Part 2 of the five-part series, “Embracing Your Imperfect Marriage”
Isn’t it incredible how quickly children become friends? Authentic friendships can begin at a very young age. The simple gesture of sharing a snack, or talking about a favorite video game is all it takes for two little strangers to become best buds. As parents to 3 young children, my husband (Jonathan) and I have seen this happen time and time again; it is simultaneously joy-inducing and awe-inspiring.
Authentic Friendships are Precious
There are few things in life as precious as an authentic friend. I’m not talking about an acquaintance, work mate, or even a friend that you’ve “known” for a long time (although these relationships have value). I’m talking about someone who knows and loves the real you.
Jonathan and I are blessed to have such people in our lives (for this article I’m going to focus on friendships with other couples). An unexpected result of these friendships is how they have made us better spouses to each other, not because of competition or emulation, but because of discovery. Being in mutually-authentic friendships supports transparency. The healthy doses of reality that are regularly distributed (and received) through deep conversation obliterate the unattainable goal of a perfect marriage. Whoever thought that something so destructive could be such a gift? Yes, because of authentic friendships my husband and I now embrace our imperfect marriage. We love our marriage (and each other) more than ever!
In authentic friendships, there is a level of respect and confidentiality that under-gird conversations. You can be vulnerable. You can be specific. You can cry and laugh. All of a sudden the burdens you’re carrying don’t feel so heavy. Those everyday spousal irritations are just, well… normal.
They are going through stuff in their marriage, too.
They aren’t giving up either.
It’s worth it for them, too.
So what are some obstacles that we adults face in finding and keeping real friends?
Maybe for you it’s not been a priority because you know the amount of time, energy and consistency required. You will have to make sacrifices. It will be awkward at times. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by a good friend and the wound is too fresh. Don’t rush into friendship-building. Slow and steady wins the race.
Finding Authentic Friendships In Rural Ministry
For those living in rural areas, finding a best friend can be logistically challenging; there are only so many actual people nearby! For others, traveling to spend time with an already-established best friend is not always convenient or budget-friendly. Maybe you have young children, no relatives nearby, a limited babysitter pool, and an even smaller budget for child care. Those are all legitimate hurdles. When traveling isn’t feasible, take advantage of technology and utilize phone conversations, texting, or video calls. Write letters if you want! Just don’t stop communicating.
Being a ministry couple in rural/small communities can mean an added layer of anxiety when trying to establish and maintain authentic friendships. In tight-nit areas, everyone “knows” everyone and sometimes confidentiality goes out the window. Gossip can ruin reputations and relationships. Who can I trust with my real feelings and struggles? What if I am judged or abandoned?
If having a best friend is your heart’s desire, specifically ask God for that blessing. But don’t sit in your chair and just pray. Seek out friendships intentionally. Be open to the possibility that the other party may not reciprocate. But, if there is mutual interest, be ready to invest. Say “yes” to invitations to get together*, and follow-through when it’s time to leave the house (no bailing!). Ask real questions. Truly listen. Don’t immediately “one up” your new friend with your own harrowing or humorous story (no one likes that, trust me). Be honest. Pray for each other. Be patient, and in time trust will build and your friendship will blossom.
One of the highest values in the emerging post-modern culture is authenticity. People yearn to connect with things and people that are real. We’re all done with being phony. It’s exhausting and damaging. So let’s get to work and invest in authentic friendships. The walls won’t come down unless we do some demolition. It’s going to take more than sharing a snack or talking about a video game, but that’s an okay place to start. Just ask some kids.
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
–Lucius Annaeus Seneca
*always consider health and safety wisdom/guidelines
Embracing Your Imperfect Marriage Series
This post is the second in a five part series. Read previous related posts here…