Every Sunday night, a group of committed friends gather, as they do each week, to celebrate life, God, marriage, children, and friendship. We call this group “the village”–so named because of the deep sense of community and intimate friendships that make up this small hodgepodge of men, women, children, married folks, singles, new parents, not so new parents, and parents yet to be.
An ordinary couple started this gathering of friends and neighbors to put their marriage in service to others. And boy, have they become a support and a provider wisdom and richness into the lives of so many! They share their home every Sunday night, provide a home-cooked meal, and put up with all our chatter, bustle, and lengthy late-night discussions. Their home feels like an oasis and everyone who enters is affected by the loving, hospitable atmosphere.
Our hosts have loved each other since high school, married quite young, and have since made it their mission to use whatever resources they have right now to make marriages and families stronger. They could have easily used the excuse, “We’re too young and inexperienced to help other people” but instead, they decided to jump into the ring of vulnerability, using their own struggles and life lessons as a catalyst for change in the lives of their friends and neighbors.
Another couple in our circle will celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary with “the village” this Sunday. Their story should have ended in broken dreams and a broken family, but it didn’t. They decided to face their mistakes, bury pride, offer forgiveness, re-kindle their romance, and re-affirm the commitment they made to each other years ago. They too use their marriage to build inroads into the lives of their friends and their powerful, intentional transparency serves as a living example of perseverance for the sake of love, family and unity.
Being around all this amazing couples made me ask myself, what makes these couples different? Sure, they are committed to each other and to their friends, but does it go deeper than that? I found the answer to my question in a little book on marriage called Letters to Karen. I believe that these couples understand one thing and that one thing has made all the difference–they understand that they were not put here on earth nor put into each other’s arms to serve only themselves.
In Letters to Karen, the author goes on to warn couples about the dangers of keeping our love closed up in a box, wrapped up in our own affections and mutual desire for each other, we create an exclusiveness that has no time for anyone else. The author calls these “selfish houses” which eventually become “nursing homes for a mutual narcissism.”
When “the village” gets together, there is little room for surface-level friendship. We laugh and even cry together. We share our fears, celebrate our triumphs, and ask for help with our struggles—one gets a sense that this is how life ought to be.
It is only when we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others that our own intimate relationships succeed and thrive. Theses couples care deeply about each other, but extend that love outward in their words and actions. They truly believe in love, and know that the best kind of love isn’t kept hidden in a box. These amazing couples, with no extraordinary claims to wealth, talent, or popularity have made a lasting difference in the lives of their friends–to me, they have been a tremendous example of respect, forgiveness, and lasting commitment.