Community of Incense and Perfume

by Catherine McNiel on July 09, 2020

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

—Proverbs 27:9

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

—Proverbs 18:24

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

—Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)

I once met a married couple who refused to follow the American lone-ranger lifestyle. Taking extremely counter-cultural measures, they invited trusted friends and family to step in and give counsel to nearly area of their life and marriage. They committed to sharing details of their conflicts with trusted advisors and had a committee of friends with whom they discerned major decisions. They made their monthly and annual budget a shared document and requested feedback, providing full transparency about their values and stewardship as Christians.

These are uncomfortable steps for most of us Americans. We’re socialized to believe that individual privacy and autonomy are paramount virtues. But the fact of the matter is, life is too hard and complicated to get by on our own—and so is marriage. We need friends, advisors, and counselors to come around us and help us see our own blind spots; we need the opportunity to do this for others as well.

Here’s some good news for married and single folks: a person’s happiness and life satisfaction are more closely tied to the strength of their community friendships than their marital status. Both single and married people of all ages got along best with a strong community network. (According to a Michigan State University study of 270,000 people in 100 countries).

But unfortunately, this isn’t the message we hear most often. Entering marriage generally means letting go of friends, we assume. We’ve found “our person” and stop investing and inviting elsewhere.

Believe it or not, your spouse is not going to meet all of your needs—no matter what romantic comedies have led you to believe. No one person is equipped to do that, nor is any person equipped to shoulder that level of burden.

The wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that without friends, we will come to ruin. Without a multitude of trustworthy voices advising us, we­—and our marriage—will fall.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Questions for reflection and discussion: Who are the trustworthy counselors and friends who speak into your life? If you are married, how has that impacted your marriage?

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