I’ll just be putting some quotes from the book on here. But the book is well worth reading. However, I caution you, Mr. Thomas does not pull any punches. You are almost guaranteed to either end up with a black up, or find your self ducking but being very aware of what almost hit you. :o)
Chapter 1 – the Greatest Challenge in the World
Pg 15-16 – “Romantic love has no elasticity to it. It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. Mature love, the kind demanded of a good marriage must stretch, as the sinful human condition is such that all of us bear conflicting emotions.”
Chapter 2 – Finding God in Marriage
Pg 33 – “The first purpose in marriage — beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else — is to please God.”
Pg 34 – He references 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 near the beginning of the page. “If my “driving force” is as Paul says it should be, I will work to construct a marriage that enhances this ministry of reconciliation — a marriage that, in fact, incarnates this truth by putting flesh on it, building a relationship that models forgiveness, selfless love, and sacrifice.”
Chapter 3 – Learning to Love
Pg 42 – “God doesn’t command us to get married; he offers it to us as an opportunity. Once we enter the marriage relationship, we cannot love God without loving our spouse as well.”
Pg 49 – “In his contemplation, Dr. Barger discusses how this experience with his wife reflected on his relationship with God:
Consider the virtues I have recommended as necessary to a deep relation with your wife: patience, listening, humility, service, and faithful, tender love. I hope it is not heretical for me to claim that in his dealings with us, God acts in many ways like a woman.
Women are capable of and sometimes commit magnificent acts that manifest incredible power and awaken in us men a profound awe, if not fear and trembling. Yet when they love, they love quietly; they speak, as it were, in whispers, and we have to listen carefully, attentively, to hear their words of love and to know them.
Isn’t God also this way?
Doesn’t he intervene in most of our lives in whispers, which we miss if we fail to recollect ourselves and pay careful attention – if we do not constantly strive to hear those whispers of divine love? The virtues necessary in truly loving a woman and having that love returned – the virtues of listening, patience, humility, service, and faithful love – are the very virtues necessary for us to love God and to feel his love returned. As we cannot lord it over women if we are to know them and grow intimate with them, so we cannot lord it over God if we are to know him and grow intimate with him.
We cannot successfully demand the love of a woman or the love of God. We have to wait. And just a as woman’s heart is melted when she encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it, so God’s heart is melted and he is most tender and gracious to us when he encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it.”
Chapter 4 – Holy Honor
Pg 55 – “While many people fight to receive respect, Christian marriage calls us to focus our efforts on giving respect. We are called to honor someone even when we know all too well their deepest character flaws. We are called to stretch ourselves, to find out how we can learn to respect this person with whom we’ve become so familiar. And in this exploration, we are urged to “have contempt for contempt.””
Pg 57 – “As our partners and their weaknesses become more familiar to us, respect often becomes harder to give. But his failure to show respect is a sign of spiritual immaturity more than an inevitable pathway of marriage.”
“Giving respect is an obligation, not a favor; it is an act of maturity, birthed in a profound understanding of God’s good grace.”
Pg 60 – “Many of the marital problems we face are not problems between individual couples … They are the problems between men, generally, and women, generally. They are problems that arise because we are either to lazy or too selfish to get to know our spouse well enough to understand how different from us they really are.”
Pg 63 – “my family once went through the National Gallery of Art, looking at some original Rembrandts, and one of my very tactile children reached out to touch the painting. My wife let loose with a harsh whisper and grabbed our child’s hand before it could even reach the canvas. “this is a Rembrandt!” she hissed under the guard’s glare. “You can’t touch these!”
My wife was created by God himself! How dare I dishonor her? In fact, shouldn’t it even give me pause before I reach out to touch her? She is the Creator’s daughter after all!
The difficulty with honoring our spouse is that it calls us to adopt attitudes and actions that go far beyond merely saying that we won’t dishonor him or her. As Betsy and Gary Ricucci point out, “honor isn’t passive, it’s active. We honor our wives by demonstrating our esteem and respect: complimenting them in public; affirming their gifts, abilities, and accomplishments; and declaring our appreciation for all they do. Honor not expressed is not honor.”
Chapter 5 – The Sou’s Embrace
Pg 75 – Reference to 1 Peter 3:7. “When Peter says that men must be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect so that nothing will hinder their prayers, he’s directly connecting our attitude twoard our wives with the fundamental Christian discipline.
If prayer is the essence of spirituality, and if a wrong attitude in marriage destroys that activity, it behooves men in particular to pay careful attention here.
… “The rules changed when I got married. A condition was placed on my prayer life, and that condition is tied directly to how I view and treat my wife.”
… “God sees me, in one sense, through my wife.
Pg 76 – “In fact, much christian teaching has gotten it exactly backwards. We’re told that if we want to have a stronger marriage, we should improve our prayer lives. But Peter tells us that we should improve our marriages so that we can improve our prayer lives. Instead of prayer being the “tool” that will refine my marriage, Peter tells me that marriage is the tool that will refine my prayers!
A man might be able to preach a sterling sermon, write inspiring books, and quote the Bible front to back. But if he hasn’t learned how to be a servant to his wife, to respect here, and to be considerate of her, then his spirituality is still infantile. His prayer life – the lifeblood of his soul – will be a sham.”
Pg 77 – “Godliness is selflessness, and when a man and woman marry, they are pledging to stop viewing themselves as individuals and start viewing themselves as a unit, as a couple. In marriage, I am no longer free to pursue whatever I want; I am no longer a single man, I am part of a team , and my ambitions, dreams, and energies need to take that into account.”
Pg 78 – “We have valued the wrong activities when we look only at a persons outward accomplishments. Our relationships – especially our marriages – are an integral part of or ministry.”
Pg 79 – “If you want to grow toward God, you must build a stronger prayer life. If you’re married, to attain a stronger prayer life you must learn to respect your spouse and be considerate.”
Pg 81 – “Marriage can force us to become stronger people, because if we want to maintain a strong prayer life as married partners, we must learn how to forgive.”
“Marriage virtually forces us into the intense act of reconciliation. It’s easy to get along with people if you never get close to them.”
Pg 82 – Reference to Matthew 5:23-24. “Jesus makes it absolutely clear that you must choose unity if you want to maintain a vital prayer relationship with God. Dissension is a major prayer-killer.”
Chapter 6 – The Cleansing of Marriage
Pg 89 “Marriage is the operation by which a woman’s vanity and a man’s egotism are extracted without anesthetic. ~ Helen Rowland.”
“One of the best wedding gifts God gave you wa s a full length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” ~ Gary and Betsy Ricucci”
Pg 96 “I believe it is possible to enter marriage with a view to being cleansed spiritually, if, that is, we do so with a willingness to embrace marriage as a spiritual discipline. To do this, we must not enter marriage predominantly to be fulfilled, emotionally satisfied, or romantically charged, but rather to become more like Jesus Christ. We must embrace the reality of having our flaws exposed to or partner, and thereby having them exposed to us as well.”
‘I have a theory: Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies unrepented sin. Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and eventually erasing the once lofty promises made in the throes of an earlier (and less polluted) passion.”
Pg 97 “But here’s the challenge: Don’t give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. Correspondingly, give them the freedom and acceptance they need in order to face their own weaknesses as well.”
Pg 101 “Whenever martial dissatisfaction rears its head in my marriage – as it does in virtually every marriage – I simply check my focus.”
“If you’re a Christian, the reality is that, biblically speaking, you can’t swap your spouse for someone else. But you can change yourself. And that change can bring the fulfillment that you mistakenly believe is found only by changing partners. In one sense, it’s comical: Yes, we need a changed partner, but the partner that needs to change is not our spouse, it’s us!”
“I don’t know why this works. I don’t know how you can be unsatisfied maritally, and then offer yourself to God to bring about change in your life and suddenly find yourself more than satisfied with the same spouse. I don’t know why this works, only that it does work.”
Chapter 7 – Sacred History
Pg 108 “Righteousness – true holiness – is sen over time in our persistence. It is relatively easy to “flirt” with righteousness – being occasionally courteous to other drivers (if you happen to be in a good mood), helping someone in need by opening the door for them (if you have the time), throwing a few extra bucks into the offering plate (as long as you won’t miss them). But this behavior is in reality superficial righteousness. The righteousness God seeks is a persistent righteousness, a commitment to continue making the right decision even when, perhaps hourly, you feel pulled in the opposite direction. Holiness is far more than an inclination toward occasional acts of kindness and charity. It is a commitment to persistent surrender before God.”
Pg 110 “The priority of a sacred history is an eternal priority. Marriage is a beautiful and effective reminder of this reality. One of the most poetic lines in Scripture, one that I wish every husband and wife would display in a prominent place in their home, is found in verse 5 of 2 Thessalonians 3: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
Chapter 8 – Sacred Struggle
Pg 129 “Gary and Betsy Ricucci point out, “Our Lord has sovereignty ordained that our refining process take place as we go through difficulties, not around them. The bible is filled with examples of those who overcame as they passed through the desert, the Red Sea, the fiery furnace and ultimately the cross. God doesn’t protect Christians from their problems he helps them walk victoriously through their problems.”
Pg 130 “But to be profitable, our struggle must have I purpose, and it must be productive … It’s only when we put struggle within the Christian context of charcter development and self-sacrifice that it becomes profitable.”
Pg 132 “Because we have hope for eternity, we do not become nearsighted, demanding short-term ease that would short-circuit long-term gain. Our demands for comfort and ease show us what we truly value. It is the definitive demonstration of whether we are living for god’s kingdom and service or for our own comfort and reputation.”
Pg 133 “If I’m in my marriage for emotional stability, I probably won’t last long. But if I think it can reap spiritual benefits, I’ll have plenty of reason to not just be married, but act married.”
Pg 143 “Anne: “What I am saying is not simply the old Puritan truism that ‘suffering teaches.’ I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. if suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. to suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”
Pg 150 “If we live without an eternal perspective, earthly trails become larger than life. Without the hope of heaven or the sense of the importance of a growing character and refinement, there is nothing to prepare for, nothing to look forward to; it is like practicing and practicing, but never getting to actually play a game. Life gets boring, tedious, and tiresome.”
Pg 151 “God never promises to remove all our trails this side of heaven – quite the contrary! but he does promise that there is meaning in each one. Our character is being perfected, our faith is being built, our “heavenly reward” is being increased.”
“Now to believe this isn’t to suggest that we just “hang on” until heaven comes. I’ve found that obedience to God creates quiet fulfillment in the present. There is a spiritual sanctification that come even in the midst of our trails. It is a demeanor that may not be as “showy” as gleeful happiness, but it is much less subject to moods and makes for much more permanent a disposition.”
Chapter 9 – Falling Forward
Pg 155 “Donald Harvey writes, “Intimate relationships, as opposed to intimate experiences, are the result of planning. They are built. the sense of union that comes with genuine spiritual closeness will not just happen. If it is present, it is because of defined intent and follow through on your part. You choose to invest, and do. it’s not left to mere chance.”
“It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife. I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her. It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage.”
Pg 157 “Even in the moments of anger, betrayal, exasperation, and hurt, we are called to pursue this person, to embrace them, and to grow toward them, to let our love redefine our feelings of disinterest, frustration, and even hate.”
Pg 158 “Getting married is agreeing to grow together, into each other, to virtually commingle our souls so that we share a unique and rare bond. When we stop doing that, we have committed fraud against our partner; we made a commitment that we’re not willing to live up to.”
“Kathleen and Thomas Hart write, “One can do many external deeds of love and still hold back the really precious gift the inner self. This gift can be given only through communication.” communication is thus the blood of marriage that carries vital oxygen into the heart of our romance.”
Pg 160 “This commitment toward interpenetration teaches us to surrender our own demands at the same time that we strive to meet or spouse’s demands.”
Pg 161 “A Christian is never dependent on the response of others to grow spiritually. It’s our own heart’s decisions that matter.”
“The truth is, I owe my wife this “gift of self.” when I refuse to fall forward and begin withholding myself, I am saying in effect, “I will no longer be married to you on a spiritual level.”
MORE TO COME …