“You are who you hang with,” said my Dad after drilling my brother and me for about 30 minutes with regard to smoking marijuana. A number of our friends had been caught smoking weed and word had spread that my brother had also participated in these extracurricular activities. While Dad believed us and had our backs he also had our future. My Dad in his wisdom laid out some strong encouragement about the importance of community in your life. Good community. What I learnt from one late night grilling would not only shape my immediate life but also my future marriage.
The Power of Community
While my brother and I were not smoking with our friends my father could see that our friendships were shaping us, and not in a good way. Dad didn’t discipline us for something we didn’t do. But he did warn us to be wise in who we decided to build friendships with. Communities shape us. The family, the society and culture we grow up in shapes us immensely. It is supposed to. We are relational beings that are shaped by those relationships, for good or for worse. We become who we hang around. The same is true for your marriage. While marriage is great, it’s not easy. It takes work. Yet that work is made easier when you share life with others that shape who you are as a person and your marriage for good. If you are going to have a great marriage it is imperative you have a great community.
Community is stronger than the individual. Don’t fight the crowd, pick the right crowd.
2.The Purpose of Community
Friends are supposed to add value to your life. Do you have friends like this? People that encourage you, believe in you, speak into your life and when times get tough they help you? You need a community that grows who you are simply by being in relationship to them. Over the past few years, I’ve had numerous friends support and help me, my marriage and my family. I am indebted to friends that have stood by us and encouraged us through the hard times. The community around us has literally helped bear burdens that were at times too difficult to lift on our own.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:1-2
You need people in your life that are willing to tell you what you need to hear not just what you want to hear. Friends that won’t let you whinge and complain during tough times. Friends that will call you out when you’re lying to yourself. Friends that will encourage you to not quit on your marriage when times get tough. Rather they lift you up, strengthen you and then send you back to your spouse infused with new life. True friends speak the truth, but they do it in love.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6
3.The Presence of Community
Because community has so much power you have to intentionally build the right community into your life. This can be friends. This can be extended family. This can be a church. But you are responsible to invest in those relationships in order for them to be present. I have seen multiple families move interstate due to a job relocation or career opportunity. The difference between one family and another settling and succeeding in their new environment is often down to how quickly they are able to build a new community around them.
As a married couple, you have to determine together who your community will be. What people will you hang around and build into your life that will influence your marriage for good? I encourage you to consider mingling with people that are further along the road than you. Whether that’s in age, maturity, experience, or simply a quality of life. Find people that are where you want to be in your near future and invest in those relationships. Ask older married couples if you can eat regularly with their family. And offer to bring dinner. Ask married couples that you look up to if you can take them out for dinner. Do whatever you can to get in and around the good soil. And let whatever it is they have, rub off on your marriage. Don’t wait for someone to offer to speak into your life and marriage, go get it. It’s out there.
4.The Pleasure of Community
Invest in relationships that you enjoy. Due to the power of community, it is important to build with people that you actually like. The simple reality is that if you don’t like the people you hang with you won’t learn from them and you’ll probably isolate yourself eventually from them. God has designed life in such a way that we would experience the joy of true friendship and community. Therefore as individuals, you need friends you enjoy. That one friend that you can go to the movies with or out for a coffee and just feel refreshed and uplifted. You need people that just fill your emotional tank up. You want that friend that your spouse enjoys you going out with because they see the positive impact they have on you. You also want friends you enjoy as a couple. A small community you both enjoy being around. People that make you laugh, don’t take life to serious and genuinely lift your spirits.
My wife and I have some friends that we see once or twice a year. Every time we catch up as families we are uplifted by the simplicity of the friendship and the genuine joy of just being together as friends. We live in different parts of our city. Have kids in different life stages. Attend different churches. Yet when my wife and I get together with them for a meal and a few drinks our souls experience life-giving friendship. You just can’t beat having this in your life. Don’t let life get too busy that you can’t make time for community. It is essential to the health of your marriage.
God’s desire is for you to enjoy your marriage not endure it. He wants your marriage to excel. It is designed for his glory and your joy. While it may take work, it can be joyful work and fruitful work. One of the great keys to a joyful marriage is having a joyful community. People you love and enjoy that edify both you and your spouse. Find this community. Do all you can to plug into it and benefit from it. It’ll do your marriage the world of good.