Lovely words on marriage and half a book review.

Well. Chris and I have this idea sometimes of going through books on marriage together. We still haven't found one that fits us. We're going to write our own. Kidding. But I did hear great reviews about this book I'm reading now called "The Meaning of Marriage," by Tim Kellar.

And...unfortunatley, I'm not too fond of it. I was sad to see that the very first pages had phrases like "the bumpy road to marital joy," and "from a fragile new marriage to a durable one," etc. [Anyone know of a book out there less focused on conflict and more focused on joy and encouragement?] Chris and I just really didn't start in a bumpy or fragile place, and I don't mean that to say we have a flawless just doesn't fit our story, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I bought it so I'm going to finish it and I do stumble upon some "mmmmmmmm" passages every once in a while, so not all is lost! As a sociology person I was constantly in classes that talked about social institutions like marriage and the family, and the statistics and history of marriage has always intrigued me. Then, when interning with DSS, I saw that so much of the spiraling cycle of abuse found it's origins in an unhealthy, abusive marriage/romantic relationship that just never got under control. Unfortunately, the children I worked with were next in line and were already learning what it's like to live with deep physical and emotional wounds at such a young age. Chris and I have talked a lot about this sort of downward spiraling and the cycles of hurt that just keep on going. The great thing is that God has given us the solution. It's selfless, unconditional love. I may not be able to directly talk about the gospel, but passages like the following help to put the problem and the solution in perspective without sounding overly preachy. The hardest part is not being able to understand what it would be like to be married to or have kids with someone who could be considered my enemy...and then coming in contact with it and not being able to talk about Jesus. Eeek. Good thing he equips us with exactly what we need for every situation. God is so much bigger than bureaucratic red tape. 

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:15
      There is the essence of sin, according to the bible-living for ourselves, rather than for God and the people around us. This is why Jesus can sum up the entire law--the entire will of God for our lives--in two great commands: to love and live for God rather than ourselves and to love and put the needs of others ahead of our own (Matthew 22-37-40).
    All people need to be treated gently and respectfully, especially those who have been wounded. They will be unusually sensitive to rough handling. Nevertheless, all people must be challenged to see that their self-centeredness hasn't been caused by the people who hurt them; it's only been aggrivated by the abuse. They must do something about it, or they're going to be miserable forever.
    In western culture today, you decide to get married because you feel an attraction to the other person. You think he or she is wonderful. But you begin to find out how selfish this person is, and you discover that they have been going through a similar experience and they begin to tell YOU how selfish YOU are. And you acknowledge it in part, but you conclude that their selfishness is more problematic than your own. You say silently, "Ok, I shouldn't do that--but YOU don't understand ME." The woundedness makes us minimize our own selfishness.
   So what do you do then? There are at least two paths to take, first you could decide that your woundedness is more fundamental than your self-centeredness and determine that unless your spouse sees the problems you have and takes care of you, its not going to work out. Of course, your spouse will probably not do this--especially if he or she is thinking almost the exact same thing about you. And so what follows is the development of emotional distance. There begins to be an unspoken agreement to not talk about some things, there are things your spouse does that you hate, but you stop talking about them as long as they stop bothering you about other certain things. No one changes for the other, there is only tit-for-tat bargaining. Couples who settle for this kind of relationship may look happily married for forty years, but when it's time for the anniversary photo-op, the kiss will be forced.
     The alternative is to determine to see your own selfishness as a fundamental problem and to treat it more seriously than you do your spouse's. Why? Only you have complete access to your own selfishness, and only you have complete responsibility for it. So each spouse should take the Bible seriously, should make a commitment to "give yourself up." You should stop making excuses for selfishness, you should begin to root it out as it's revealed to you, and you should do so regardless of what your spouse is doing. If two spouses each say, "I'm going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage," you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.
   But there is a third possibility: it may be that ONE of you decides to operate on the basis of verse 21 and one of you does not. What if you are the only one who decides, "My selfishness is the thing I'm going to work on." What will happen? There is not much immediate response from the other side, but often, your attitude and behavior will begin to soften your partner. And it will be easier for your spouse to admit his or her faults because you are no longer always talking about them yourself. So even if only one of you does it, over time your prospects are still good.