As a pastor, I often look for books to read to strengthen my understanding of marriage both for my own relationship and in guiding others. I enjoyed Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey. Pershey writes in a very open and honest manner about her insights, experiences and understanding of marriage. While some books on marriage focus most on one factor or another i.e. communication, conflict resolution etc; Pershey incorporates and intersperses many different aspects of marriage into this work. What I liked most was the focus on “fidelity” and being faithful and loyal to the person you married. Pershey does well in addressing tough issues in relationships from a biblical context that are easily misunderstood by many. An example is the tough issue of sex outside and coming to a more full understanding of why this boundary is important in marriage while not shaming but showing grace…
One of the reasons we believe in our culture that sex should always and only be the result of great passion is that so many people today have learned how to have sex outside of marriage, and this is a very different experience than having sex inside it. Outside of marriage, sex is accompanied by a desire to impress or entice someone. It is something like the thrill of the hunt. When you are seeking to draw in someone you don’t know, it injects risk, uncertainty, and pressure to the lovemaking that quickens the heartbeat and stirs the emotions. The contrast between unmarried and married sex is significant. The covenant of marriage— the vows to love now and forever—changes everything. It just does. (Kindle Location 485)
Pershey also does in addressing the tension that we all feel between valuing marriage as forever and our pursuit of individualism rooted within the American dream. While also showing the difference and contrast between a contract and covenant marriage.
We value marriage— Till death do we part. We value individualism —I’m just not happy anymore. And we just sort of look away when the value we place on marriage contradicts the value we place on personal satisfaction. A few southern states have established laws in which couples can opt for a “covenant” marriage; these distinct licenses require premarital counseling and limit how quickly and easily a couple can divorce. Cherlin notes how very few couples choose to accept the restrictions of covenant marriage.
What Americans want, in other words, is for everyone else to have a covenant marriage.” (Kindle Location 634)
A covenant is an agreement not unlike a contract, save for one minor detail: it’s completely unlike a contract. Contracts are conditional, limited, and generally entered into for reasons of self-interest. They are legal documents that can be used against you if you violate their terms. Covenants aren’t legal, but they are sacred.A contract is to covenant as ink is to blood. (Kindle Location 902)
I think for many “Christians” it can become much easier to love our neighbor as Christ does than to love our spouse as Christ does. When we are in close relational proximity to another person sharing life together it becomes messy and challenging all at the same time. We see sides of ourselves we didn’t really know existed. For many rather than seeing this as an opportunity for God to reveal areas of our lives that need changes, we distance ourselves from it and view that the other person draws out the worst in us rather than the best. It is easy to associate the dynamics of other relationships and how they function to our view of how marriage should function. As Pershey states:
But a spouse is the neighbor of nearest proximity, the neighbor who demands the most of you, the neighbor with whom you share a heck of a lot more than a property line. I wanted my husband to treat me like a cherished friend, but what I needed was to treat my husband like a beloved neighbor.
(Kindle Location 1248)
Pershey also does well in explaining one of the most confusing and often misunderstood and misinterpreted passage about marriage in the Bible in Ephesians 5:22 (Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands as onto the Lord). It this verse is viewed by itself it can be quite easy to not fully grasp the intent behind what is being said here. We think its about power or a loss of power or more so about who is in charge or “in control”. As Pershey states:
It is not a matter of who’s in charge, or who has the power. It is a metaphor: for mutuality, for love, for devotion. (Kindle Location 1851)
But here’s the thing: practicing kindness and mutuality isn’t easy at all. It’s work . It’s hard work. It’s listening when you don’t feel like listening. It’s compromising when you’d really rather have your way. It’s relentlessly considering the well-being and desires of someone other than yourself and resisting the inherent impulse we human beings have toward selfishness.(Kindle Location 1865)
Grab a copy of this book and learn more about taking your understanding of marriage to a new level in many different areas!
NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. The opinions expressed here are not my own.