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Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

Six small-town secrets that lead to authentic relationships
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I'm a small town girl. I love connected communities where the beauticians know everyone's business, where men ride their lawn mowers in the 4th of July parade, and where the mayor is also the school bus driver. So I experienced a huge culture shock when I had my first baby, and ten days later moved to the big city for my husband's new job. Four months later, just as I was beginning to adjust, the company moved us to Switzerland. I know that many women would have grabbed their fondue pots and jumped on the plane with glee, but I was devastated. I'd moved my parents' first grandchild to the big city eight hours away—and now I was taking him to a foreign land across the ocean.

I didn't know it then, but those moves were only the beginning. After 25 years of belonging in my small, familiar hometown, I was embarking on a moving adventure that would include eight moves in nine years. In less than a decade, we lived in five states, seven cities, and one foreign country. I also gave birth to three boys in four years during that time. Through all those stressful transitions, I learned a lot about the importance of cultivating meaningful friendships.

As small towns are overtaken by suburban sprawl, we're losing our sense of connected community. Depressed and lonely people are everywhere—even in the church—and heartfelt friendships are becoming as scarce as hen's teeth. Many of us have an abundance of only shallow, "smile and wave" acquaintances. And we carry a void in our hearts that can only be filled by deep, authentic relationships with God and others.

In Matthew 22:36-40, someone asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus answered that the law and the prophets hang on two commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor. We all have a longing for belonging because God has wired us for relationship.

In the midst of all my family's moves, I discovered that small towns hold a secret or two about the power of living in connected community.

Small Town Secret #1: Minimize "Counterfeit Connections"

Small town people know that we were meant for more than just virtual friendships. Rural life is often a bit behind the big city when it comes to technology, but the people there don't mind because they know that electronic communication is a poor substitute for true face-to-face relationships. Although technology can make our lives more convenient, counterfeit connections are one-dimensional. We can have "friends" on Facebook, email pen pals, chat room buddies, and text messaging conversations—but none of it is real communication. The words are there, but the deeper meaning and intimacy are lost.

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Displaying 1–3 of 7 comments

Dayna

November 29, 2013  1:42am

I moved from a small town to San Diego, California. I really identify myself with the struggle of learning a new social culture; I never thought about how different friendships would be in a big city. Regarding being intentional, I feel like that is not reciprocated even when I am that way with others. I am the type of person to constantly host and invite, but I feel I am often the one forgotten in a group when I am not the host or initiator of the event.This always leads to me being offended when I am not invited somewhere, and this has only made me more guarded with my "friends." Have you dealt with this? My goal in friendship is to reach that "safe haven" level of trust and comfort, but I feel this sensitivity to exclusion can hinder that from even beginning to form. Do you think this is only related to developing a stronger, more confident self-identity in Christ so the offense is not taken so deeply?

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shravan kumar

June 12, 2013  1:59am

I am looking for friendship, women aged from 45 to 52 yrs . I like this commuity. should be beautifull and doing some jobs. No children, free from all responsibelties

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Andrea

October 24, 2010  5:31pm

I agree with Pat on being an outsider in the small community I now live in. Despite the fact that I now work in the local town pharmacy and liquor store, I do get to meet a lot of the townsfolk this way and many attend the local church I go to as well but I still am still at arms length with many of the women in my age group, and even at work. I think of it as an adjusting time for them as I know who I am, and they will eventually. Patience is not my best virtue but it is better given my circumstances and God is still working on me. Acceptance will come in its own time and maybe only with a few but it does feel weird.

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