I’ve been a jealous wife. I probably wouldn’t have admitted it if asked, but I have made a habit of swimming in underlying currents of distrust in my marriage.
Generally my green-eyed monster manifested in the form of humor (cause that’s my go-to defense mechanism). I would jokingly ask about Jeremy’s latest facebook friend who I didn’t know. I would jokingly tell him he wasn’t “allowed” to be funny in front of girls at school (his sense of humor is one of the things I find wildly attractive about him). I would make snarky, pointed jokes about girls in his life. The kind of jokes that aren’t really jokes.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about cross-gender friendships lately, in part, thanks to my friend Alise. She’s a huge advocate of healthy cross-gender relationships within Christian community. And it’s really made me reexamine what I think about friendship and attraction.
For one, as Alise points out so eloquently, our society has done a huge disservice to the concept of attraction by equating it with sexuality. So we’ve branded attraction with fear and labels. But here’s the thing – there is plenty of room in a mature Christian environment for attraction to play out in a pure and nonsexual way.
We are attracted to all of our friendships, whether they’re male or female.
I’m attracted to Sarah Bessey’s down to earth and soul soothing manner, by our common interests and talents. And doesn’t it sound silly to assume that will lead to a sexual encounter? But if she were a man, I might be living in a place of guilt or shame for what I feel for her. For wanting to talk to her, confide in her, have her be a part of my life. For when she took both of my hands in both of hers and prayed for me.
But what attracts me to her, is the Jesus inside of her. The gifts he’s given her, his light that shines in her life. We shouldn’t have to “guard our heart” from the Jesus within others. It’s healthy and normal to be attracted to the Jesus in other believers.
It’s perfectly natural for people (any person, male or female) to be attracted to my husband’s sense of humor, his knowledge, his story, his convictions and beliefs. And it’s fear-based and legalistic of me to want to withhold those things from the body of Christ because of my own insecurities. His talents and abilities are free gifts to be used to build up the body of Christ. They aren’t mine to own. His physical body, his heart – that is what belongs to me.
As the body of Christ we grow stronger in community, in unity. And there’s no place for fear and jealousy in that. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.
And love always trusts.
There is plenty of room for caution, for common sense, without forbidding cross-gender friendships among mature Christian community. And I, for one, am finished with living in a place of jealousy and insecurity.
Because at the end of the day jealousy, suspicion, worry – it doesn’t do anything. Nothing good, anyway. It doesn’t prevent anything. It doesn’t fix anything. Who by worrying can add even one hour to their marriage? I’m pretty sure Jesus said that. Or something.
So I apologized to my husband for all the jokes that weren’t jokes. And I told him that I’m not going to make them anymore. That I trust him not to turn into a hormonal teenager just because he’s attracted to the Jesus in a female or a female is attracted to the Jesus in him.
And it wasn’t just lip service – I meant it. I felt it in my bones when the chains of jealousy fell from my heart. After so many years of anxiety and possessiveness, I finally felt free to love him unselfishly. There’s a power in loving freely and accepting the truth that you can only control yourself.
So I’m not the jealous wife anymore. And it feels good.