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Biblical truths about marriage that we all need to hear, but from a somewhat masculine viewpoint
on 29 June 2017
I am aware that I am going against the grain to score the book of three stars. The general line of points is very valid and insightful for Christian couples to have an understanding of. However the excessive repetition makes it very difficult to endure the book to the end and to keep the concentration going with the book. The repetition also affects the organisation or the structure of book as it gives the reader a feeling of coming back to the same point again and again without making progression forward in the development of the points or the view. The structure, if it has one, does not fall into place naturally in reader's mind as we read on.
In my judgement if the content of the book can be condensed from currently 288 pages to around 188 pages or less, it will be a huge improvement on the presentation of the book. Let me reiterate that the perspective that the book is presenting is very valid for Christian couples of all ages. The reality check is very close to home, and I can testify that I recognise all the scenarios discussed in my own marriage. It is unfortunate that the message is swamped and obscured by repetitions. I set off reading this book, thinking that I would pass it on to my husband to read afterwards, and to my daughter to prepare her for courtship and marriage. After reading the book, I feel they may not be able to endure through the book (they are not keen readers). Rather it may be more time-economical for me to summarise the message of the book to them instead.
In terms of the specific points, I agree with the main thread of what is presented. The reality of marriage as presented in this book smashes the image of happily ever after. The book is absolutely right in that we cannot expect marriage to be a smooth extension of our courtship. Instead of expecting happily ever after, we should expect crisis points when we are brought to the end of our resolves and strength to keep it going. I agree with the author that many of us do not know what love is when we enter marriage. At the start of a relationship, it is driven by self-love rather than love. It is true that nowhere in our life that we can be tested more than in a marriage to see how self-centred we are, and how God then uses our marriage to mould us into more Christ-likeness according to His plan and will. Reading this book will help us all to appreciate the tenderness of God's intention in our bad times, and how marriage is a fertile ground for spiritual growth. This whole perspective is what a Christian couple should hear and grasp, as marriage has a completely different meaning from God's perspective from our common perspective - our life is for worship. I would go further from the inference of the diagnosis in this book to say that this is why a lot of financial independent women nowadays choose not to marry as from self-love point of view, marriage makes no sense at all, especially for women. We see that happen in Hong Kong and in Japan, for example.
I do feel strongly, however, that the author omits one crucial point in his discussion - God's timing and sovereignty. Although we are moving towards being one unit as a couple, to start we are still two individuals, who therefore have different spiritual journeys according to God's design. Our spiritual growth may not necessarily be in synch with one another at all times. In fact the individuals in a marriage can go quite out of steps with each other in spiritual growth. Philippians 2:12-13 says that we are to "work out [our] own salvation who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure." The book stresses the togetherness of the couple to confront the marital dissatisfaction together. But if God has started work in one much earlier than the other in a couple, then what do we do? Forcing the agenda from counselling if the couple is not on the same spiritual plane can be a source of stress itself. We must let God's timing work in individual's life as well as the couple's. Would we rest in the Lord? Would we submit to God's timing on our other halves? Love is patient and long-suffering at times. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." This applies to individuals as well as a couple. It therefore may not be realistic to expect that both necessarily will be ready to work at it at the same time. Then a lot of the practical advice in the book do not apply, although it does paint the end goal for couple.
A specific point about "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your angers, and give no opportunity to the devil." Ephesians 4:26). From that, the author gives the advice generalised towards the end of the book as "Be willing to lose sleep so an important converrsation can be completed." (p. 281) I think this can be counterproductive because in today's very hectic life of ours, most of us are very sleep deprived. The frictions that a couple may have could originate from sleep deprivation, when we get more irritable than usual and can't think straight. Rather than rushing for resolution, a good night of sleep may be what is needed to put both sides on a better frame of mind to have that important conversation. In some situations, therefore, the advice could be that "Do not lose sleep over important conversation!" but rest it with God that we do not go to sleep angry even though the situation is not immediately resolved.
In summary, the book presents a clear Christian perspective concerning marriage but when comes to practical advice, the masculinity of the male author shows through. The urge of fixing the problem with actions comes through, and it could lack female subtlety and insight. But this just shows that God is wonderful in making male and female different and complementary!