Thursday, July 19, 2018

Christian romance and the friendship factor

A few years ago my husband and I attended a marriage class at our church. (Yes, even after more than 46 years together, we’re still learning!) The basis for the class was Timothy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. And while I gave a lot of thought to applying the lessons to my own marriage, my writer’s brain was also filing everything away for use with my fictional characters and their relationships. 

Photo by Crew on Unsplash
According to Keller, friendship—our spouse as our very best friend—is crucial to a solid marriage relationship. This concept reminded me of one of the primary differences between Christian romance novels and many secular romances. In secular romances, the initial encounter between the hero and heroine tends to focus heavily on the characters’ physical attributes—the heroine’s curvy figure, limpid eyes, and lustrous long hair; the hero’s trim waist, muscled biceps, and broad shoulders. And where does all this physical attraction lead? Often it’s straight to the bedroom, short-circuiting the “getting to know you” phase during which a meaningful friendship should be developing.

In romantic Christian fiction the characters may still admire each other’s more appealing external attributes—they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t! But even more important are those little glimpses into not only who these characters are at the outset, but who they have the potential of becoming. With each other’s help and encouragement, they can toss their self-protective masks aside and begin to see themselves through God’s eyes. They are set free to grow into the people they were created to be, not only as individuals but within the couple relationship.

Photo by Denisse Leon on Unsplash
True friendship begins when someone who cares about us sees not only our flaws and faults but our best selves—when they’re not only willing but committed to sticking it out with us even when that “best self” retreats. To quote Timothy Keller, “What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.” That, to me, is the best kind of happily-ever-after!

Let’s talk. Think about your own real-life romance or a romantic novel you’ve recently read. What part did genuine friendship play as romance blossomed? Do you agree with Keller’s ideas about the purpose of marriage?


Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. She’s currently at work on a new Love Inspired mini-series, Hill Country Haven, with recurring characters from Her Hill Country Cowboy and Hill Country Reunion. Myra is a three-time Maggie Awards finalist, two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, winner of Christian Retailing’s Best for historical fiction, and winner in the Inspirational category of the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards. Originally from Texas but now residing in the beautiful Carolinas, Myra and her husband love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered rescue dogs who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.” They’ve also inherited the cute little cat (complete with attitude) their daughter and family had to leave behind when they recently moved overseas.


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11 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Myra, thanks for the a great post!

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  3. Cody and I were definitely bestfriends. I think that is one of the hardest parts about losing a spouse. You lose your best friend. Because of ministry we spent a good portion of our time together. We worked together and when we didn't he came home for lunch every day.

    Thank you for such a great post.

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    1. That's a very special relationship, Christina! I'm blessed to be married to my best friend, too. Yes, we have our moments, but we always know we can count on each other.

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  4. I didn't want to be a downer, so I didn't post earlier, but I have to agree with Christina. My husband passed away just under two months, and losing my best friend is the hardest part.

    One of my favorite types of romance to read and write is childhood best friends who grow into love. There's just that added layer of sweetness.

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    1. Cate, I've thought about you so often since learning of your husband's death. Can't even imagine the pain of your loss! Sending prayers and hugs!

      I agree, stories of childhood friendships that blossom into romance are sweet indeed. I think the shared history gives the couple an even deeper bond.

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  5. My husband and I have been together for 35 years. He is my best friend and I can't imagine life without him. My heart goes out to those who have lost their spouses. I love stories of childhood friendships turning to love as well. The past just makes the bond that much stronger.

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    1. Hi, Mary! Love built upon friendship does make all the difference. Makes me sad for couples I've known who didn't appear to be each other's best friend. Too many of those marriages don't last.

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  6. I'm on year 16, and right now I'm at conference, and having trouble sleeping all by myself LOL. Definitely, I married my best friend.

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    1. I totally get it, Pamela. I'm the same way! Hope you're having a wonderful time at the conference and enjoying time with all our writer friends there!

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