I was really surprised by all the feedback I got on my last post. It was actually such a surprise that it took me this long to be willing to write a follow-up post. When I was writing about lgbtq ordination, I stopped writing because I concluded that those who were open to what I was saying could find the same information elsewhere and those who were not didn't need more of an excuse to "x" me out of their lives; but in this case my writing was shut down because I was honestly surprised by the huge emotion in responses to the post from women friends and also by the many men friends who were moved to try to pick up a friendship again.
I don't have a lot to say here, I guess . . . really just one main point: The kind of friendship I was talking about is the main kind I value, which is NOT "let's go to coffee and chat for hours" nor "let's go hiking or work out together" nor "let's go to a movie" nor "let's chat online about our lives". The kind of friendship I was talking about is what I consider "real" friendship: two or more people who are working toward a goal which they mutually consider worth working toward, and in which they mutually have resources and time invested.
So I was surprised by the idea that my "cross-gender friendship" post would be taken by my women friends as if I wanted to do dating activities alone with men who are not my husband, and was surprised by the idea that my "cross-gender friendship" post would be taken by male friends as an invitation to spend time talking one-on-one in FaceBook chat or on the phone or in person. I have more people in my life to chat with than I can keep up with, honestly . . . and I'm a relatively introverted kind of person. (That doesn't mean that I don't miss lunches with Trevecca Okholm and Alix Riley and Leah Stout and Lydia Sarandan and Barb Church and Heather Best and other women friends, and wouldn't try to make time for those again if I were invited by them or by other dear friends like Elizabeth Steele and Anita Coleman . . . but it does mean that I do not have a felt need for THAT kind of intimacy. I have a husband and two kids at home still, and am still closely connected to my mom and dad, and my sister and brother and their families, and my two adult sons and their wives . . . and have many many cousins and uncles and aunts . . . who fill me up to overflowing as far as my need for human intimacy, and for whom I never have the time that I wish I had.)
(Social media is a wonderful way to keep up with the lives and activities of all the circles of people I know from so many times of my life, and I truly DO love seeing the pictures and hearing the views of all those individuals, for whom I genuinely DO feel affection and love. In a life where I never get everything done, it allows me to remain connected despite my limited time and attention, and I am very grateful for that! I feel that way toward childhood friends, college friends, friends from each job I've had, friends from each church I've been at, and many current friends who I do see in person but not for long enough to really know the details of their lives these days. It is a blessing to live today!)
But the kind of friendship that I was arguing FOR in my post about cross-gender friendship is the kind of friendship that my small group of world-christian-fellowship friends had at Wheaton as we met at lunch to pray. It is a friendship based in DOING TOGETHER the things to which WE ARE CALLED, and it has nothing to do with gender or sexuality except to the extent it has to do with recognizing each other as the particular people God has created each person to be and to rejoice in those characteristics as we rejoice in our varied talents and perspectives.
So I want to be "one of the guys" not in that I deny anything about our differences, but in that I have no barriers to full inclusion in the roles in which I am gifted to help the group move forward toward our mutual goals. This is something I want to see for each one of us . . . that each of us can become passionate about our individual and mutual callings and that gender roles and sexuality are not barriers or even speed bumps as we push forward steadily under the leadership of God.
If in Christ there is no Jew or gentile, no male or female, no slave or freeman . . . If in Christ we are called to "consider it all rubbish" in light of the high call of Christ . . . If in Christ we are to, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, that I might by all means save some . . .
then for God's sake let's recognize all our rules about friendship between genders as NOT in the interest of actual purity, because purity in our new lives is not about keeping safe from sin (sin is already dealt with!) but about actually LIVING the lives for which we were saved from sin.
(I'm NOT arguing for "freedom" to live lives of sexual sin or screwed up marriages or time wasted on emotional entanglements that also do not accomplish FULL LIFE in Christ.
I am arguing for real freedom, to live passionately with that passion mutually focused on the values and priorities of the kingdom, and everything else (including our rules about cross-gender friendships) put in submission to that pursuit of all that will actually satisfy.
And all I can conclude from the many responses I got to that post is that most people never have even conceived of that kind of freedom, or of that kind of satisfaction. All I can conclude is that most of those who reacted are hungry for intimacy and so assume that my plea was to allow me to satisfy those hungers of my own in ways that would invade the real needs of others.)
May the Church be a place where we experience actual friendship, where we value what actually satisfies, and where we pursue that together in ways that allow for the full utilization of the talents and passions of every individual regardless of gender or other defining attributes.
If that is beyond us now, may it not be beyond the church of my grandchildren's generation.