“Our goal cannot be to fix our husbands or even to save our marriages, but rather to glorify God by submitting to our husbands, trusting that His commands are those of a loving Father who not only wants our lives to work but to be ones of worship.”
The above quote, from Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll, sums up the right approach to reading marriage books. This isn’t self-help, it isn’t a cure-all, it’s an expansion of knowledge. God gave us minds to think and learn and reading books about marriage can be really helpful. But, bottom line, your spouse belongs to God, and so do you.
As I’ve previously shared, I’ve been listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermon series “Real Marriage”. Mark Driscoll is the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and he’s pretty prolific. I enjoyed the sermons and got quite a bit out of a few of them and so was curious to read the book, “Real Marriage” that Driscoll and his wife, Grace, wrote. I’m glad I did but my general impression is that it wasn’t necessary to listen to the sermons and read the book. The material is pretty similar in each and so you could really pick one or the other. The book is perhaps a bit more detailed, as well as providing more perspective from Grace, so if you had to pick one, I’d recommend the book. (Plus, I like books.)
One of the things that made this book stand out from others I’ve read is that half of it is devoted to sex. I’ve read Christian books that talk about sex and I’ve read Christian marriage books that talk about sex but Real Marriage devotes a lot of space to the topic. I’ve heard that it’s been criticized for this but I thought it was bold of the Driscolls to do so. One chapter in particular was well-laid out, I thought. In it, the authors list various sexual practices and habits and then discuss them in three different ways. 1) Is it lawful (according to both our society and the Bible)? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it enslaving? This was a great way to look at sexual behaviour, particularly the distinction that something that may be lawful is not always helpful. Or that an act that may be helpful can also become enslaving. This idea really comes from God, as expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23. “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”
The Driscolls approach the topic of sex boldly, with none of the shame or shyness that is unfortunately so often found among Christians. They celebrate sex as a gift from God, when used appropriately. Having both the husband and wife perspective also added a lot to it. The following quote summed up some of the male/female differences nicely when it comes to sex, “For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband it leads to one.”
Which isn’t to say that the whole book is about sex. The Driscolls also stress friendship as the basis of a marriage in the chapter “Friends with Benefits”. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Although friendships outside of your marriage are very important, I think you should have a best friend type of relationship with your spouse. The Driscolls describe this as a face-to-face relationship, one where you discuss issues and spend time together. (As oppose to a back-to-back relationship or a shoulder-t0-shoulder relationship.)
The sermon and chapter that I personally found the most helpful from Real Marriage was titled “The Respectful Wife”. I wrote about listening to that sermon in more detail in this post, so all I’ll say here is that if you’re a woman wondering how to be a Christian wife, it’s a great listen/read. I found it very helpful. Here’s a quote from that chapter:
“The culture’s lie is that a woman’s worth decreases when she submits to her husband. The truth of the Bible is that a woman’s value does not increase or decrease if she submits, because her value comes from being created in God’s image”
(And something I wrote about singleness, which although it comes from a different book, I think it relates to this too.)
In the end, Real Marriage had a lot in it that was helpful and interesting and made it a worthwhile read for a Christian couple. I’d say, If you’re going to read one book about marriage, make it The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller. (I reviewed it here) The Kellers book has many of the same ideas but, I think, a broader scope and is better written. (The switches in Real Marriage between Mark’s perspective and Grace’s were not always smooth for me.) But if you’re interested in a wide perspective on Christian marriage, add Real Marriage to your list.
A favourite quote:
“It is the Holy Spirit who gives us desires that are deeper and stronger than sinful desires. Thus, a holy life is the most passionate life, that does not settle for petty things like sexual sin but rather passionately pursues the glory of God in all things.”