I remember the first time I fell in love.
It was more than just the cheap euphoria of physical attraction, this time there was a connection on a deep level. I never felt as understood by anyone else as I did with her.
But the person I was carrying a torch for is a she – just like me. And I’m not someone who falls in love easily. Save for a few eye-candies and crushes, I’ve never actually felt attracted to anyone – male or female. I really believed I would remain single for the rest of my life. And I was OK with that.
So I wasn’t looking for love when we first became friends. I wasn’t even expecting anything since we were both of the same gender. But what started out as an innocent friendship developed into something more. Before I knew it, I found myself drawn to how safe and comfortable I felt around her. That was when the alarm bells began ringing in my head.
How did I get here?
We preach about physical boundaries in church but what is even more insidious is emotional intimacy.
Timothy Keller writes, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”
Most of us are searching for someone who would understand and accept us for who we are. When we do, our emotional needs are met and it can feel a lot like love. I believe people can fall in love anywhere with anyone. I believe that when you fall in love, you don’t fall in love with a gender, but the person in his or her entirety.
But I also believe when the Bible says that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
I wished I had better managed my emotional boundaries. If only I had been more vigilant about who I let into my heart! But while I didn’t choose to fall in love, I eventually chose to fall out of love. The painful experience taught me to keep my friendships – male or female – in check if I don’t want to have unnecessary emotional entanglements.
3 WAYS TO AVOID EMOTIONAL ENTANGLEMENT
1. Make your friendship inclusive
More often than not, when you’re close and comfortable with someone, you’d prefer not to allow others to step in and disrupt the delicate world you’ve built together. But the extended time together will only foster stronger bonds, especially if the both of you are close to begin with.
When you invite others into the friendship, however, it’s no longer just about you and the other friend. It looks more like a community where people can watch over you and keep you accountable.
Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you?
2. Make sure the friendship points both parties to Christ
Friendships are given to us for encouragement, comfort and love – humans are relational creatures after all. But friendships should point us to God, instead of drawing us away from Him.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
The brotherhood between David and Jonathan demonstrates just that.
King Saul was after David’s life after the shepherd boy became a threat to the throne. As the prince and David’s best friend, Jonathan could have been jealous of David and plot to kill him too – but he didn’t. Instead, Jonathan reminded David time and time again of the destiny God had for him (1 Samuel 23:17), even when it meant he’d have to forfeit his right to the throne.
Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you? At the end of the day, friendships with fellow believers are supposed to help us to keep our faith.
3. Make God your first love
The problem with falling in love with the wrong person is the life that comes after it. Who else can I share my burdens with? Who else can understand me like Jenna* did? Where do I turn to now?
The truth is that an unhealthy reliance forms when we view one another as an ultimate source of love and comfort. No human is able to fulfil that role. Instead our love for one another is merely a reflection of God’s love for us.
When we point people to ourselves instead of God, we’re only setting them up for disappointment. Remember the hurts you carried because someone failed to meet your expectations? Or the wounds you’ve nursed when people exited your life?
We all want to be loved. But perfect love can only be found in God. Only He is unchanging and ever-faithful. Will you let Him be the first love in your life?
* Name has been changed for confidentiality.