[Friendship Gone Wrong] The Journey to Freedom
If you're just jumping into this conversation, I hope you will go back and read the first 4 parts of this series for some context. I've been talking about the problem of idolatry in friendships and casting a vision for the purpose of Biblical friendship.
STEPS TOWARD FREEDOM
If it is evident that you have been idolizing a person in your life and have become emotionally dependent on them, here are some basic steps you can take to move toward freedom. Please keep in mind that the degree to which these steps are needed is based on how deeply entrenched you are in relational idolatry. For the one who calls her accountability partner too often before talking to God, some simple confession and repentance to another friend may be sufficient. For the one who yearns for spring break to be over so she can cuddle up with her roommate in bed again, these steps are far more important.
Remember that different situations call for different things. This is where the wisdom and guidance of others who know you is crucial. For example, an emotional dependency on a guy should be treated differently than an emotional dependency on a girl. And even though emotional dependencies can form between two spouses, no form of separation is ever good in a marriage.
1. Be Honest
Be honest with yourself. Though it is painful to stare our sin in the eye, we can never make it go away by ignoring it. If we refuse to face the reality of our sin, we will only enlarge the consequences and prolong the pain.
Be honest with God. Talk to Him openly about your friend and how you feel about her. Openly confess your desire to run to her before Him. Agree with God that finding your worth, purpose, belonging, and security in anything other than Him is idolatry. Admit that you have forsaken Him, the Fountain of Living Waters and turned to a broken, leaky cistern that cannot hold water. (Jer 2:12-13) Ask God to save you from the stronghold of idolatry.
Be honest with another person who is not the friend you’re dependent on. Find a stable, trustworthy, mature Christian woman to talk to. Tell her you’ve become too dependent on your friend and have given her more weight in your life than God. Ask for prayer, accountability, and counsel. Though it may be tempting, it is not wise to share with the one you are idolizing first. Though you should eventually talk openly about these things with you friend, to do so right away often backfires and causes deeper attachment. Of course, the importance of how and when to talk with this friend will be contingent on how deep and long lasting the attachment has been.
2. Create Space
Create some distance from this friend in different ways, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This may mean spending more time in groups. Saying no to some of those one-on-one times. Refrain from intimate emotional and spiritual conversations like confessing sin, praying together, etc. If you live together, invite people over to hang out. Or get out of the house to do homework, run errands, etc. This step may naturally bring up a healthy conversation about why you need space and give you a chance to confess any sin on your part and a desire to grow in health spiritually and in your friendship.
3. Prepare for Grief
Letting go of a this kind of relationship is painful. When you have put all your eggs in one basket, it can feel terrifying to move away from that basket. Because you may have treated this friend like your significant other, this could feel like a break-up. Allow yourself to grieve for a season. Talk to other trustworthy, mature Christian woman about it, and talk to God about. Read the Psalms. Journal about how you feel. And know that this season of grieving will pass.
4. Cultivate Other Friendships
This may be difficult and scary at first. You might be used to the false security of "one friend who will always accept you and never let you down." But remember, the only one who will never let us down in God Himself. Cultivating other friendships will also help us keep our hope in Him, not in people. You will likely have to take steps to make friends when you don’t feel like it. But walk in faith, and trust God with your whole heart, not a person.
5. See a Biblical Counselor
While most people assume counseling is only for traumatic situations, it is a great thing for everyone to do once in a while. If you have the means, consider finding a Biblical counselor that you can see a few times as you make the journey out of dependency on a friend and back to dependency on God. Having a safe place to discuss these things with a trained professional who loves Jesus is invaluable.
6. Get to Know God!
Last not because it isn't important, but because this step should always be on the forefront of your mind, is cultivating intimacy with God. If you aren't daily finding Him to be the source of security, satisfaction, and approval, you will always look somewhere else. He is the only True, Faithful, and Reliable One. Here is a link to a 3 day devotional I wrote about cultivating intimacy with God to get you started. (More Bible studies and devos here.)
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SEXUAL WITH A FRIEND
If you’ve been down this road far enough to allow your friendship to become sexual, please hear me: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are others who have been where you are and are now walking in freedom! No sin is beyond the redeeming work of God!
Am I a lesbian?
This is the first question many ask. Because you have had sexual encounters with someone of the same gender and to some degree it felt natural and desirable, this is a normal question to ask. We live in a world that would tell you, yes you likely are a lesbian, or are at least bisexual. How you prefer to experience your sexuality is who you are.
But let me be very clear, the answer is no. You are not a lesbian. While “lesbian, gay, homosexual, bisexual” may be chosen as identity descriptions, ultimately, they are all lifestyle descriptions.
God doesn’t make lesbian women and heterosexual women. He makes women.
God doesn’t make gay men and straight men. He makes men.
“Male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27)
This is really important for us to understand. Remember our study of Romans 1? By worshipping a person, you invite distorted desires into your life and may be given over to passionate sexual desires for the same gender that feel natural and normal. This does not mean you are homosexual by identity. Rather, it means that you are experiencing the consequences of a wrong object of worship.
We are all capable of distorted sexuality. (As a reminder, sexual sin with someone of the opposite gender is also a distorted form of sexuality.) No one is above this. “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:3) The question is not so much how do we rid ourselves of improper desires (we will all experience wrong desires today in a myriad of ways), but what we do in response to those desires. Will we give in to them or will we cling to God and run to Him as our hope and stronghold? This is the essence of repentance (which ought to be the daily act and posture of the Christian), turning from wrong desires and clinging to God our Savior and Satisfier!
Separation is Crucial
If you’re friendship has gone as far as sexual sin, the importance of a season of total separation from this friend cannot be understated. Because of the fierce nature of sexual sin, we are called to flee, to run away as quickly as possible. (2 Tim 2:22, 1 Thess 4:3) Though this is a difficult step to take, it is vital. Involve other godly women or couples who can hold you accountable and strengthen you in this time by pointing you to Jesus, your great Savior, Redeemer, and True Friend! It will feel like a wilderness, but the wilderness is often where God meets us to strip us of all our old loves and then betroth us to Himself and teach us dependency on Him (consider Gomer in Hosea 2 or the Israelites in Numbers and Deuteronomy). Embrace this season of wilderness and loneliness and let it lead you into the arms of your First Love.
Counseling is Vital
Because there are some unique repercussions to sexuality in a same-gender friendship, a good Biblical counselor can provide the support, tools, clarity you need to move forward into freedom and a healthy view of your sexuality and confidence in your wholeness and freedom in Christ.
In Part 6 we'll look at the cultural trend of romanticizing friendships, and the danger associated with it.