Friday, February 15, 2013

Marriage Matters

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments.   
It is not good grammar to begin a book review with Wow.  I need to say it anyway. 
Marriage Matters really made sense to me. Written by a Christian Counselor, this book deals with our emotions and behavior in light of Scripture. 

Marriage Matters begins with three points for how marriages change to Glorify God.

1. Marriages Change when we recognize God's agenda for so called ordinary moments.

2. Marriages change when we are willing to love in practical, Christ-like ways even in difficult moments. 

3. Marriages change when we're willing to love consistently, over time, not because our spouses change, but because we're in a growing relationship with God.

Winston Smith builds a sturdy book (almost 300 pages) upon these ideas.  

Our foundation is point 1: understanding God's agenda for our marriage. We find His plan in Scripture's definition of marriage. Winston Smith points out that when Paul and Peter write about marriage in the letters, they always focus on Jesus Christ. Seeing the eternal purpose for our marriage girds us with strength to press on in the valley, and heartens us with the vision of what will be in our Marriage to Christ. Our Marriage drives us very close to Christ, making us more like Him, because we can't live in intimate union with a sinful person until we live in union with our Savior. We cannot love until we know our Lover. The hard times sculpt us into His image. 
Our marriage is also evangelism. We show a love starved world the love that God puts in us for our spouse, a love we only have because of God in us. 

2. Part two gives us a glimpse of Extraordinary Love in Marriage. This book asks us to search our heart, not just our spouse's. I need this. I are commanded in Scripture to repent of my own sins and love my neighbor purely. With God I can do this, even when it is very hard.  
I can't create change in my spouse's heart. I can only live Biblically towards them.
My favorite portion of Marriage Matters is part two, chapters six through fifteen. These chapters dealt with me and the way I treat the other person. This was my favorite part right now, so I will quote from these chapters. 

Person or Object? Honor or Manipulation? is the title of chapter six. I never realized just what manipulation is, and how deep it is in my fallen heart, and how quick it crushes a marriage until I read this. 
Manipulation is defined as 'Giving to get.'  Our modern concept of marriage helps us enter marriage ready to manipulate: We call Marriage a Contract. A Contract is an agreement saying "If you do your part I will do mine. I will give if and only if I get. If you don't perform then no deal, I'm breaking the contract." 

Marriage, Biblically, is a Covenant, not a Contract. Love, Biblically, does not think about how it can Get more before it Gives. 
When we look at our spouse through the "Giving to Get" lens, we have conditions in our love. We view them as an object, an obstacle in our way to getting what we want. 
We manipulate them instead of honoring them, because honor comes when we know they are God's, and manipulation comes when we think they are our's to use. 
"Rather than acting out of genuine concern for your spouse, you treat him or her as a means to an end, as a way to get what you want. Instead of serving your spouse, you're using him or her to serve yourself. You're treating a person like an object."

This is convicting. Winston Smith gives us a chart of Attitudes of Honor or Manipulation. 

 Honor: "God is using you to make me like Him." 
 Manipulation: "You are the problem."
 How often are my thoughts about others are manipulating, not honoring! 

Chapter seven is Honesty is Important.
We are commanded in Scripture to speak the truth in love. This needs a lot of grace to get right. We have two temptations, to twist truth to appease others, and to be cruelly honest and get stuff off our chest that hurts the hearer. 
I love this definition of loving Honesty. "The kind of honesty that reflects God's Love requires sharing the right information in the right way, a way that leads to oneness and growth."

Chapter  eight takes us into the scary place of Being Honest about Yourself. 
 It is awful to see a glimpse of our real motives and heart, but essential if we are going to have a Christian Marriage. 

Speaking Truth to your Spouse is chapter nine. There is power in words, to hurt and to help. "Even a few well chosen words can provide a compass heading and reorient a couple in danger of losing her way." 
I found myself writing "I want to talk like this." in the margin of this chapter. The sections on Wholesome Words and Unwholesome Words were excellent.

Chapters Eight and Nine look at Conflict. When I hear conflict I always think of brawling, malice and slander, things Ephesians tells us to put away. When you tell me conflict is about fighting sin, then it makes sense. Sin fighting is near the core of Christianity.
We want to battle our sin and help our spouse battle theirs. Our fight is never with the person of our spouse, but with sin. 
From these chapters I learned that there are three sinful ways to respond to conflict. Appease, Ignore, and Fight. These are the cheap counterfeits of three Scriptural precepts for conflict: Yeilding, Waiting, and Confronting with Love and Truth. 

Chapters Twelve  and Thirteen are  Foundations of Forgiveness and Forgiveness in Marriage. 
Life as a sinner with a sinner requires forgiveness. 
I love this definition of forgiveness: "Your decision to forgive is a decision to do everything you can to keep this incident from coming between you and your spouse."  
O how we need this information when it comes to marital forgiveness!
 "The intimacy of marriage makes us more vulnerable to the sins and weaknesses of the other. There are common obstacles to forgiveness in marriage: using forgiveness to take the issue off the table (i.e., rushing the process); fearing that it will just happen again; and failing to recognize the differences between forgiving and enabling, consequences and payback." Forgiveness is not accepting abuse. It is not allowing the sinner back into their sins. New Growth Press publishes books that examine this aspect of healing very compassionately. 

Chapter fourteen is Understanding your Role, a look at why God made them Male and Female, and what being a woman or man says about marriage. 
    This quote is a lovely depiction of gender roles in marriage: "In the marital dance, the husband leads as he listens to the music of Christ. Because the wife hears the same music, they're able to keep time in their own minds and move as one. In a clumsy moment toes may be stepped on; on occasion, dance moves may have to be reviewed and maybe an instructor consulted."

Part Three is Staying the Path. Christianity is a long Obedience in the same direction, Marriage is a long faithfulness to your spouse.

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