I have gone through many seasons in my life- seasons where I had a very active social life, where I would hang out with many people, usually in large group settings, and then seasons where I stepped away from that and tended to be more of a "homebody." Sadly, for me, this was often directly correlated to the person whom I was dating. If they were social, I was social. if they were not, I stayed home all weekend long in my pj pants watching reruns of Friends. I always insisted I was happy as a clam either way, and at the time I was, but looking back I have no idea how I lived so far from any kind of community. Often, after those relationships ended I would be left with feelings of regret for not engaging fully in friendships, but was always so thankful when the few that stood the test of time were still there when I turned back towards them. That being said, I realize I took these friendships for granted, and would not choose to that again. I certainly learned my lesson!
Ok, back on track.
Living in community doesn't necessarily mean that each person you are friends with all socialize together, or for that matter, even know each other. I am in community with multiple people who have never met each other. What it does mean, is that you are fully engaged in each others lives. Having close friends is not only a blessing, but also so incredibly important, because it is with these people that we can be ourselves. We can be real. It is only with close friends that I feel comfortable talking about the intimate details of my life because I feel safe with them. I know they don't judge me for my day to day decisions. I know they support me fully with each step I take.
That being said, the most important aspect of truly living in community is that you have people to call you out when you're wrong. And friends... I am often wrong. I don't just want a pack of yes-men (or yes-women..?) that simply agree with me when I complain or fail to point out when I am being selfish.
I think it's possible that in past writings I have perhaps come across as someone who refuses to complain or "vent" about my husband. This is only partially true, and I think I have perhaps made a mistake in how I have previously spoke about this. I never want to sit down with a woman who feels nervous to share her struggles with me because she thinks I will disapprove because she isn't sitting there praising her husband.
I stand behind my statement of how I refuse to speak disrespectfully or dishonorably about my husband. However, that doesn't mean that I don't have moments where I question his choices. As with any marriage, there are many things he does that gets on my nerves or annoys me. "Venting" about these things, to me, seems pointless. The Bible says to do all things without grumbling or disputing. However, in the context of a close friendship, I absolutely do discuss these things with women that share the same marital values that I do. The important thing to note, is that I truly believe that every word that passes my lips would be words, that if heard by Chris, would not be dishonoring, disrespectful or surprising to him in any way. I do my best to speak as though I would if he were right behind me, listening. I love nothing more than to sit down with one of my best friends and share stories of struggles we have with our husbands. I believe this does a number of fruit bearing, wonderful things.
First of all, it removes the stigma of "I'm the only one that struggles with this" which is something that can so easily keep us in the bondage of silently suffering through hardships- this can be dangerous also, because we can fall into the trap of believing that we can "do it on our own" and choose to find strength within us- completely discounting who our strength truly comes from. Second, it allows us to see a different perspective, because remember - I am not talking to someone who will simply tell me that I'm right and he's wrong- I am blessed to have friends that will speak up and let me know when I am wrong or overreacting. Also, I am not just talking to point out his downfalls. I am seeking ways to better deal with, or approach issues in our marriage. And lastly (although I am sure there are many other good reasons!) it builds the friendship up, because it is in revealing the hidden places of our hearts that we don't let just anyone see, that we can truly be known.
I believe with all my heart that living in community makes my marriage better and makes me a healthier and happier person. Also, it's validating for your relationship. Have you ever had that friend that you think is in a horrible relationship, but you're not close enough with them to perhaps point out a few of the faults? I know I sure have! A friend once told me that being in a relationship without exposing it to community is like singing in the shower and thinking that you could be the next (insert current pop star's name) You might think you're awesome... but it may be far from it.
Now what if you don't have close friends that you confide in? Can there be a substitute to these rich, life giving friendships? Watch for Part 2 of this post where I will seek to find the differences between Community in a physical sense, and Online Community.
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