CASUAL friendships are different from ‘going steady’, as Americans say. Our first meeting may be the result of being unexpectedly brought together at a gathering or at someone’s wedding. A spark is kindled. Perhaps it is the response to a look or to the way in which the other person speaks or walks or shows an interest in us. A first meeting can be painful, a sudden stab in our innermost feelings, perhaps without our knowing quite why.
Business men are advised not to make major decisions until 36 hours after a long jet flight. Crossing time zones upsets our sleep pattern and the rhythm of our meals. Re-orientation to the totally new surroundings takes time and major decisions should be deferred until sufficient adjustment has occurred.
Heart and Head
But there is nothing quite so disorienting as falling in love! Friendship with a member of the opposite sex can be quite bewildering. Here is some useful advice. Take your bearings as soon as you can; watch what you are doing; listen to what is going on, and don’t let your heart leave your head behind. You will never regret taking complete stock of what is in the shop—as distinct from what is in the shop window—of the person whose acquaintance you are developing.
It is disappointing to discover that someone who looked very interesting is in fact very shallow or narrow in their personality or thinking. This may not become evident right away. Perhaps a change of scene or company will reveal what we did not know before. Therefore it is absolutely essential to talk, talk, talk about everything. Never be satisfied with half or off-putting answers or with mere silence. As the friendship develops, every effort must be made to get to know the other person thoroughly, at home (his and hers), in the meeting, in a crowd and alone.
Some people seem to gather friends as readily as jam attracts wasps. If you are one of those people, learn to be discriminating in your choice of friends and, above all, beware the deadly sin of pride and self-adulation.
Others of us wonder whether we shall ever find a friend. Here are a few words of help if you happen to feel like that: always pray and open your heart to God; remember that you have one or more qualities of person or of character that are attractive to others; and, do not cheapen yourself out of desperation or haste by throwing yourself at others in the hope that someone will catch you. The right friendship will arise from Christian uprightness and having God as your guide.
True marriage is a marriage of minds. If you doubt this, then, please, please, take on board right away that you must learn before it is too late that marriage is indeed a marriage of minds. How can your mind truly marry another mind that it does not really know? A wellbased and stable relationship cannot be built on ignorance.
When marriages fall to pieces, and someone is asked to help to put them together again, surprising words are often spoken by the injured party to the effect that, ‘I didn’t know he (she) was like that’. In most cases it has to be said, ‘You should have known’. Courtship is the time for getting to know the other person almost as well as we know ourselves.
If the one you are in love with does not talk freely about everything or refuses to let you know the basic ingredients of his or her mind, you are in a very dangerous situation and should think very seriously whether to terminate the relationship. You are in danger of heading for a marriage that would be woefully incomplete. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Because two people are in the truth, a successful marriage is not guaranteed. Of course, both persons should be in the truth (do not think you can be wiser than God in this respect)—otherwise it is obvious that there would be two minds which by definition would not be wholly harmonious—but in addition there needs to be an affinity between the persons as persons. If our choice is prayerfully and wisely made, in the truth and between compatible individuals, there is a foundation upon which to build.
Have you ever listened carefully to the vows that are given at marriage? There are very few words that are legally required to make a marriage binding. In the UK the words (for the groom) are:
I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I John Jones may not be joined in matrimony to Jane Jackson. I call upon these persons here present to witness that I John Jones do take thee Jane Jackson to be my lawful wedded wife.
Provided that what we are saying is true, marriage in the legal sense is as simple as that. But in our services it is customary to add other promises which fill out our intentions before God. For example, we might have:
Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife to live together after God’s ordinance of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live? (Or for the bride: Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour and keep him in sickness and in health; and forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?)
When we reach the point in our friendship that tells us we are on the bridal path, or could be so, take these vows in your hands and read them slowly, imagining the situations that the vows are talking about, and say: ‘Would I be prepared to do that, all of it and always to the end of my life, wherever we might have to live and whether or not we are able to have children?’
These are not old-fashioned things, extravagantly worded vows that are not intended to be taken seriously. They are the real thing. It is what marriage should really seek to achieve. And they are vows for life.