Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage

Book Review:  The Meaning of Marriage

For the last month or so a book has been sitting beside my computer – The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller.  This husband and wife team have been married for over 36 years – working as a pastor and wife first in Virginia, and since 1989 in New York City, USA.

What drew me to this book will probably surprise you.  I first read about this book because Timothy Keller did something unique with his congregation of  over 80% singles.  In the spring of 1991 he taught a series of nine sermons on the topic of marriage.

Why teach a church, mostly filled with singles, about marriage?

He noticed an interesting phenomenon happening in his congregants.   Many of them had moved to New York City – the Big Apple – from other parts of the USA where the culture is much more traditional.

They brought their “You aren’t a whole person until you’re married.” mentality with them and it clashed with the Big City “Wait till you’ve made it big, and then find the perfect person to make you happy.” rhetoric.

He preached those nine sermons – from which most of this book grew – to give his church filled with 80% singles a “balanced, informed view of marriage”.

He felt that without this balance, singles either over-desire or under-desire marriage.  He says that sometimes singles hold marriage up as an idol and that can carry through into a married life, leaving them feeling empty because their spouse and ‘ideal’ marriage can’t hold up to the image.  The other side of the equation is an attitude of fear which causes singles to avoid marriage.

His solution to this imbalance is for singles to first create a relationship with God.  We all – married and single – need to know God, to know Christ, first.  His other suggestions for singles is to recognize there are seasons not to seek marriage, and to understand the ‘gift of singleness’.

Timothy and Kathy Keller address the modern culture myths about marriage:

  • romance is the most important part of a successful marriage
  • your spouse is there to help you realize your potential
  • everyone has a soul mate
  • starting over after divorce is the best solution to impossible marriage issues
  • marriage means merely for now

Throughout the eight chapters, they use the Bible as a guide to show how God created marriage to bring us closer to Him.  The SubTitle of the book is:  Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

I really enjoyed the details and perspective in this book.  My favorite chapter (at this time, anyway) is “The Mission of Marriage” where they talk about friendship – Christian friendship – and your spouse as your best friend.

In this view of marriage, each person says to the other, “I see all your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, dependencies.  But underneath them all I see growing the person God wants you to be.”  This is radically different from the search for “compatibility.”  As we have seen, researchers have discovered that this term means we are looking for a partner who accepts us just as we are.  This is the very opposite of that.

Robert and I have been married since we were 19 & 21.  We met at 15 & 17.  It feels like I’ve always been with him, and sometimes it’s difficult to put myself into the space in which singles or newly married couples live.

This book opened a relevant perspective for me to explore and then have conversations with those who waited to be married, perhaps carrying some of these myths into their marriage.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love your perspective!

Or if you have other books you enjoyed that explore moving from singleness to marriage in this modern age, I’d love to know!

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  1. Lori,

    A MarriageDance blog reader posted a comment about that book here:

    I’ll share this post with him. I had heard about the book, obviously, but I did not know the connection to a single audience. Interesting! I look forward to reading it.

    Dawn recently posted..Conversation without wordsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Dawn!

      and thank you for ‘dropping in’! :-)

  2. Lori,

    Thanks for the summary.

    Dawn shared with me that you had written this, and I didn’t know the context the book was written for.

    It’s great to have another book out there that hits the reset button on what hearts are for, and that reminds us that we are to strive first to be servants and friends before we wander out further into the rigors of romantic love. I have been slowly making my way through the book as well, and have found it a great encouragement and corrective as I have been evaluating my attitudes, expectations, and behaviors on love and dating from reviewing past relationships, and as I think about the future.

    What Keller’s book has reaffirmed within me, like Josh Harris’ book before, is to learn how to simply love and serve people in my life, let friendships happen, and then let Him lead me into something more with someone, if He wills it. It’s a big exercise in trust, really. Trusting Him to hear our hearts, and to meet our needs.

    I appreciate the fact that you and your husband have been married for such a long time, and attest to the truth that the best couples are made up… of best friends.

    Thanks for your post.

    Bruce Welton recently posted..The Fault We Must FightMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book, Bruce!

  3. I have this book on my shelf, Lori, and I think it is packed with wisdom. You did a great summary of Tim’s main points! Thanks for highlighting this wonderful book.
    Dr. Ann recently posted..I Do, Therefore I Am. Aren’t I?My Profile

    • Thank you Ann – This one was a slow read for me because of all the nuggets. I find myself just picking it up over and over (still) to read and ponder.

  4. Off topic here, but you and I are living parallel lives – Bob and I met at 15 and 17 and married at 19 and 21. Wow! I think I’m a year older than you – 56, and we’ll be married 37 years in August.
    Bonnie Anderson recently posted..Something to Crow AboutMy Profile

    • AND our husbands share a name, right? Bob/Rob (both Robert?)

      We are married 10 years apart, (we were married 28 years in May) but I haven’t made it to 50 yet – this year in August I’ll be 48…

      Fun, huh?

  5. Thanks for the insights Lori. This is one that I’ve not read yet but will be doing so in the future.
    Robyn Gibson recently posted..Reflected fusionMy Profile

    • It’s a great book Robyn – lots to ‘chew’ on…

  6. Tom and I are reading this book and loving it. I’ve had the same impression so far, and loved the chapter on being each other’s best friend.
    Debi – The Romantic Vineyard recently posted..Surprise Bedroom CheckMy Profile

  7. We just finished studying this book in Sunday school this past weekend. I really enjoyed it. Our group was very eclectic. It was helpful to hear everyone’s different perspectives on each of the chapters. We even had a single lady in our group. It got us thinking about how we need to encourage more singles to join our congregation and how to encourage the singles in our life by showing them how our real marriages work.


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