Friday, May 7, 2010

Marriage: A Dying to the Self

What is the crux of marital problems? My husband and I were discussing this while planting strawberries last night. I told Neil about this review of a book I want to read at Her.meneutics blog. I told Neil the author of this book on marriage points out the crux of problems with marriages today comes down this: selfishness. Neil said a hearty "Amen!". It's a struggle in our lives, maybe yours as well.

The paragraph that made me want to stop reading my current book and pick this one up was:

"Perhaps the most challenging truth that Tripp encourages us to embrace is that our greatest marital problem is ourselves. The Bible continually warns us of our own self-deception and requires us to accept that we do not see ourselves the way God sees us. We will always rise to our own defense and succumb to blaming someone else and believing the best about ourselves. Not surprisingly, God specifically uses the marital relationship to reveal the sin of self-righteousness. A marriage that is doomed to fail can be transformed when even just one person begins to see themselves in this light and confesses with genuine humility the ways they have damaged the relationship. Grace is available in full measure when we recognize this and let God examine our hearts so thoroughly that we are willing to accept whatever it is he reveals to us."

Amen and Amen! A truth to remember not only in marriage but every relationship we have. This stands in direct contrast to the popular teaching that life is "all about me". Personally, I've never found myself a very pleasant individual to spend time with when all I focus on is myself.

I will note that there are marriages where one spouse is involved in so much sin: adultry, abuse of spouse and/or children, drug abuse etc. that there are godly boundries that need to be drawn to protect yourself and your children from what is being done. That being said, there is much to learn from living unselfishly in any marriage.

This is the review by Lynn Roush, guest blogger at Her.meneutics :

During our engagement, my husband and I dutifully pursued premarital counseling. A well-meaning seminary professor and his wife graciously walked us through some of the highlights and lowlights of their marriage and how they had addressed issues. We covered faithfulness, forgiveness, and the roles of a husband and wife. But what I remember most about the evening was feeling that I already had marriage figured out. We were both seminary students who loved God, knew Scripture, and had great communication skills. That, coupled with our mutual love, meant that we were could do marriage “right” and avoid the sinkholes that had doomed other relationships.

Twelve years later, I am still, by God’s grace, happily married, but I continue to be confronted with the extent of my foolishness in those early days. I have faced unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, and unmet needs, just like every other married person has. Minimally, I could have better anticipated the hard seasons of marriage if I had understood the biblical concepts fleshed out in Paul David Tripp’s new book, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway).

Tripp's biblical wisdom burrows beneath the layers of roles, communication mishaps, and felt needs that are the typical driving forces of Christian marriage how-to manuals, and arrives at the fundamental root of all marital problems: who or what we worship. To date, this is the first Christian book on marriage I have read that does not use the words submission or headship. Nor does it refer to the most classic passage on marriage, Ephesians 5. There are no listening techniques or explanations of gender differences. The kingdom model that Tripp describes transcends gender, roles, and the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” ideas that pervade most approaches to marital troubles.

Tripp instead starts with the most basic question each of us will answer in our lives: “Whose kingdom?” “We are kingdom-oriented people," Tripp writes. "We always live in the service of one of two kingdoms . . . When we live for the kingdom of self, our decisions, thoughts, plans, actions, and words are directed by personal desire [and] we seek to surround ourselves with people who will serve our kingdom purposes." Conflict occurs when the kingdom of self collides with our spouse’s kingdom, and when they do not acquiesce to our wants, needs, and feelings. Two people pursuing their own kingdoms throughout a marriage will eventually end in bloody battle. But what if both people decide to submit to God’s kingdom, where Christ reigns supreme and where joy, meaning, and life are found? A heart reorientation of this magnitude is where real change begins, and the conflict of a marriage becomes an “opportunity to exit the small space of the kingdom of self and to begin to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the kingdom of God.”

This paradigm shift breathes hope into any marriage, especially those filled with disappointment, anger, and despair. Tripp explains what we all need to grasp, that “[God] has designed marriage to expose the neediness of your heart and in so doing, to bring you to the end of yourself." In other words, it is an act of God’s rescuing grace that we are brought to places in our marriage where we cannot depend on intelligence, communication skills, or tactics of manipulation. Relational change occurs only when our worship is properly aligned with the God who jealously pursues our hearts and who calls us to total dependence.

The question that must be answered next is, How do I now repair a marriage that has been torn apart by two warring kingdoms? The rest of Tripp’s book thoughtfully and biblically describes how two people can rebuild their marriage by developing a culture of ongoing reconciliation based on six commitments (listed at the end of this review). These commitments assume that both people are hopeless sinners who are constantly tempted to operate out of self-righteousness, self-love, and self-protection. We are then given practical (though not easy) steps to uproot patterns of relating and replace them with new ones, the most important of which is examining how trust has been broken and what needs to be done to rebuild trust, which is vital to the success of any marriage.

Perhaps the most challenging truth that Tripp encourages us to embrace is that our greatest marital problem is ourselves. The Bible continually warns us of our own self-deception and requires us to accept that we do not see ourselves the way God sees us. We will always rise to our own defense and succumb to blaming someone else and believing the best about ourselves. Not surprisingly, God specifically uses the marital relationship to reveal the sin of self-righteousness. A marriage that is doomed to fail can be transformed when even just one person begins to see themselves in this light and confesses with genuine humility the ways they have damaged the relationship. Grace is available in full measure when we recognize this and let God examine our hearts so thoroughly that we are willing to accept whatever it is he reveals to us.

What Did You Expect? is a discourse on the transforming power of grace, offered to anyone who has come to the end of themselves. Whether you are just now realizing your need for help, your marriage is full of conflict and riddled by anger and bitterness, or you are living in silent cohabitation, Tripp’s work will open your eyes to the redeeming work that God desires to accomplish in your life. Most of us didn’t expect marriage to be as hard as it is, but God’s sovereign plan includes such difficulties for the purpose of aligning our hearts to his big-sky kingdom and rescuing us from our own.

Doesn't that sound like an awesome book on marriage to read? The last time I read a book on marriage was during our pre-marital counseling. I plan on making this a must read soon!

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1 Comments:

At May 7, 2010 at 1:32 PM , Blogger Stam House said...

sounds like a wonderful book to read!!!

 

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