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.
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!