The first Gary Thomas book that I read was "Sacred Search," a book for the not-yet-married. While he gave a ton of practical advice to those wanting-to-be-wed, he was mostly concerned with what God does inside of us when we're singles.
It turns out that "Sacred Search" was a companion of sorts to his more well-known work, "Sacred Marriage." I've been keeping my eye out for a copy of "Sacred Marriage" for a while now, and when this newly repackaged edition was released, it seemed like an ideal time to give it a read.
I now know why so many people consider this book a very unique look at marriage.
It isn't a better-your-marriage book, per se, though Gary tells us that he hopes your relationship will grow deeper and richer because of what you may learn. Instead, it's a how-is-Christ-being-formed-in-me book.
Gary works his way through eleven aspects of a marriage relationship, looking to reclaim the "spiritual purpose and significance" of each one. It all comes down to "How can God work in you as you try to live well with your spouse?" What is so refreshing about the book is that it's nothing new.
And we need more books like this, where the author draws from the deep wells of Christian wisdom and reintroduces us to truth we may have lost.
Truths such as...
Struggles are an opportunity to form your character- Love is possible even when you're dealing with an unlovable behavior- It's your intertwined history that matters, that reminds you why you're better together- Every day that you're married, you'll have to "fall forward," to lean into each other, trust each other, and reconcile with each other.
Now, that stuff may all seem painfully obvious, but Gary has a way of making it all seem like a beautiful challenge. He may seem to take a hard stance- "Holiness above Happiness!"- but really, he's convinced that a long, loving, life-giving marriage is a real possibility, and what would that be other than a source of holy happiness?
Please, do your self a favor and try to read this book for you. God knows that I read a lot of books for other people- "Hphm. This is so her. If she would get this, her life would totally change." And from what I hear, it's even more tempting to "read" for an other person when you're married to them. You know them so well, you can't help but know exactly what lessons they need to learn! "This chapter- he needs this. This would straighten him right out. I'm underlining all my favorite parts so he can't miss them."
Of course, some parts of the book make sense only in terms of a marriage, but most of this applies to every relationship. The section about learning to "fall forward" may have been my favorite part. By nature, Gary reminds us, fallen humans are runners and hiders, grasping for fig-leaves and retreating into shame. Those maneuvers won't do a marriage any favors. We've got to become good at meeting one another, hearing one another, assisting each other over obstacles that can be surmounted, and bearing together all the burdens that can't be changed.
So yes, I recommend this book. In an ordinary (mostly-healthy-but-definitely-flawed relationship) the wisdom of "Sacred Marriage" could help you set a new course towards greater Christian maturity and remind you why you want to love your people well.
If you really want a full picture of marriage, ala Gary Thomas, grab a copy of his "Lifelong Love" too.
I thank Zondervan through Booklook Bloggers for providing my review copy.