)

You could not have found a more perfect match for my Husband Wish List. Nor could you have found a more awful match for me.

He may have been a romantic, handsome worship leader and youth leader, but he was also manipulative, controlling, and even told me that he sometimes felt that I was “worthless.” We were planning to get engaged when my dad broke it off, since I wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.

I learned a LOT from dating Eric. Like the fact that outward descriptions of a person, including the ministries they are in, mean nothing when it comes to being a good spouse. Just because someone is a youth leader, doesn’t mean they’re not CRAZY. Just because someone is cute and charming, doesn’t mean they’ll be faithful or hard working.

I started developing a new list of the things that TRULY mattered in a husband. (I can’t remember what I did with the original list. Probably burned it.)

I wanted:

  • Someone who loved God with all his heart, and treated his family like gold.
  • Someone who worked hard, and showed faithfulness and integrity in his daily life.
  • Someone I found funny, and enjoyed spending the monotony of every day life with.
  • Someone whose future goals seemed somewhat compatible with mine. However, we don’t really know what the future holds, so there’s only so much credence we can put on that. (I grew up dreaming of being a missionary and martyr in China with my husband. According to that dream, I would be dead right now.)
  • Someone I was attracted to. But he didn’t have to be the most handsome man in the room (or 6’3″ tall with dark hair) in order for me to find him attractive.

I was single for several years after Eric, because every time I liked a guy, I felt like I was going to throw up! I was terrified after the relationship with Eric. I wanted to get married, but did I have to actually SEE the guy and LIVE with him? I also felt so strongly in my heart like God was saying “no” to each guy I met.

Enter Matt. (Also not his real name.)

I met this guy a couple years after graduating college.

I immediately KNEW I was going to marry Matt. I’m so serious. He was PERFECT. Not only had God so graciously provided a 6’3″ dark haired man for me, but he was also in ministry, and from the moment I met him, I felt it. There was a spark there! He was definitely the one!

(I actually called my mom right after meeting him to tell her this. She was like, “You just met him! We’ll see about this.” I was sure she’d be pleasantly surprised by my accuracy.)

Okay, so apparently you can’t KNOW if someone is the one, until you know him. Matt was not right for me. He was a great guy, but we did not mesh. (That may have been in part due to the fact that I was so interested in him that I couldn’t be myself. I was just super awkward and laughed all the time. Which is still kind of embarrassing.)

I also learned that our feelings can be deceitful. After all, Proverbs says the heart is deceitful above all things. Apparently those “attraction hormones” can make you think God is speaking…even when He’s not!

I decided to stop trusting my immediate gut reaction. It had been wrong too many times.

Enter Travis. (Again, not his real name.)

We dated on and off for a year and a half during my mid-twenties. He was different. Shorter. Blonde hair. VERY Italian. (Then again, all these guys had been Italian.) And he was SO sweet.

He wasn’t involved in any ministry that put him on a stage, but he served behind the scenes at church and with his grandparents. He was so kind. He loved me past many of my insecurities, and I realized that all this time…I’d been walking right past so many great, godly guys as if they were invisible…simply because I was still filtering the world through the lens of ministry and height.

Travis and I had a really wonderful relationship. I learned about the importance of communication. It’s the essence of everything in a relationship. If you can’t communicate well together, then what’s the point in pursuing a relationship?

I also learned about the power of my “clicker.” (That feeling in your spirit that says, “Yes, this is it!”) You can’t believe it immediately because that feeling could just be “attraction hormones,” so you have to let it be tested by time. But when your clicker consistently doesn’t “click” over a period of time, then we need to figure out why, and trust God is guiding us. My clicker was just not clicking with Travis. The relationship just didn’t feel right.

I also realized that just because a guy is a GREAT GUY, doesn’t mean we’re right for each other. There are lots of great guys! (Even though sometimes it seems like only a few are left.)

Travis and I wanted very different things from life, and I could never say I loved him, because I didn’t feel like I did. At first I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t fall in love with this great guy, but I kept feeling like God was putting in my heart that He had someone else for me, the kind of person I’d prayed for all my life.

So I broke up with Travis. At first I wondered if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life, but then…he met a girl who is the most PERFECT fit for him (they’re engaged now), and I met…

James. (His real name. Finally some honesty!)

I’d known James my whole life, from afar. We’d been on the peripheral of each other’s lives since we were born, but I’d never REALLY known him. We started dating a year and a half ago. We got married two months ago. We felt pretty sure, pretty quickly, that this was IT.

But why??

I didn’t feel that immediate “this is the one” that I felt with Matt. In fact, when we first met, it was very anticlimactic. He thought I was a hipster (he hates hipster things — sad, I know), and I thought he was boring and had no sense of humor. We were both wrong. (Well, I was wrong anyway.)

I almost broke up with him the first weekend we were dating, and he had no idea if he liked me! He kept asking himself, “Would I like to go out with her again, or not?”, because he couldn’t figure out anything beyond the next date for the first month.

But then we started seeing the signs:

  • We communicated really well together, talking through disagreements and arguments, and about life in general.
  • We loved being together. My aunt once said, “Don’t marry someone if you don’t enjoy spending everyday moments with him.” I looked forward to everyday moments with James.
  • I didn’t sense that God was saying “no.” In fact, the weekend I thought about breaking up with him, I felt like God was putting this on my heart, an idea coming from Hosea 2: “Let go of the past, so I can write a new story for you.” In the absence of His clear “no,” I felt a “yes” beginning to emerge. But it wasn’t like God was instructing, “This is the person you are to marry.” Instead, it was as if I was asking my heavenly Father’s permission and blessing, and He was saying, “Go for it!”
  • Our families were both totally on board, as were our friends. They thought we were great for each other and were in full support! That meant a lot because when I’d liked guys in the past, my dad would always say, “Yeah, he’s nice. But you can do better.” With James, my dad started making marriage-directed comments BEFORE we even started dating!!
  • We could be ourselves together, and felt very comfortable with each other.
  • We had compatible goals for our futures.

Even with all these things going for us, it takes time to know you want to marry someone.

Though I started to feel very sure of it after just a few weeks, I still had to get to know him to make sure what I was feeling was truth, and not just those confusing “attraction hormones.”

And at the end of the day, it also takes faith.

Marrying someone is like stepping off the edge of a cliff (as cliché as it sounds). You can do all your research on that cliff and what lies beneath it, but until you step off, you don’t fully know what awaits you. I prayed about it, got to know James, and asked for feedback from mentors, family, and friends. It all seemed to line up.

So I jumped.

And I’m so glad I did.

And now, he IS “the one.” He’s MY one. Because I promised to be with him until death do us part.

And until you promise your life to someone before God, you can keep searching for “the one.”

But once you say “I do,” he or she IS your one.