In Gary Thomas' book "Sacred Marriage" he poses the question, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy?"
If you've grown up in a church setting as I have, you've probably heard of or seen your church put on marriage conferences or maybe marriage classes for the Wednesday night bible study. Some popular classes at my church, which my parents have often lead and facilitated thanks to their strong example of a christian marriage, have included "Love and Respect", "Fireproof", and "For Men/Women Only". Mark and I have read the last 2 books at the suggestion of our parents in preparation for our marriage and these books largely focus on how to better understand your spouse in order to improve your marital relationships. I enjoyed reading those books and with out a doubt gained insight into how a man is designed and what he needs, but this book by Gary Thomas takes the focus off of building a better marriage. It shows that marriage can be the avenue for experiencing a deeper relationship with God.
Not that bettering your marriage (or preparing for my eventual marriage) is wrong, in fact I believe this is a good thing. But shouldn't our main focus, whether we are single or married, be on developing a closer, deeper, more intimate relationship with God? Because in light of eternity, that is the relationship that counts. There will be no marriage at the resurrection, except for that of Christ and his Church. The relationship between husband and wife can reveal the character flaws that God is trying to correct in our lives.
I just finished chapter 6 (out of 13) which was titled "The Cleansing of Marriage". It spoke about how his marriage has held a mirror up to his own sin. Forcing him to honestly face his flaws and selfishness. He quotes an author that says "Sometimes what is hard to take in the first years of marriage is not what we find out about our partner, but we find out about ourselves."
This book has challenged my thinking on preparing for my future role as a wife. I need to purpose to not only understand the way God designed Mark in order to understand how Mark is thinking and communicating his needs so we can grow closer as a couple, but to view my relationship with Mark as a platform for growing closer to God. I need to view my future marriage as a way to be cleansed spiritually, to view it as a spiritual discipline. My main focus on entering this marriage should not be on becoming emotionally fulfilled or romantically charged (though I am excited about those things and believe those can be a result of a godly marriage for sure!). My predominant reason for entering this marriage should be so that I can become more like Jesus Christ.
I'm thankful for my dear friend Robyn who gave this book to me as an engagement present of sorts, for she is always spurring me on in my relationship with Christ. Urging me not to become satisfied with the things of this world or lose track of my eternal focus. God gave her to me to be my iron, and I only pray I return the favor in our relationship.
I'm excited to continue reading and gaining new insight. This should definitely make it on your "to read" list. [Or am I the only one that has one of those? :)]