Alvera's Reviews > The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
May 29, 12

bookshelves: worth-rereading
Read from May 21 to 29, 2012

I chose this book as I found myself swimming in a sea of conflicting emotions and thoughts after having been proposed to and answering with a resounding "maybe". I found it to be well-thought-out and scripturally sound. Interestingly enough, I found the beginning chapters more thought-provoking and helpful than the later ones, despite the fact that chapters on singleness and sex were reserved for the end. I think I found the earlier chapters to be more clear and less ambiguous about their message and I found comfort and felt appropriate chagrin as I saw my own fears and behaviors (in this relationship and previous ones) described in print in the cultural context in which I exist. I also saw strengths of this relationship affirmed and found my heart softening to the thought of marriage in general, though it's still a terrifying prospect. I don't agree with all the author's ideas about marriage, but most of the advice is practical and at least worth considering, even if I (or you) ultimately decide to approach it differently.

pg. 13 "The Bible begins with a wedding (of Adam and Eve) and ends in the book of Revelation with a wedding (of Christ and the church). Marriage is God's idea. ... If God invented marriage, then those who enter it should make every effort to understand and submit to his purposes for it. We do this in many other aspects of our lives. Think of buying a car: If you purchase a vehicle, a machine well beyond your own ability to create, you will certainly take up the owner's manual and abide by what the designer says the car needs by way of treatment and maintenance." Not sure we always read the instruction manual, but agree that it is wise.

pg. 36 "You can say, 'I want someone who will accept me just as I am,' but in your heart of hearts you know that you are not perfect, that there are plenty of things about you that need to be changed, and that anyone who gets to know you up close and personal will want to change them. And you also know that the other person will have needs, deep needs, and flaws. That all sounds painful, and it is..." This ongoing idea of changing with your partner to become a better self is exciting to me.

pg. 42 "But the depth of the disillusionment people experience in our time is something new, as is the speed with which marriages collapse. In our day, something has intensified this natural experience and turned it toxic. It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live up to that."

pg. 47 "We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us. Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself? The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice."

pg. 58-9 " only discover your own happiness after each of you has put the happiness of your spouse ahead of your own, in a sustained way, in response to what Jesus has done for you....It is the joy that comes from giving joy, from loving another person in a costly way.... Christianity asserts that God is triune -- that is, three persons within one God...from all eternity, each person -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- has glorified, honored, and loved the other two. So there is an 'other-orientation' within the very being of God." I like this ongoing comparison between the Trinity and the two becoming one flesh. Again, I find this thought challenging, but uplifting and exciting.

pg. 63 "All people need to be treated gently and respectfully, especially those who have been wounded. They will be unusually sensitive to rough handling. Nevertheless, all people must be challenged to see that their self-centeredness hasn't been caused by the people who hurt them; it's only aggravated by the abuse. And they must do something about it, or they're going to be miserable forever."

pg. 66 "The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness -- not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It means taking your mind off yourself and realizing that in Christ your needs are going to be met and are, in fact, being met so that you don't look at your spouse as your savior."

pg. 78 "But when the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone. How much are you willing to lose for the sake of this person? How much of your freedom are you willing to forsake? How much of your precious time, emotion, and resources are you willing to invest in this person?"

One ongoing theme that I found very insightful and I am still wrestling with is the discussion of a consumer view (What can I get out of it? Is the price worth it?) vs. a covenant view (This relationship is binding and takes precedence over my individual needs.) of marriage. Perhaps because I am a product of my own age, I'm not sure how one can arrive at a decision to covenant with another without considering the value and the price of such a choice.

pg. 89 "Vows keep you from simply running out too quickly. They give love a chance and create stability so the feelings of love, always very fitful and fragile in the early months and years, can grow strong and deep over time. They enable your passion to grow in breadth and depth, because they give us the security necessary to open our hearts and speak vulnerably and truthfully without being afraid that our partner will simply walk away." This sounds beautiful, but how can two divorced people trust such a promise?

pg. 95 "When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us."

pg. 105 "You must stick to your commitment to act and serve in love even when -- no, especially when -- you don't feel much delight and attraction to your spouse. And the more you do that, slowly but surely, you will find your more ego-heavy attraction being transformed into a love that is more characterized by a humble, amazed reception and appreciation of the other person. The love you grow into will be wiser, richer, deeper, less variable."

There is much talk of the importance of friendship within marriage -- its constancy, its trasparency, shared interests and passions. This resonates with me very much, though I have certainly had romances and friendships that were more shallow or one-sided or less constant than I had realized or hoped.

pg. 121 "Within this Christian vision for marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, 'I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!'" Wow! Then I'm there... Is it really that simple? When there are kids and exes and tons and tons of emotional baggage?

pg. 122 "This is by no means a naive, romanticized approach -- rather it is brutally realistic. 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.'"

pg. 123 "What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse's holiness. You're committed to his or her beauty. You're committed to his greatness and perfection. You're committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That's your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you're just playing at being married." Strong statement!

pg. 140 "Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it."

pg. 147 "Your self-image has been stitched together often without a unifying theme. If it were made visible, it might look something like the Frankenstein monster, with many disparate parts.... But now into your life comes someone who has the power to overturn all the accumulated verdicts that have ever been passed upon you by others or by you yourself. Marriage puts into your spouse's hand a massive power to reprogram your own self-appreciation."

pg. 160 "One of the greatest expressions of love is the willingness to change, to make a commitment to change attitudes and behaviors in yourself that trouble or hurt your spouse. There must be an ability to take correction and to be accountable for concrete changes." This is true. I find myself touched and humbled by such commitments that I am receiving.

pg. 163-164 "You put gems into the tumbler and they are brought into constructive, creative contact with each other. They knock the rough edges off of each other until each gem is smooth and beautiful. But if you don't put a special compound into the tumbler with the gems, the stones will either bounce off of one another without any effects or may crack and shatter each other. The grinding compound in the gem tumbler is like God's grace in a marriage. Without the power of grace, truth and love can't be combined. Spouses either stay away from the truth -- they 'bounce off each other' -- or else they attack one another and they shatter."

There was truth to be found in the section on embracing differences between men and women and I agree that we certainly need each other, but resonate more fully with the idea in the singles chapter that this can be achieved outside of marriage as well as within it. I found the history of dating interesting and agreed with much of the advice about singleness and about sex in and outside of marriage, but didn't find myself as moved, perhaps because much of it reiterated points that were introduced more intriguingly elsewhere in the book. I'm not sure that I completely agree with this couple's ideas of gender roles. Nevertheless, I did find the appendix about decision making and gender roles to be well-grounded in practicality and in scripture.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone considering marriage and anyone wanting to grow in their ideas of a Godly marriage.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Meaning of Marriage.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

05/21/2012 page 49
16.0% "I chose this book because of the words that popped out at me from the back cover: "I'm tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage..." Guess this book is preaching too me a bit. It's grounding to have my own fears put in context of the society in which I live and the faith that I try to follow. I especially saw myself in "The Irony of Pessimistic Idealism"."
05/22/2012 page 76
25.0% "Just finished Chapter 2 The Power for Marriage. "And only if you are filled with the Spirit will you have all you need to perform the duty of serving your spouse ...... each partner is called to sacrifice for the other in far-reaching ways." I found myself humbled while reading the chapter, thinking of sacrifices made for me, particularly as I read Keller's insights on self-centeredness and woundedness."
05/24/2012 page 133
44.0% ""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.'...The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be." (pg. 122-123) Intriguing!"
05/27/2012 page 169
56.0% "Chapter five expounds on the power of truth -- facing the worst, the power of love -- renewing the heart, and the power of grace -- reconciling. "Spiritually discerning spouses can see a bit of what God sees in their partners, and it excites them. The rest of the world sees us wrinkling up, but using marriage's powers in the grace of Jesus, we see each other becoming more and more spiritually gorgeous." (169)"
show 1 hidden update…

No comments have been added yet.