Uni and I have been married for nearly 56 years and have been close friends for nearly 59. We got married before all the self-help books were popular. Books on marriage were few and Christian books on marriage were, as far as I know, nonexistent. There were few marriage seminars and no marriage retreats or marriage classes to prepare us. We did, however, attend a three session class presented by the YMCA. Otherwise, we just leaped into marriage as two teenagers in love.
Our marriage somehow lasted and we raised two reasonably normal kids, both of whom were born before our 22nd birthdays. We struggled, financially and otherwise. We fought. We made plenty of mistakes. (And we still do – all of the above – though a lot less than we used to.)
Yet I can honestly say that I don’t think there is or has been a better, happier marriage than ours. At least none that I know of.
We still have never attended any of those weekend marriage seminars, and the only marriage retreats we attended were when I was the main speaker. Although I did take Howard Hendricks’ class on the Christian home when I attended seminary -- of course, by that time we had been married for 20 years.
We’ve read very few books on marriage and those we did were primarily to learn what others were thinking. Not that we didn’t find some of them useful. But most could be subtitled, “This works for us, so it should work for you.” Most are some combination of biblical principles (often out of context), practical advice, common sense (all too uncommon), the latest in pop psychology and the authors’ personal experiences.
So how can a couple who are deeply skeptical, almost cynical about all the marriage data out there have such a terrific marriage? I have no simple answers, no “seven easy steps”; if I did I’d write my own book. But here are a few thoughts.
The Bible has been our primary textbook, not only on marriage, but on every aspect of life. If the experts have anything correct and helpful to tell us, it is in some way derived from, or at least in agreement with, the Scriptures. As Uni has often commented, people wouldn’t need to read so many how-to books if they’d just read their Bibles.”
Of course, the Scriptures must be studied and correctly interpreted. The Bible is not just a treasury of verses to be mined for whatever the situation requires. It is a textbook for living. The passages having to do with marriage are all found in a greater context. To tear out a few verses to use as “proof texts” is, I believe, to do violence to their original meanings.
For instance, Paul’s commands to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5:22-33 are part of the greater context of the filling of the Spirit (verse 8) and its accompanying characteristics, which itself is in the greater context of the behavior that Paul calls a “walk,” “worthy of the calling with which you’ve been called” (4:1). In other words, the behavior of those chosen by God and redeemed by the Son (1:3-8).
When Peter gives his instructions on the behavior of wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-7, he is giving specifics of his command to “keep your behavior excellent (or beautiful) among the Gentiles” (2:12). When he writes of wifely submission it is in the context of this behavior and his great illustration is the submission of Christ Himself (2:21).
I could go on. But I must give credit to my wife Uni. Her example changed my thinking, attitudes and behavior. It wasn’t just her keeping of certain biblical “rules,” but her living out the life of Christ as she saw it in the Scriptures. She has been reading through that book over and over for more than 60 years and it shows.
We must also live out our husband/wife relationships as an aspect of the greater demands of Christ. He is the Lord of our lives and He demands total allegiance. I’m not saying that Uni and I are there yet, but our “success” is directly proportional to the depth of that commitment. When Jesus demanded of His disciples that they love Him more than any other human relationship, He meant it (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26)! As I have said many times before, if my wife did not love Jesus more than she loves me, she would not love me as much as she does.
And then there’s the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” repeated over and over by Jesus and the apostles. As Paul said, this is the summation of all law (Romans 13:8-10). Our marital love for each other is one aspect of that love.
There are of course, many more things that I could say and have said. But I believe marital relations are a lot simpler than we recognize.
I guess I’ll have to write the review of the book later.
Also see:THE CASE AGAINST MARRIAGE
WHAT IS LOVE?
I LOVE YOU LORD
MARRIAGE, AN EVER CHANGING UNION