The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Hello!

I emailed you before about some issues, and I need some more help!

OK I'll start with the love situation. You see, there is a girl at my church whom I am friends with. We have technically been family friends through church for about 10 years, but we haven't actually started to hang out and become good friends just until recently about a year and a half ago. I am currently 16 and she is 14 (but super mature for her age -- maybe even more than me -- haha). I am in 11th grade and she is in 9th. I'll add that before we got into a real friendship, I was actually attracted to her, which started over year ago. So, in order to get closer to her, I decided it would be best to get to know her better and become one of her best friends, as well as someone who would be there for her in her time of need.

Question 1: Is it wrong to start off a friendship just because you are attracted to someone? Also, is this what a Christian should be doing? Initially I only wanted to be her friend because she was cute and I guess the teen hormones kicked in. However, over this past year, I really did get to know her. I know almost everything about her, and she knows a lot about me too. We have become really good friends, and I realized that becoming friends with her is way better than being friends just because I was attracted to her. Now sometimes I look past that and treat her like a sister. She also treats me like an older brother figure (mainly because of the age difference). We talk and text almost every day about everything. We even say good night to each other at night. Whenever we see each other at our youth group, we always sit next to each other and talk. I'm also not sure if this is counted as flirting.

I'm so glad to have her in my life as a friend, a sister in Christ and practically family too. However, my attraction to her did not shrink at all since the beginning. I still think she is beautiful and unique in her own way. Is it wrong for me to be attracted to someone who is younger and established her as a sisterly figure?

She laughs a lot at my jokes. I've read many articles online that girls who laugh at your jokes tend to like and flirt with you. I'm not sure if she's doing that or not.

I get really depressed or jealous when I see her talking and interacting with other guys, which I know jealousy is a sin, but it's so hard for me to control it! I even get like that when she hangs out with my own actual brother! Something tells me that that is not Christian-like.

I sometimes get really depressed when we text. Some days she'll text me with smiley faces which make me feel like she likes me, and some days she texts me with short one answer replies, which makes me kind of sad, knowing that she might not want to talk to me, but I always want to talk to her. It seems that any interaction with her always brightens my day.

We also sometimes talk about "who we like" and crushes and all that. Of course, I really only like her, but I can't tell her that so every time she asks me "who do you like?" I have to answer either "no one" or "a girl." I also try to help her with her relationships with other guys, although it hurts me on the inside to be helping the girl I like or may even "love" get to know another guy she might like.

So to sum it up, I'm really, really good friends with this girl. But I also love her in a brotherly way and am also attracted to her. I love her because of her personality, looks, and that she is a strong Christian. So I have some questions that would really help me if answered:

1. I'm 16, are these feelings real? Or is it just the teen hormones kicking for me and it's just lust (which is a sin)?

2. We're also Christians. Is it wrong to have these feelings for a sister in Christ?

3. (Sort of relevant to question #1) Is the age difference contributing to the problem?

4. How do I know if these feelings are real and not lustful? How do I know if it is true love that I am feeling versus just a crush?

5. I don't want to lose our friendship by telling her that I love her, but I also don't want to get hurt if I don't tell her now, and she ends up with another guy and it's too late. Would it even be appropriate to confess these feelings to her (if they're real) at this young age?

6. Lastly, how can I put God before all of this? Because it seems that I am obsessed with this situation. I do pray about it, but I haven't really seen anything change yet.

I'm sorry for this long e-mail, but I really need your help, as well as God's. I long to see what the Lord has in store for me in the future, but I also want to have this girl in my future. Thank you!


Answer

I'm impressed. Many guys your age are so caught up in emotions that they can't put two coherent thoughts together, let alone deeply analyze their relationship and its appropriateness.

A part of your difficulty is that you are hiding your thoughts because you are afraid of being rejected. Let's take the worse case, let's assume that she isn't interested in you. Then wouldn't it be better to know now so you can eventually move on, than be so wrapped up in her that you miss other possibilities in the future? What I suggest doing is telling her something like this: "I really like you; I may even love you. But I know we are both too young to be making commitments at this time. However, I want you to know that I'm deeply attracted to you and would like to entertain thoughts that when we are older we may have a future together." That should be a fairly balanced approach. It lets her know where you stand without demanding a similar stance from her. It will keep the relationship from continuing to build to merely a brotherly/sisterly relationship. Yet at the same time, it will keep things from rushing out of control. The two of you have lots of time. Neither of you are anywhere near ready to think about marriage. But your feelings should be known so she doesn't accidently hurt you by wrong assumptions.

A good number of relationships start out because of physical attraction due to hormones. It is what gives a guy the courage to actually talk to a girl. Where it can go wrong is when a guy only focuses on the physical attraction. Such rapidly can lead to lust. But you did it the right way. You used the attraction as a reason to get to know her better.

The initial attraction is infatuation, or a crush, because you know nothing about her. What is important here is that as you got to know her, you remain attracted to her as a person. That lays a foundation for love and you are feeling the results. The feelings aren't love, they are what comes because you are committing yourself to her in your mind.

I would rather hear that you are falling in love with a Christian than a non-Christian who may not hold the same standards of morality that you hold. Sexual temptation is hard enough to hold at bay with both of you trying to keep a lid on it. But if you are falling for someone who actively tries to encourage you to sin, the odds are you'll do things you will later regret.

The age difference is less of a problem than you might think. Girls mature faster than boys, so in regards to your maturity in thinking, you are both about at the same point. But neither of you are done developing or maturing. That is why it is very important not to rush things. "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:7). It is fine for right now to let her know you are interested. In a year or two, when you are both a bit older, it will be fine to go on dates with her. Keep in mind that you two can't even consider marriage for at least four years, and even then I do know if you'll be ready. So don't be in a rush to over commit.

Passion is going to build over this time -- it is what naturally happens -- so don't go out of your way to encourage it. You can express your passion after you get married, not before.

Lust is when you are consumed with thoughts of having sex with her, which you know is not lawful. You don't lead me to believe you are slipping into lust.

Putting God first means that you make it an absolute rule for yourself that you are going to live by God's rules no matter what your body desires. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). That means you will protect her, even from yourself.

  • You'll keep your hands only where it is proper to have them. "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (I Corinthians 7:1).
  • You won't be provocative in your speech. "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:3-5).
  • Along with that, you will always dress appropriately. Because you have feelings for each other, you should be extra careful not to provoke ideas by what you wear or don't wear. Even if you aren't with each other, there will be no sending of pictures of you showing off your muscular abs or her in a scanty outfit.

Putting God first also means that God comes first, then each other. Neither of you will get in the other person's way of serving God to your fullest.

Thank you so much for helping me understand more of what I am going through. But I'm still afraid to actually tell her my feelings. How can I build up the courage to do it?

A lot of other girls at my church sort of tease me about liking her just because I hang out with her a lot, of course I do but they don't actually know. I'm afraid that if I do say something and get rejected, I would get teased even more about that. I know I should ignore that, but I'm actually a really sensitive guy on the inside.

I've been praying for courage, but I haven't seen anything from God yet. As tension rises, and I don't see change, it's really hard for me to go to God first for my problems.

Think for a moment and then tell me an example of where God forced someone to be what he wasn't. I don't know of an example. God helped people reach further than they thought possible, but He didn't change the person.

If you wanted to be a good basketball player, do you blame the coach that your aren't a good player because nothing changed? Or do you get up and start working your tail off knowing that the coach is going to guide you into being a better player?

You want courage, but like anything else, courage takes practice. Courage isn't a lack of doubt or not having any fears. Courage is the ability to do the right thing despite personal fears. See The Courage to Overcome Fears. In a very real sense, you asked God for courage and you have been given an opportunity to put courage into practice.

Teasing is just words. They don't change who you are or who you will be -- unless you let them.

So look at this as a test. If you are going to be the leader of your future family, you are going to have to have the courage to speak your thoughts, even if others won't accept what you have to say. At this point in time it is saying something that very likely will be reciprocated, but until you say something, you'll never know.

Thanks, that also helped a lot. But there is also one more thing.

We talk about who we "like" and all that. Over the past year I have went through some minor relationships with other guys that she has had a crush on, helping her as much as I can. Now that she is in high school there are a lot of guys who are attracted to her. There's even a senior that has a thing for her! Not to mention a couple of freshmen guys too. We talk about these things, and she tells me she knows that all of these boys have crushes on her, and it really bothers her (maybe because she's so young). She asked me to help her not to think about guys right now. Also because her parents think she is too young for dating. Basically she wants to avoid a relationship right now. So this gets me thinking, is this the right time to reveal my feelings to her? Also, because we are family friends, I don't know what will happen when her parents hear about it.

All your fears are about what might be and you are letting your imagination run away with you. I didn't suggest making a commitment to her, I suggested that you let her know that you are interested but that you also think it is best to wait until you are both older. Don't even say you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend. All you want is to do is let her know you are interested in a possible future relationship. She isn't able to read your mind, so she won't know until you let her know.

Perhaps you can wait until another time when she asks who you like and drop a not so subtle hint.

However, the stress you are feeling is of your own making. That means eventually you are going to have to solve it.

What her parents will likely do is be thrilled that such a nice young man is interested in their daughter and then make sure that the two of you are monitored so your feelings don't get out of control.