The Allure of Mr. Wrong

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March 21, 2001

It's ironic that I met Jake at a church, considering my main reservation about him is his lack of Christian faith and values. But that's where it all started in a church sanctuary at a friend's wedding. During the service I took passing note of this guy a single friend of some good friends of mine and his clean-cut good looks. And I was pleased when he sat down next to me at the reception.

Sitting there in the church basement with friends old and new, I enjoyed chatting with this funny, talkative, well-dressed guy. In that context, his occasional swearing and wild nights on the town with "the boys" didn't come up. He was just charming even the parent-types at the table seemed to think he was great. So when he asked if he could call me the next time he was in town (he lives a couple hours away but has family in the area), I gave him my number.

The next time I saw him was at our mutual friends' house. Over dinner, the guys swapped stories of their glory days drinking, chasing women, nearly getting in trouble with the law. I knew they were exaggerating a bit to impress and/or shock us girls, but I still should have been dissuaded. But for some inexplicable reason (other than that whole good-girl/bad-boy attraction), I was still a bit intrigued. The clincher was several days later when Jake called and asked me to meet him for coffee. It was a last-minute thing and I almost didn't go. But I'm a sucker for a good mug of joe and was touched by this thoughtful invite considering he doesn't even drink coffee (and knows I love it). So I went and one-on-one I discovered Jake is very intelligent, devoted to his family, and easy to talk to. But not a Christian.

I know what you're thinking: Stop, drop, and roll on out of there because you're playing with fire. Believe me, I know. I've said the same things to friends over the years, wondering how they could even consider such a clear no-no as in what part of "do not be yoked with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14) don't you understand? I don't want to marry Jake, just hang out with him on occasion but I've also heard that in the past from friends who are now hitched to these "just friends." And I've seen the devastating effects of these mis-matched marriages, where the Christian ends up leaving the church or his or her faith altogether or suffering through the misery of being "spiritually single."

I think it's because I know all this that I was broadsided by this temptation. Though, when I look back at a couple of the factors that led me here, I think that maybe I should have seen this one coming. I mean, I know God wired us to need deep relationships and am well aware that I haven't yet found that one key deep relationship in my life. Years on end of that need being unfulfilled can definitely lead to some susceptibility.

And I realize part of the allure is Jake's interest in me. In our occasional e-mails he's even come out and admitted his attraction a stark contrast to the Christian guys I've interacted with lately, who seem to flirt but not follow through or to have kissed dating goodbye. I don't mean to male-bash or justify anything, but in my conversations with single girlfriends lately, I've discovered a trend of Christian men being more and more passive in their approach to women and relationships (definitely not all their fault). That leaves us women still wired to want to be pursued, yet seemingly only being pursued by non-Christian men (if by anyone at all!). I'm beginning to realize what a dangerous situtation this is, leaving us wide open to temptation and loneliness-induced bad decisions.

And then there are the grey areas that have appeared in what I previously thought was a very black-and-white situation. For example, what message would I be communicating to Jake and our mutual on-the-fence Christian friends by "running like you-know-what" in the opposite direction, as my friend Max advised me to do, because of our faith differences? Is it okay to just have coffee with Jake every now and then if I don't plan on marrying him? Is his sudden appearance the answer to my prayers for more non-Christian friends with whom I can share my faith? And why are my only options right now a non-Christian or no one at all? These are all tough questions that sometimes seem so big and out-of-proportion to Jake's simple invitations to dinner.

I'm not trying to justify anything. Really. I know most of the answers. I know I need to draw some lines it's just that I'm not always sure where to draw them. Though I graciously turned down Jake's invitation to join him and his friends and family for a skiing weekend in Minnesota, I'm not sure what I'll do with his next invite to coffee. Though I've started pointing out our differing faith and values, I know I need to be more forthcoming about the why behind my conservative views. In my confusion about where exactly to draw these lines, I've asked a couple trusted Christian friends to keep me accountable. I've prayed for guidance and protection and have seen God answer in amazing ways. Jake and I have tried to get together when he's been in town, and on four different occasions something (or Someone) has come up at the last minute.

I know part of Jake's attraction to me is actually an attraction to Christ in me. And I don't want to interfere with that by obscuring Christ's presence with mine or rudely running away. Somewhere in between these extremes is a God-honoring way to relate to this friend who needs to know my Best Friend. And I'm desperately trying not to let hormones, human efforts, or legalistic practices get in the way.

So, here's yet another case for creating such a great single life that nothing but God's best can pry you away from it. And for investing daily in the only deep relationship that truly satisfies, that guides all the others, and that comes free of strings or grey areas. When it comes down to it, we both need God in this situation. That's the most important common ground Jake and I share a truth I'm trying to keep prominent to us both.

Camerin Courtney

2001 - 2003 Christianity Today. Used by permission.