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A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage

A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage

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A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage

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Dec 9, 2013
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9781118690512
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Deskripsi

The revised edition of the bestselling Christian guide to a happy marriage

For more than fifteen years, Scott Stanley's A Lasting Promise has offered solutions to common problems—facing conflicts, problem solving, improving communication, and dealing with core issues—within a Christian framework. Thoroughly revised and updated, this new edition is filled with sacred teachings of scripture, the latest research on marriage, and clear examples from the lives of couples. The book's strategies are designed to help couples improve communication, understand commitment, bring more fun into their relationship, and enhance their sex lives.

  • Lead author Scott Stanley is co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and coauthor of Fighting for Your Marriage, which has sold more than a million copies.
  • Offers reflections on how to enhance anyone's marriage over the long term and avoid divorce
  • Covers recent cultural shifts, such as dealing with the endless technological distraction and issues  with social networking
  • New themes include the chemistry of love, the life-long implications of having bodies, and how to support one another emotionally
  • Uses illustrative examples from couples’ lives and rich integration of insights from scripture

This important book offers an invaluable resource for all couples who want to honor and preserve the holy sacrament of their union.

Penerbit:
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Dec 9, 2013
ISBN:
9781118690512
Format:
Buku

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A Lasting Promise - Scott M. Stanley

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More Praise for A Lasting Promise, New and Revised Edition

"Finally, a practical, easy-to-read book that deals with real marital issues from a Christian perspective! Soundly based on both biblical principles and marital research, A Lasting Promise is a must-read for any couple who wants to upgrade their marriage and make it a promise for life."

—David and Claudia Arp, coauthors, The Second Half of Marriage

"Every couple wants ‘a lasting promise’ but the tragic reality is many of the promises made at the alter don't last and many of those that do become impoverished relationships that are a far cry from what God had in mind when He designed marriage. This is much more than a second edition—in many ways it's a new book. With cutting-edge research, the theological integration is deeper, it is biblically richer, and at the same time even more practical. The chapters on prayer and jars of clay alone are worth the price of the book. A Lasting Promise will help you see marriage from a new per­spective and free you to enjoy the deep levels of passion and intimacy that God designed us to enjoy in a healthy marriage relationship. Whether you are a newlywed couple, a graduate student, a pastor, or a counseling professional, you will benefit personally and professionally from this resource. It's a book you'll give to friends and one you'll refer to often. Invest in yourself or someone you love by giving the gift of this book!"

—Gary J. Oliver, PhD, executive director, The Center for Relationship Enrichment; professor, psychology and practical theology, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas

Cover design: JPuda

Cover image: rings © Doug Armand/Getty; couple © Yuri Arcurs/Getty

Copyright © 2014 by Christian PREP, Inc. All rights reserved.

Published by Jossey-Bass

A Wiley Brand

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No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the Web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, or online at www.wiley.com/go/permissions.

Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Readers should be aware that Internet Web sites offered as citations and/or sources for further information may have changed or disappeared between the time this was written and when it is read.

Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986, or fax 317-572-4002.

Wiley publishes in a variety of print and electronic formats and by print-on-demand. Some material included with standard print versions of this book may not be included in e-books or in print-on-demand. If this book refers to media such as a CD or DVD that is not included in the version you purchased, you may download this material at http://booksupport.wiley.com. For more information about Wiley products, visit www.wiley.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quoted is from the Holy Bible: New International Version (North American Edition). Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society. Some passages as noted are from the New King James Version (NKJV; copyright by Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982) or the King James Version, where rendering makes the points clearer.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for and is on file at the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-1-118-67292-1 (paper); ISBN 978-1-118-69051-2 (ebk.); ISBN 978-1-11869058-1 (ebk.)

Acknowledgments

This book is founded on the contributions of many others who have studied to better understand marriage and how to help couples. First and foremost, we acknowledge our friend and colleague Howard Markman. Dr. Markman had the pioneering vision in the late 1970s to take emerging understandings from sound marital research and apply this information to helping couples prevent divorce and preserve lasting, loving marriages. His impetus has born much fruit over many years in this field. Over the past thirty years, Dr. Markman and Dr. Scott Stanley (coauthor of this book), along with a host of distinguished colleagues, have worked to refine both our understanding of marriage and effective strategies for couples who want to make their marriages all they can be.

We specifically acknowledge a core group of colleagues who have worked at various stages over many years on research or foundational principles and strategies that lie behind all our efforts to help couples. The list of centrally involved colleagues includes Natalie Jenkins, Susan Blumberg, Frank Floyd, and Galena Rhoades. The list of other colleagues and researchers who have provided an endless stream of useful studies that inform what we do to help couples is too long to include here, but we acknowledge the immense value of that body of work.

We also acknowledge the dedicated team at PREP, Inc. who continually make important and creative contributions to the efforts to develop and distribute thoughtful, research-based materials for helping people build healthy and happy marriages. The team has included many talented people over the years, and we list here the current and recent team members who have done so much for others: Todd Boyd, Lawrence Ramos, Nick Thayer, Jeff Erlacher, Lucinda Young, Sarah Healey, Lief Noll, Miranda Egger, Judi Metz, Jessica Jenkins, and Maggie Corcoran.

We also have had the good fortune to connect over the years with many people who have supported us in meaningful ways as our work has developed. Bill Coffin has been a deep and longtime advocate of efforts to help couples in marriage. He was instrumental in encouraging us to get our work out of the lab and into the world where it could make a difference. It is hard to imagine anyone who has known more people and connected more dots in this field than Bill. We also thank Diane Sollee for her pioneering national efforts to put marriage education on the map. She has been a great supporter of those who seek to strengthen marriages.

Over the years, we have been assisted by an incredible number of research colleagues, assistants, and students at the University of Denver. The list is truly too long to construct, but we are deeply thankful to you all for your work.

Our editor for the original version of this book, Alan Rinzler, has always been a great advocate and supporter—as well as a wonderful editor. He found us, first publishing the original Fighting for Your Marriage and then the first edition of A Lasting Promise. Now we add our thanks to our new editor, Marjorie McAneny, without whose efforts this new edition would not have happened. We also express our appreciation to Nana Twumasi, for all her help in reviewing drafts, giving advice on content, and preparing the book for production. We are also grateful for the excellent work of the copyeditor, Michele Jones, and to Carol Hartland for all her work in moving this book through production. The entire crew at Jossey-Bass/Wiley have been fantastic to work with in every phase of this project.

Finally, we express our deep appreciation for the couples and families who have shared their lives in various research projects at the University of Denver and elsewhere. These couples have opened their hearts and their relationships to our interviewers and video cameras, and have endured long questionnaires—some couples doing so for many years. They have shared in a way that allowed researchers on our team to learn more about all aspects of marriage and romantic relationships in ways that inform the strategies we share in this book. Thank you.

We should clarify that the stories and examples of couples that we use throughout this book are based on composites of the experiences of many couples. The stories are real because our understanding of what goes on in marriages is deeply informed by our research and other experiences with couples over the years. However, none of the stories or dialogue presented here is from any specific, real couple, but the events and challenges described here are just like those that scores of real couples have experienced.

Finally, we thank God for life and marriage. As we explain in Chapter One, it's His idea. That's pretty amazing.

To my bride, Nancy, for all your love and patience

To our sons, Kyle and Luke, for the joy you bring

To Mom and Dad, for all your care and encouragement,

and for showing me what sixty-two years of loving marriage looks like.

—SS

To Lynn, for her love and support. To our children, Scott and Chris, and our six grandchildren, Amy, Ben, Andrew, Ashley, Sam, and Ava, for adding joy, love, and excitement to our home. To our Lord Jesus, whose grace and vision has been sufficient through it all (1 Timothy 1:5, Philippians 1:6).

—DT

To my family—my husband, John; children, Bill and Tammy, Rob and Shelley, Rick and Eve; and my special grandchildren, Jessica, Zachary, Joshua, Hailey, Taylor, Lucas, Chloe, Jacob, and Macey—who are the heart of my life. And in memory of my parents, who always believed in me and gave me their support.

—SM

To Jeannie, for your gracious endurance with me through the tough times in our marriage. The marvelous grace of God and your steadfast love have made it possible for me to finally have something significant to say.

—MB

Introduction

Welcome to the new edition of A Lasting Promise. This edition is fresh and greatly expanded in many ways, including updated research and all-new chapters on subjects we did not address in the first edition. The time-tested strategies included in this book are for all couples—from the newly engaged to longtime marrieds—who want to make their marriage the best it can be. Some of you may be having significant problems at this time in your marriage. Some of you may have a great relationship and want to keep it that way. Either way, this book is for you.

Most people truly want a great marriage, but they don't know how to get there (or stay there). No book will give you all the answers, but we believe that you'll find this one full of practical ideas and principles that you can use. A Lasting Promise is similar to many other books about marriage written from a Christian perspective in that it is founded on the teachings of scripture. In fact, in a number of chapters, you will find that it goes quite deep into what is taught in scripture. In other chapters, we will present a general biblical principle and then focus almost entirely on the nuts and bolts of how to handle things well in marriage. The Bible and historic Christian teaching about marriage serve as the plumb line for all we have to say. But at least two features in this book are not typical of many other books on marriage from a Christian perspective.

First, in addition to being thoroughly scripturally based, A Lasting Promise has a strong foundation of university-based research about what leads to marriages' failing or thriving. Throughout, you will find scores of insights from sound research. At times, we specifically cite studies, and at other times we do not—just to keep things flowing well. We want you to enjoy working through this book and not get bogged down. If you are interested, Appendix C is an abbreviated list of some of the studies and papers that help inform the points we make in this book, and we mention how you can access a far larger list of research studies if you are interested.

Second, A Lasting Promise is focused on practical strategies. Unlike many books that are more theoretical or insight oriented, this one is designed for action. Sure, you'll find many things to contemplate—some we hope deeply—but much of what we have to say is about getting up and doing what you can do to keep your marriage strong and happy. Not only that, the things we will encourage you to do have been shown to make a difference for many couples. We want to equip you to develop the full promise of your marriage.

Many ideas and strategies presented here are based on the internationally recognized program called PREP (the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program). Based on decades of university-based research, the PREP approach focuses on specific attitudes and ways of acting that can make a difference in your marriage. Some of the most important and specific strategies in this book are based on PREP and also the secular book on PREP called Fighting for Your Marriage, written by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg. Markman and Stanley (and their colleagues) have worked on PREP and the research underlying it for over thirty years. The first edition of Fighting for Your Marriage was published in 1994; it is now in its third edition (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

All works for couples based in whole or in part on PREP incorporate principles founded on extensive research conducted in the United States and around the world. That is one of the things that make this book different from most other resources for marriages. For example, there is a great deal of evidence that, compared to happier couples, distressed couples show major differences in their ability to handle conflict. Such findings have led us to a number of specific strategies that address how couples can handle issues more constructively—the strategies that we will teach you here. But this book is not just about communication and conflict. We also focus on such topics as commitment, forgiveness, spiritual intimacy, friendship, sensuality, and fun. This new edition updates those themes and extends the book into new territory, including the meaning and impact of having a physical body, prayer for your mate and marriage, emotional support, and how to manage technology in your marriage.

Many studies underlying this book have been conducted at the University of Denver by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, Galena Rhoades, and their colleagues. However, we've also developed strategies for you based on scores of published studies from around the world. We focus on the good stuff—that which is most clear, and research that is well conducted. Because of its roots in solid research and its straightforward approach, PREP has received a great deal of attention from couples across the country, professionals in the field of marital and relationship education and counseling, and the media. You may have been exposed to some of the coverage about PREP (or various studies from the University of Denver) on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC and on such programs as 20/20, 48 Hours, Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, The Today Show, Moody's Midday Connection, Oprah, Family Life Today, and so forth. This work has also been covered in newspapers and magazines such as USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Woman's Day, Redbook, Psychology Today.

One of the things that research helps us identify is patterns that are associated with success or failure in marriage and family life. Prevention experts call these protective factors and risk factors. Knowing more about why and how marriages are more vulnerable (and most are) and how some marriages come apart (and many do) gives us clear ideas about where couples should focus their attention to make marriage all it can be. Here we will direct your attention to dimensions identified in scripture and in research, but we focus on areas where you can make changes. From our work at the University of Denver, we have learned to emphasize what we call dynamic risk factors, as opposed to static risk factors. Both matter, but static risk factors are things like your parents' having divorced when you were a child, and you cannot go back in time and change something like that. We focus our attention here on dynamic, changeable dimensions, such as communication, conflict management, strategies for protecting and enhancing depth of connection, and commitment—all factors that you can do something about to make your marriage strong, happy, and lasting.

Before beginning, we want to mention how we think about the integration of research findings with revealed truth from scripture. To highlight the approach to integration taken, we quote from two sources associated with Christian PREP, which was the forerunner to the theological integration you will experience in this book.

Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican monk, labored in the 13th century to integrate reason and revelation. Believing strongly that there was one source of truth (God), he believed that nothing discovered in nature could ultimately contradict the Faith (quoting Chesterton, 1956, p. 93). Essentially, truth discerned by observation and reason (e.g., science) should not be incompatible with truth given by God through revelation. Revelation can be considered to be special (e.g., Scripture) or general (revelation discerned about the creator from studying creation, e.g., truth discerned through research).¹

This approach is based on the belief that God has provided guidelines for marriage in Scripture. Furthermore, he allows us to learn more about the workings of relationships through sound research. The belief guiding the integration of Scripture and research is that all truth is God's truth, with Scripture being preeminent.²

In other words, sound marital research can discover truth because all truth comes from God. Through scripture, God reveals His thoughts on the essence of marriage and truth about relationships. Our desire is to present clear truth from scripture and also present research findings that can further illuminate patterns associated with marriages of lasting promise. Whenever and if ever research reveals findings that are inconsistent with revealed truth, we choose to follow scripture. One of the great blessings to us has been just how wonderfully scripture and sound marital research point in the same direction.

How to Get the Most out of This Book

This book starts with the basics, presented in a step-by-step manner, and builds to incorporate a variety of specific strategies. With each skill or principle, we'll also tell you about the underlying theory and research so that you'll understand why it works. We give specific instructions for exercises that can be done at home in order to help you learn and practice new patterns where needed. If your mate is not interested in reading this book with you, that is OK. In fact, that's pretty common. You will have to use wisdom in how you apply various strategies, but we believe that valuable changes can begin with just one partner in many cases. There is a lot one person can do to improve his or her marriage. If your mate is up for your sharing some of your favorite ideas as you go through this book, just focus your work together on those specifics. You can decide how to implement other strategies as you do your part to make your marriage all it can be. When you are both working on learning new strategies and skills taught here, practice will add to the value of your efforts. By practicing and trying out new ideas, you put your love in action. We hope that you will realize the full blessing and lasting promise of your marriage.

Notes

1. Stanley, S. M. (1997). What's important in premarital counseling? Marriage and Family: A Christian Journal, 1, 51–60.

2. Stanley, S. M., & Trathen, D. (1994) Christian PREP: An empirically based model for marital and premarital intervention. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 13, 158–165.

PART ONE

Foundations

1

Naked and Unashamed

So they are no longer two, but one.

Matthew 19:6

God designed marriage to be a relationship in which trust, openness, and vulnerability can thrive. He designed the first relationship to be nourishing, enriching, and fruitful. Adam and Eve were the first to experience the joys and miseries of marriage. Let's see what we can learn from this very first couple.

As God was creating matter, light, and life, He declared everything He made to be good. There was one notable exception: The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). Sin and the fall had not yet happened. But still it was not good for man to be alone. Why? Simply because God created man for relationship: with Him, in marriage, and with others. But relationships, especially close relationships, are difficult. In fact, it seems that our relationships with those we love most are the relationships most difficult of all to manage. Why is this? Let's look at what happened between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden for some clues.

These two people were the last creations of God. They were the pinnacle of His work, a perfect man and a perfect woman, joined together and living in perfect harmony in a perfect world. We don't know exactly what Eden was like, but we can imagine there being no limits on time or money or any other resource. Imagine you are in the most relaxed and beautiful setting and experiencing total enjoyment and peace of mind. Our imaginary Eden is as close as we will get to Eden this side of heaven. Here were Adam and Eve in this wonderful setting, anticipating a wonderful life together, knowing God intimately, and without a care in the world. The Bible says,

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

(Genesis 2:24–25)

This passage is quoted by Jesus and by the apostle Paul as the foundation for understanding marriage. By letting Jesus and Paul amplify our understanding of it, we can learn a great deal about what God intended marriage to be.

Oneness and Intimacy in Marriage

In Matthew 19, the Pharisees were questioning Jesus about divorce. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason? they asked (Matthew 19:3). The Pharisees and scribes had been debating about the conditions under which a man could divorce his wife. In asking Jesus, they weren't really interested in the right answer; they were merely hoping to trap Jesus into giving a politically incorrect response that would diminish His popularity with the people. As on other occasions, this attempt to trap Him failed. In answering them, Jesus went straight to Genesis to reveal the essence of what God was thinking about marriage:

Haven't you read, he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

(Matthew 19:4–6)

Although this passage is frequently cited to emphasize the seriousness of divorce in God's eyes, what Jesus says about being joined together in oneness speaks to the core of what this book is about. In fact, there is something about oneness versus separateness that runs through the heart of Christian theology.

Although oneness is a major theme in Christianity, it's far from easy to describe. In fact, there are very different manifestations and forms of oneness presented—among others the Trinity, the members of the church as the body of Christ, the relationship between Christ and the church, and, of course, marriage, the most fundamental of human relationships.

Oneness means many things to many people, but in His conversation with the Pharisees, Jesus appealed to the ideas of oneness and permanence in answering their trick question regarding divorce. He seems to be telling them that divorce is not God's perfect plan because marriage is fundamentally about two people mysteriously becoming and remaining one for the rest of their lives. Put another way, God's design for marriage is that it be a covenant of spiritual unity in which the souls and hearts of a man and woman are joined before Him and with Him into a three-fold cord providing direction and meaning in the bond of love (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12; Ephesians 5:31–32). How does that happen? How do two people somehow become one? The Bible says it is a mystery.

The Mystery of Oneness

Historically, Christians have talked about oneness in marriage as a diamond having several facets: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical. We will focus on these dimensions in many ways throughout this book. The foundational teaching about oneness, of course, rests in the physical union of husband and wife, but much more is implied. What it means for two people to become one is a rich and wonderful mystery. Paul quotes the Genesis passage, then refers to the concept of mystery as he describes what marriage is all about:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church.

(Ephesians 5:31–32)

The Greek word for mystery comes from the idea of astonishment or a shut mouth. When something is a mystery, what can you say? Paul is referring to the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the church, but we believe he is also making a more general point about oneness—that it is inherently mysterious. What do you think oneness in marriage means? Stop reading for a moment and ponder this. What might be so wonderful about it that it cannot be easily described?

One thing seems absolutely clear. Biblical oneness in marriage does not mean that one person's identity becomes lost in the other's, forming one big blob. Some people fear that this will happen in marriage, that they will somehow lose track of themselves if they grow truly close to another. We've heard it said this way: The two shall become one—but which one? That is not the concept presented in scripture. In fact, one of the most powerful examples of biblical oneness conveys diversity in unity that is quite the opposite of blobness. Paul describes the body of Christ as being one but made up of many individual parts, each unique in its own function (1 Corinthians 12 and 14). It's a unity (one body), but a unity made up of many unique parts. Although it is mysterious, the concept of oneness lies at the very core of Christianity.

The following diagram conveys a healthy view of oneness in marriage. Note that there are two distinct persons coming together in the marital union: a you and a me. But there is also a third identity of us that is born out of the connection between me and you. One person's identity is never to be lost in the other, but God's design is that the two come together in a powerful way to form a new entity that is unique in and of itself. Beyond this limited understanding, oneness really is mysterious. You can't quite describe it, but you probably know when you and your mate are experiencing it and when you're not.

The concept of mystery implies that something is not specifically defined. This suggests great freedom in the way you express the unique oneness of your marriage. Because oneness is mysterious, there is not one cookie cutter way you should develop it. You can be creative in the ways you express it over the years. Research on successful and happy marriages reveals a great diversity in the ways happy couples relate. But there's very little diversity in how unhappy couples relate—usually with cold distance or chronic conflict. These patterns are quite common and not at all unique from one unhappy couple to another. Simply put, couples are very different in the ways they express oneness, but they fall into well-worn ruts in the ways they destroy it.

We will help you keep out of these ruts by teaching you how to avoid the attitudes and behaviors that destroy the experience of oneness and intimacy. In Chapter Sixteen, we will focus on ways to help you develop spiritual oneness, the most mysterious oneness element of all.

Permanence in Oneness

When Jesus said, what God has joined together, let man not separate, he clearly conveyed the sense that marriage is to be a relationship of permanence (Matthew 19:6). Until death do us part is the way this is commonly expressed in marital vows. Scripture leaves us with no doubt that God loves all people, including those who divorce, even though He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). But this is not a book about the theology of divorce. It's about preventing divorce and enabling you to realize the full promise of your marriage. It is a book for couples who want to make their marriages all they can be—marriages that will last and that fully express the mystery of oneness with joy, confidence, growing love, and fruitfulness.

In Chapter Fourteen, The Power of Commitment, we will talk more in depth about permanence and maintaining a marriage through good times and bad. For now, consider this one crucial fact about the need for the kind of commitment that supports lasting love in marriage: it is the sense of permanence based in a healthy and strong commitment that allows a marriage to thrive even though it is made up of two imperfect beings. One of the greatest problems for marriages these days is that people have grown to expect more than is possible from their relationships. Should you aim high for what your marriage can be? Sure. Are we arguing for settling for mediocrity in marriage? Not at all. But we do want you to grapple with the fact that people have come to expect levels of sustained attraction to, and acceptance from, their mates that are rare if not impossible. The unrealistic expectations hurt perfectly good marriages. Marriages can be great, but will not be perfect, and marriages that succeed provide a huge number of benefits in life for the spouses and their children. The reality of two people thriving through the trials and imperfections of life trumps the fantasy of perfection.

One of the greatest benefits of having the type of commitment that fuels a belief in permanence is that it provides the foundation for true, deeper intimacy and acceptance, to which we now turn.

The Nature of God and Marriage

There are many reasons why marriage matters in society. That has been a topic of many books and discussions, but it is not our focus here. Closer to our focus is the question, Why is marriage so important to understanding life? The answer lies in the depth to which marriage signifies important characteristics about God.

Consider the fact that marriage plays a central role throughout the Bible. First of all, marriage is the main event in the Genesis account of creation. Further, the marriages of major figures of the Bible are prominent throughout the Old Testament—including all the elements of joy and beauty, conflict and misery. In the Old Testament, marriage is a metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel (for example, Isaiah 54:5f; Jeremiah 2:3). In the New Testament, Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding by changing water into wine (John 2:1–11). He taught about marriage numerous times during his ministry (Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Luke 16). In addition, the apostle Paul wrote a great deal about marriage (Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 7, and Colossians 3:18–19). And one of the final events described in the Bible is the future wedding supper of the lamb, described in the book of Revelation. What that depicts is the full union of Jesus Christ and the church. The Bible both begins and ends with marriage.

All this emphasis on marriage throughout the Bible makes clear that marriage matters because marriage reflects who God is and how He relates to us. Now combine this thought with the teaching in Genesis 1:26–27:

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It was important to God to make us in His image and sustain us in marriage through the process of oneness with Him and each other. This is a deep and wonderful truth that holds meaning far beyond what we can explore in this book. Here we want to note two truths based on the teachings we have cited. One, in some important way, we all bear the image of God. Two, in marriage, God reveals essential truths about His nature and His relationship with us. Through your marriage, and as two people made in the image of God, you are taking part in something much bigger—how God chooses to reflect who He is to the world.

Naked and Unashamed: The Deep

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