Love them more

As a single person, sometimes my friendships with married people can feel a little uneven. My friends don’t have a lot of time/emotional energy left over after caring for spouse and kids. I, on the other hand, have time and FEELS in abundance that I’m only too eager to offer my friends. But when my efforts aren’t matched, that often leads to me feeling like I like them more than they like me, or that I need them more than they need me. That can hurt, and it’s … embarrassing somehow. In love or friendship, we don’t want to be the needier one in the relationship.

So my inclination is to pull back, to deliberately not love my friends as fully as I’m able, and to match what they bring to the friendship, all under the guise of “guarding my heart.” That way, I’m not the needier one, and I’m not expending my emotional energy on someone who can’t return it. Sounds sensible, until I consider a couple of uncomfortable truths:

  1. Jesus loves me freely and generously, even knowing I cannot love him back with the same intensity or to the same degree that he loves me (he will always love me more than I love him, because he is perfect, and I am not). Our Bridegroom is lavish in his love for his Bride.
  2. He commands us to love each other the way he loves us (John 13:34)—that is, to love each other “more,” without keeping score.

Marriage is not the only way to learn to love selflessly. Even in our awkward, one-sided (or what can feel like one-sided) friendships, God is calling us to holiness, to imitate Christ. He is working our singleness for our sanctification. He has freed us to love others lavishly and without reservation. And when you think about it, a lot of our relationships are “uneven.” Parents generally pour more love into their offspring than their children return. Dating couples may find that one person is a little more invested in the relationship than the other at different points. Even married couples may have seasons where one is more eager and ready to do the work of marriage than the other is. We should not be surprised, then, when married-single friendships follow this typical pattern.

Friendships, like anything else, endure seasons—times to pluck up, break down, mourn, refrain, lose, cast away, or keep silent (Ecclesiastes 3). Singles, we may not necessarily be called to “over-love” our married friends in every single season, and certainly some friendships and acquaintanceships require discretion and discernment in how much we give of ourselves. But by and large, fellow singles, take heart. Be like Jesus: give and love the most in your friendships, even knowing it won’t be returned “evenly.”

On friendship

I’ve been thinking about friendship this week, particularly in the context of church relationships. Mark Driscoll, Jared C. Wilson and Kevin DeYoung have each written on the topic this week and have some good thoughts to share. I’d like to weave some sweet story or tasteful introduction to each series but it’s 99 degrees and words have failed me, so without further ado, here we go:

Mark Driscoll on The Pastor and His Wife Get to Pick Their Own Friends – Part 1 and Part 2.

Jared C. Wilson on what friendship is and isn’t: Thoughts on Friendship (Part 1) and Grace-Driven Friendship (Part 2).

Finally, Kevin DeYoung’s The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends is a longer series, but well worth the read. I appreciate his thorough examination of friendship, especially within the context of church relationships. You can read Part 1 here, Are You a Fake Friend (Part 2)?, Are You a Foul Friend (Part 3)?, and Are You a Faithful Friend (Part 4)?

What I appreciated about each of these posts is that they convicted me to search my own heart for specific ways that I may be failing as a friend, rather than encourage me to commiserate about how other people aren’t being good friends. I’ve read many “Christian” perspectives on friendship over the years that were often along the lines of something like, “God is close to the lonely,” or “Even when you feel like your friends have forsaken you, Jesus is the most faithful friend you’ll ever have.” Both are good and true sentiments (praise God for His compassion!) but also I’ve also found that they  inadvertently encouraged me to adopt a victim mentality and assume that if I was feeling lonely, then it was someone else’s fault.

Friendship goes both ways, though, and as someone who tends to look for the log before taking care of the speck, I’m grateful for these Gospel-centered posts that encourage me to examine myself first!