The Meaning Of Marriage: Facing The Complexities Of Commitment With The Wisdom Of God, by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
I have to hand it to the writer(s) for not avoiding a tough subject. Writing about marriage is no easy thing in our own time, for though it is important for us to know what it is we are both getting out of and putting into marriage, there are a lot of ways a book like this can go wrong. When you add to the importance of the subject and the wayward perspective of our contemporary age the concerns of those who have been married before (and disastrously) as well as those who have never married, this particular book offers some challenges. I must admit that I found some areas of this book pretty pointed when it came to my own behavior, when the author talked about some of his own behavior while courting his wife that I must admit I have engaged in myself before, much to my regret, concerning enjoying spending time and hanging out without being in a relationship with someone. As one might expect, knowing anything about the author’s point of view, the author is going to have some fierce things to say, but they need to be said and it’s not a bad thing to read them in a book like this one.
At close to 250 pages this book is by no means a large one, for all of its fierceness. After an introduction the authors begin by discussing the secret of marriage, both what it should be and the way that it is viewed by people today who are too idealistic to marry well in many cases (1). After that the authors talk about the power for marriage in Christ in changing the lives of husbands and wives (2) as well as the essence of marriage in mutual self-sacrifice as well as building up solid friendships (3). The authors discuss the mission of marriage in commitment to helping each other achieve the flowering of the new creation of Christ within us (4) as well as the difficulties that result from loving the stranger (5) that our spouses represent. The authors talk about embracing the other (6), deals with questions of singleness and marriage in a thoughtful fashion (7), and discusses the ever-interesting aspect of sex and marriage (8) before closing the book with an epilogue and an appendix that discusses gender roles in marriage as well as notes.
I can always think of ways that a book could have been better or more complete, by looking at the Bible’s views of marriage in more detail, for example. But this book does a good job, both in challenging readers about the influence that contemporary culture has on our vain searches for soulmates, our unwillingness to accept change or to deal with a lot of baggage on the part of our would-be spouses, and our generation’s willingness to accept sex before and outside of marriage reflects our own unwillingness to tie ourselves down with commitment where we do not trust that feelings will be enough to see things through forever. The author is forthright and strong about the fact that godly marriage has never been about feelings but rather a commitment to love and honor and respect someone and to act in a loving fashion towards them regardless of what one’s feelings were. The author shows himself aware of a great many writers, especially but not only C.S. Lewis, and the book is generally enjoyable to read even if it is written about a subject that many of us, myself included, find to be pretty awkward and uncomfortable.