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Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage [Paperback]

Lee Strobel , Leslie Strobel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2002
Noted Christian communicator Lee Strobel and his wife team together to write a book about how to live with your unchurched spouse while living out your faith authentically in front of him or her.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (1 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310220149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310220145
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Back Cover

Someone came between Lee and Leslie Strobel, threatening to shipwreck their marriage. No, it wasn’t an old flame. It was Jesus Christ.

Leslie’s decision to become a follower of Jesus brought heated opposition from her skeptical husband. They began to experience conflict over a variety of issues, from finances to child-rearing. But over time, Leslie learned how to survive a spiritual mismatch. Today they’re both Christians--and they want you to know that there is hope if you’re a Christian married to a nonbeliever. In their intensely personal and practical book, they reveal:

* Surprising insights into the thinking of non-Christian spouses
* A dozen steps toward making the most of your mismatched marriage
* Eight principles for reaching out to your partner with the gospel
* Advice for raising your children in a spiritually mismatched home
* How to pray for your spouse--plus a 30-day guide to get you started
* What to do if you’re both Christians but one lags behind spiritually
* Advice for single Christians to avoid the pain of a mismatch

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Entering into the Mismatch
THE WEATHER WAS CRISP AND CLEAR ON THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS 1966 when my friend Pete and I took the train from our suburban homes into downtown Chicago. We wandered around the Loop for a while, reveling in the bustle of the city, but then came time for me to bring him on a pilgrimage that I took as often as I could. Fighting the wind, we trudged across the Michigan Avenue bridge and stopped in front of the Wrigley Building. There we stood, our hands shoved into our pockets for warmth, as we gazed across the street at the gothic majesty of Tribune Tower. I can’t remember whether I muttered the word aloud or if it merely echoed in my mind: "Someday." Pete was quiet. High school freshmen are entitled to their dreams.
We lingered for a few minutes and watched as people flowed in and out of the newspaper office. Were they the reporters whose bylines I studied every morning? Or the editors who dispatched them around the world? Or the printers who manned the gargantuan presses? I let my imagination run wild—until Pete’s patience wore thin.
We turned and walked up the Magnificent Mile, browsing through the overpriced and pretentious shops, until we decided to embark on the twenty-minute walk back to the train station. As we passed in front of the Civic Opera House, though, I heard a familiar voice beckon from the crowd. "Hey, Lee, what’re you doing here?" called Clay, another high school student who lived in my neighborhood. I didn’t answer right away. I was too captivated by the girl at his side, holding his hand and wearing his gold engraved ID bracelet. Her brown hair cascaded to her shoulders; her smile was at once coy and confident. "Uh, well, um . . . just hanging around," I managed to say to Clay, though my eyes were riveted on his date. By the time he introduced us to Leslie, I wasn’t thinking much about Clay or Pete or the fact that my hands were getting numb from the cold and I was standing ankle-deep in soot-encrusted snow. I made sure, however, to pay close attention when Clay pronounced Leslie’s name; I knew I’d need the proper spelling to look it up in the phone book. After all, everything’s fair in love and war.
From Fairytale to Nightmare
As for Leslie, I found out later that she wasn’t thinking about Clay as the two of them rode the train home that afternoon. When she arrived at her house in suburban Palatine, she strolled into the kitchen and found her mother, a Scottish war bride, busily preparing dinner.
"Mom," she announced, "today I met the boy I’m going to marry!"
The response wasn’t what she expected. Her mother barely looked up from the pot she was stirring. In a voice mixed with condescension and skepticism, she replied dismissively: "That’s nice, dear."
But there was no doubt in Leslie’s mind. Nor in mine. When I called her the next night from a pay-phone outside a gas station near my house (with four brothers and sisters, that was the only way I could get some privacy), we talked as if we had known each other for years. People like to debate whether there’s such a thing as love at first sight; for us, the issue had been settled once and for all. Leslie and I dated almost continuously throughout high school, and when I went off to study journalism at the University of Missouri, she moved there so we could be close to each other. We got married when I was twenty and she was nineteen. After I graduated we moved to Chicago, where my lifelong dream of becoming a reporter at the Chicago Tribune was realized. Leslie, meanwhile, began her career at a savings and loan association across the street from my newspaper office.
We lived a fairy-tale life. We enjoyed the exhilaration and challenge of climbing the corporate ladder while residing in an exciting, upscale neighborhood. Leslie became pregnant with our first child, a girl we named Alison, and then later gave birth to a son, Kyle. Buoyed by our deep love for each other, our marriage was strong and secure—until someone came between us, threatening to shipwreck our relationship and land us in divorce court. It wasn’t an affair. It wasn’t the resurfacing of an old flame. Instead, the someone who nearly capsized our marriage was none other than God himself. At least, that’s who I blamed at the time. Ironically, it was faith in Jesus Christ—which most couples credit for contributing to the strength of their marriage—that very nearly destroyed our relationship and split us apart forever. All because of a spiritual mismatch.
A Marriage Without God
I can describe God’s role in our courtship and early marriage in one sentence: He just wasn’t on our radar screen. In other words, he was irrelevant.
Personally, I considered myself an atheist. I had rejected the idea of God after being taught in high school that Darwin’s theory pleasure. As for Christians, I tended to dismiss them as naive and uncritical thinkers who needed a crutch of an imaginary deity to get them through life.
Leslie, on the other hand, would probably have considered herself an agnostic. While I tended to react with antagonism toward people of faith, she was more in spiritual neutral. She had little church influence growing up, although she has fond child-hood memories of her mother gently singing traditional hymns to her while she tucked her in at night. For Leslie, God was merely an abstract idea that she had never taken the time to explore.
Without God in my life, I lacked a moral compass. My character slowly became corroded by my success-at-any-cost mentality. My anger would flash because of my free-floating frustration at not being able to find the fulfillment I craved. My drinking binges got out of control a little too often, and I worked much too hard at my job, in effect making my career into my god.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars really helpful 6 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
i found this book really helpful , i`m going to pass it on to my friend as i`m sure it will help her too.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage 26 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good, provides hope for those of us living with a spiritual mismatch and is also an interesting all round read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
106 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much-needed help for "unequally yoked" couples! 31 Mar 2002
By A Customer - Published on
I've been looking for a book like this for years! As a Christian married to a spiritual skeptic, I've wrestled with all sorts of emotions, pain, and difficulties. Finally, a couple who has actually lived in an "unequally yoked" marriage has written a biblical, practical guidebook for how to deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise in such relationships. This book has it all -- how to get through the arguments and disagreements; how to raise children in a spiritually confusing environment; how to talk to your spouse about God; how to pray for your partner (the book includes a 30-day prayer guide); and so on. It also features chapters on whether Christians should even date non-Christians; what to do if you and your spouse are both Christians but one is less spiritually mature than the other; and how to handle the situation if your spouse is a member of another religion.
I thought the advice was sensitively presented, biblically sound, and resoundingly practical. The authors, Lee and Leslie Stroebel, draw on their own experience of having been married during a time when Leslie was a Christian and Lee was an atheist. While my spouse isn't an atheist, the counsel they offer was totally relevant and useful.
Let me add one other thing. I've been trying at my church to start a group of people who are married to non-Christians, but I've been stymied as far as what resource to use as a curriculum. This book includes a wonderful "application guide" that's a roadmap for a group like this. Now those of us who find ourselves "unequally yoked" can get together and encourage each other while learning together how to survive our mismatched situations.
If you're a Christian but your husband or wife isn't, you MUST have this book. If you know someone who's in that situation, please let them know that this resource can help them in a hundred different ways. And if you're the leader of a church, either a senior pastor or women's ministry director, check out this book and consider starting groups to minister to the Christians in your congregation who are wrestling with the difficulties presented by a spiritual mismatch.
66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mismatch can wreck havock 12 Dec 2003
By Mistrmind - Published on
I'm in my own spiritual mismatch in my marriage.
My wife is Jewish and I'm Christian. My beliefs weren't an issue
with our marriage until I re-affirmed my beliefs in Christ a few years ago.
If I mention so much as a desire to go back to church, my wife hems and haws and threatens divorce. I've never pushed my beliefs on my wife, and likewise she with me, but I was concerned about the backlash she unleashes when the subject of God comes up in our household.
I heard Lee and Leslie talking on a radio program about their book and figure I give it a shot.
On the upside much of what Lee and Leslie went through I could identify with, since they themselves went through the same thing. In their case, Leslie is Christian and Lee was Atheist. Many of the fights and situations they described I've gone through to some degree with my wife. The solutions to those problems are of course outstanding, but the Strobels give some tools to the reader in dealing with you and your spouses differing perspectives.
I've used those tools, and they've helped somewhat. Not a total solution, but very helpful in keeping a hot subject from escalating into disaster.
However I felt a bit letdown in the tone of their book since the Strobels have the notion that men, not women, in a majority are seperate from Christ. Thus the reader is addressed that "your husband this..." and "your husband that..."
Well, my problem isn't with "a husband" but with "my wife".
This tone sort of made me felt left out when reading the book. The Strobels acknowledge this oversight, but wouldn't it be better to just address the oversight by being non-gender specific?
Also I had a problem with lack of scripture reference. As I mentioned, the Strobels offer many tools in dealing with spiritual conflict with your partner. The problem is they say God wants you to do this, or something else to please your partner but doesn't give a specific scripture reference which I can follow. The bibliography in the back of the book just references other books, which in turn doesn't do much in satisfying my hopes that I'm acting in a Christian way.
Another problem I had was there were a few sections in the book that addressed Christain people that were seeking relationships with non-Christians. Why mention this at all, since you're buying this book to solve a crisis after the fact?
Its like saying, "Hey dummy, if listened to God to begin with you wouldn't be in this mess."
These chapters have no business being in the book, since the basis of the book is mismatched married couples, not a Christian's guide to dating non-Christians.
Another problem I had was Lee's salvation. I'm very happy for Lee that he let Christ into his life, but the fact of the matter is not every mismatched couple has a resolution like this. The Strobels mention some cases where the non-Christian partner does become saved, but how can you expect to setup your reader for this outcome. Its almost a bit pretencious. I would have liked to have read more about situations that are more closer to home like how does one partner deal with the other partner never coming to Christ? How do you survive that?
The prayer guide in the back of the book is helpful in seeking God's help in these matters of peaceful coexistance of two people who love each other and have different views of life and eternity.
This book is very helpful and I encourage anyone who is going through a mismatch to read it. Great tools in dealing with a big problem.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have if Married to a Non-Christian 19 May 2005
By Brian Albert - Published on
Leslie and Lee do an outstanding job of comforting, encouraging, motivating, and giving sound Biblical advice to those in an "unequally yoked" marriage. Chapter after chapter gives essential advice and encouragement from a couple who have gone through it themselves and have come out of the experience all the stronger for it. The one piece of advice that helped me more than anything was to give up my guilt and responsibility for my part in my wife's unbelief. Her salvation is between God and her, they say, so love her unconditionally and stop feeling responsible. Chapter after chapter contains great advice for changing your own attitudes, developing an attractive faith, standing firm when necessary, avoiding arguments when unnecessary, providing spiritual input for your children, etc, etc. The Christian spouse is constantly motivated to give up his/her gloominess and thrive in the situation, with God's help living out an authentic faith and a sacrificial love that very well could win over the unbelieving spouse. You would do well to read this book slowly and prayerfully, then make a list of all the suggestions you can try in your marriage.

Of course, none of these things are the solution to the problem. After all, only God can bring someone to faith in Christ and create peace in a home. And as Lee and Leslie state many times, there is no guarantee that it will happen. My wife still doesn't have an active faith, but is now much less resistant to mine ever since I started serious prayer for her and have put some of these suggestions into effect.

Some minor quibbles: 1) Prayer should be emphasized more. There is a chapter on it, but considering how essential it is, there probably should have been more. 2) Although the book is written for both men and women and often uses the term "spouse", everywhere else (including the picture on the front and back covers and every page in between) it assumes that the husband is the unbeliever. I suppose that now I know how women feel when a book constantly says he instead of he/she. 3) Relevant verses that are directed to husbands (Eph 5:25, Col 3:19, etc) aren't discussed, whereas verses directed at women are. Don't let this stop you from getting this book - you'll need it.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for the spiritually single wife 24 Mar 2007
By M. Sheldon - Published on
I picked up Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage, at the local Christian bookstore. I figured with Lee Strobel writing it, it would have to be well written with lots of information. Leslie, Lee's wife was a Christian for a couple of years before Lee. This book is written from that perspective. Lee tells all about how he felt when Leslie was trying to get him into church.

This book gives me hope. It is honest and upfront. It tells you that not all spiritual mismatches last only 2 years. Some spouses have been spiritually mismatched for 25+ years. Some have sadly seen the unsaved spouse pass before accepting Christ. However, this book gives advice on how to handle the many differences in ways that should not add more stress to an already stressful situation.

While most of the book is about being married to an unbeliever, there is a section for Christian couples who are out of sync. One spouse is more spiritually mature than the other, and the one that is not as mature seems to be not growing at all. They give many helpful tips on how to deal with this situation, as well.

I highlight in books. I mark things so I can find them easier. I have to tell you, a big part of this book is highlighted. It is wonderful. I have gotten so much out of this book, that I will be able to in turn help others through these situations. I would recommend this book for anyone in a spiritual mismatch or out of sync, spiritually, with their spouse.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They wrote part of this book from my living room!!!!! 6 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on
The first several chapters must have been written from my living room! Leslie's account of the emotions and struggles of a new Christian married to a non-christian, and Lee's own accounts of his confusion and struggles has helped me understand what is going on in my own situation.
I would recommend this book for either person in a spiritually mismatched relationship. This is also a good book for anyone who knows such a couple or is involved in ministry.
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