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I’ve come to realize that all friendships are a little like dating: sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t and, eventually, on rare occasions, the chances are you’ll meet your spouse who will stun you (and you, them) into the lifelong commitment that God calls marriage!
On the way to married bliss however, there are likely to be those dangerous moments of connection where there is a physical attraction between a man and a woman but without anything substantial by way of emotional chemistry or spiritual compatibility.
These are the most basic building blocks of any Christian relationship without which will simply never work and trusting the voice of God within the journey, and even the unforeseen detours it will often bring, will save many broken hearts in the process.
Concerning Bromance and the Like
One of the greatest joys of marriage for me is conveyed by two words: companionship and kindredness.
When I think of Mairi, I think of someone who virtually always understands what I mean but also, most of the time, agrees with me! This isn’t because she’s incapable of thinking or having her own opinion, it’s because we’re like-minded and she knows my heart.
Though very different in other major ways, our basic emotional, spiritual and intellectual thinking is balanced, complementary and very similar which is why a) we’re very good for each other and b) we like each other a lot as well as loving each other very much!
Finding and keeping key kingdom mates, in one sense, is exactly the same as this.
Have you ever been in a dating situation with someone but with whom you were constantly miserable? Either because there wasn’t the “spark” that there absolutely should be when boy meets girl or because your lives were heading in different directions or, simply, because you realized you didn’t really like each other that much?
Wouldn’t it then be a madness to continue dating the person and even become engaged and married to them knowing that you were committing to a life-long relationship that ultimately was going to do you both harm?
What happens is that someone is dumped or that by mutual agreement (and desire) you stop seeing each other. That’s just a natural, albeit sometimes painful, part what the Bible calls “finding a wife” ‒ i.e. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).
With key kingdom friendships, this “law of attraction” is also how God works: a similar outlook and set of shared values, similar callings, chemistry and backstory will sometimes mean that, out of the blue, you meet someone who becomes an important ally in your Christian sojourn and fight of the faith. Joshua and Caleb, for example, were like this with each other, within whom was a “different spirit” (Numbers 14:24). Caleb was incompatible with the majority.
But a lot of the time within Christian friendship circles (especially in small church contexts where there is an expectation to share with a limited audience) unlike in the context of romantic dating, we can find ourselves persisting in relationships with someone with whom it is clearly never going to work.
Why do we do that? Because of our pearls.
I’m convinced that for all of us following Christ, even for married couples, we have a very strong desire to share our very best and holy thoughts, our most ingeniously creative ideas and even the intimacies of our walk with Christ. We long to share.
In Matthew 7, Jesus refers to these as pearls.
Some of us are less inclined to share than others while some of us need to be more guarded with what we divulge, but it is a God-given desire to want to share our holiest dreams and desires, insights and experiences with other people of faith.
It is also a dangerous thing to do given the vulnerability that results at a heart level when we do. Great wisdom is needed within friendships as well as within romance because, as Solomon taught, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
When we share our pearls with others we become vulnerable at the fount source of all we are as human beings.
Be Careful (Not Casual) With Whom You Share
You wouldn’t go and find someone at church who you didn’t respect or trust or get along with and give them your journal for a week to read, would you? Of course not. But when we allow ourselves to share with those with whom we don’t witness a sense of peace, trust and like-mindedness ‒ the biblical word is kindredness ‒ we run the risk of our hearts being bruised and even torn apart.
In Matthew 7, Jesus is primarily warning about not throwing our “heart pearls” to those who are not of the kingdom of God and who don’t know how to handle the preciousness of Godly knowledge. Jesus refers to the dogs/pigs of unbelief as He does again later in Matthew 15 (vv.21-28) with the Syrophoenician woman when He referred to the sheep (of Israel) and the dogs of non-Jewish (unsaved) heritage.
But I believe Jesus is also thinking about the possibility of our pearls being trampled within the kingdom of heaven.
One driver of this temptation towards persisting in inappropriate contexts of sharing to those who don’t demonstrate an understanding of our native heart language is loneliness (even within Christian marriage). Of course, this means that marriages need to be invested in and cherished carefully, but it also means that we must seek out very carefully those with whom we’re going to share the secrets and struggles of our hearts.
It likely won’t be through malicious intent or willful neglect, but those who “should” be trustworthy and safe people to open your bag of pearls with might often be the very ones who simply can’t connect with you in the way that God is meaning you to.
Even Your Pastor
Just because your pastor is your pastor doesn’t mean to say that they’re going to necessarily understand your heart (or your future) in God. You will likely have an awareness of their heart make-up from how/what they communicate publicly every week, but can I encourage you not to share your heart if you feel any sense of incompatibility with theirs?
I don’t mean to make excuses for your attitude if it’s not teachable or willing to listen and learn but rather if you don’t feel a peace (or a natural ease) about their personality, spirituality or other allegiances, loyalties and emphases (including theology and doctrine) and the compatibility between them and those of your own heart.
Sometimes this will be a generational issue but, in my experience, sometimes it is a spiritual issue. It’s possible (and even very likely) to share your heart with a leader or pastor and for there to be so much denominational, man-made, religious filtering in the way that a purity of “heart to heart” (pearls to pearls) is virtually impossible. You don’t need denominational policy; you need the voice of the Shepherd.
To be sure, this is a mystery (why it is that with a brother or sister in Christ there might not be a sense of freedom to connect at a heart level) but your heavenly Father, to be sure, fully understands your heart. He also perfectly understands the importance of you sharing your pearls with the right people.
But Do Throw Your Pearls
Can I encourage you, and it should go without saying, please don’t share your pearls with the “dogs and pigs” ‒ you’re never going to find the wisdom of God in circles of the unredeemed.
But also, please, please choose your confidants carefully and very wisely.
Don’t persist in close personal sharing even with other Christian leaders who don’t demonstrate that a)they understand you, b)value you and that c)they understand how to genuinely connect heart to heart. Having a coffee face-to-face does not always equal heart-to-heart.
Instead, prayerfully ask your Abba Father for “people of peace” with whom your spirit can rest and witness a sense of safety and appropriateness in sharing.
Then, for their sake as well as yours, and with the leadership of the Holy Spirit, throw those pearls at their feet liberally!
All of us are made for godly community and for kingdom relationship. We are all hard-wired to want to share life with others. We all need other people in our lives whether we are single or married.
But sharing your heart is the most precious thing you can give to anyone and profound damage can result from sharing your heart with the wrong people.
Ultimately, God has made us ‒ even as leaders ‒ to connect best with other specific people. We must wholeheartedly seek them out and refuse to settle for second best by sometimes saying “no” to certain people in order to say “yes” to others.