This book was life-changing! I’m married to my best friend, Matt, whom I love with all my heart. We celebrate seven years of marriage this November and have a blended family of four kids ages 12, 13, 14, and 15. This is a second marriage for both of us, and I don’t often write about my “time before Matt” partly because as a Christian I don’t want to proclaim “I’m divorced and remarried.” I’m embarrassed about it, in truth—I never wanted to be a “divorced woman,” and I know God hates divorce.
But it’s my reality, and one I’m forced to own. It’s also an experience that has taught me so much about marriage, God’s plan for marriage, and how critical it is to keep God at the center of my marriage.
Now, seven years into our marriage, Scott’s book reminds me of the truths I have come to know so well. And it convicts me anew that we need to keep these things at our core to not only enable our marriage to thrive but—most importantly—to have our lives honor and bless our God, as well as show others, including our children, the way.
Scott’s words in Chapter 11 about divorce hit hard: “I am not trying to condemn those who have already gone through a divorce (and the vast majority of people who have experienced the tragedy of divorce would confirm what I am saying here about the damage divorce causes),” Scott writes. “Rather, I want to urge married couples never to consider divorce as an option. My hope is to spare families, especially those with children, the deep heartache divorce brings. My experience has been that most people who have been through a divorce are among the first to encourage pastors to preach strongly against it. They want to see others avoid the grief they have suffered.”
This, exactly. Not only do I want my own marriage to grow and blossom, but I know firsthand that deep heartache of divorce he refers to. I don’t want anyone to go through what I experienced. We can escape such pain by honoring the wisdom given to us in the Bible.
“I am not asking you to trust me,” Scott writes in the introduction. “Rather, I am inviting you to trust what God says in the Bible.”
Note that none of these points apply to abusive marriages. Men—or women—who abuse their spouse are never acting in a Godly manner.
Here are my four key takeaways from Scott’s book:
1) The power of the marriage model
I’ve learned, and Scott reiterates, that the model of marriage is a cornerstone, and living within an ideal, Godly marriage is part of God’s plan.
Not all people are called to marriage, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. But for those who do marry, the covenant and relationship that evolves is so important.
In the introduction, Scott makes the point that “the marriage relationship is one of the greatest tools believers have for sharing about Christ with others because it is a picture of Jesus and His relationship to the church. Godly marriages can reveal Christ to an unbelieving world.”
I grew up a child of divorce and didn’t truly understand the power of a Godly marriage, where the man and woman are united with each other in the way God intends, each loving, respecting, serving, and honoring the other as a way of loving the Lord. I also grew up in a big city and was mightily influenced by the morals and values of non-Christians for many, many years—those of friends and coworkers and pop culture and the world in general.
In Chapter 14, Scott tells us that whenever we read the Bible, we face two choices: We can shape Scripture to fit our desires and beliefs, or we can allow Scripture to shape us and our thinking.
I choose to be shaped by Scripture.
And Scripture tells me there is a model for marriage, and it wields great power.
2) Keep God at the center
That model for marriage is one where God is at the center. Hard times will come—that’s almost a given in any relationship. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t experience some sort of hardship or struggle. Our life on earth is not perfect, nor will it ever be.
When those hard times come in a marriage, they have the potential to tear down the foundation and shatter the union. If it’s just man and woman united alone, two sinful and imperfect creatures against the temptations and evils of the world, they are vulnerable to attack.
But when their marriage is rooted in Christ, nothing can stand against them.
As Scott writes in Chapter 21, “Just as Jesus was the rock for Israel and is the rock for the church, He can also be the rock—or foundation—for our marriages.”
When the proverbial thunderstorms of life appear, a foundation rooted in the Lord will never crumble.
Our marriage faced a hard time recently when one of our kids had a major mental health crisis. Instead of putting each other first, I had to drop everything and focus all my attention on my child—on getting her the help she needed. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Matt, and it certainly wasn’t easy for me. But our relationship is rooted in the Lord, and God took care of us.
“Yes, there will be times when a husband does not want to love his wife and a wife does not want to submit to her husband,” Scott writes in Chapter 1. “In those moments, husbands and wives can tell themselves, ‘I am called to do this out of my love for Christ. I want to submit to His commands because of what He has done for me.’ I would never try to convince a husband that his wife is worthy of his love, or try to convince a wife that her husband is worthy of her submission. The fact is, no spouse is worthy. But Christ is worthy of a husband’s love and a wife’s submission. He deserves our obedience.”
3) A ‘good helpmate’
As a feminist and a driven career woman, I used to bristle at the word “submission.” I resented Bible verses that talked about how the wife must “submit” to her husband. But then I learned the word means far more than it does in our culture. Indeed, submission is part of every Christian’s call. We are to submit to government, to each other, to our enemy—and to our spouse.
In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As a follower of Jesus, I am to do the same—we all are.
In my marriage, I’ve learned to embrace the role of helper to my husband. This doesn’t mean he is more important than I am or that I my work and role are unimportant. I’ve simply realized that serving my husband, putting his needs before mine and trying to be helpful to him, is a way I can serve Jesus.
As Scott writes in Chapter 5, the Hebrew word translated “helper” is ezer, and it means “help” or “one who helps.” The word occurs 21 times in the Old Testament, including twice in Genesis 2. But it’s important to note that ezer is never used in a negative sense.
“The term isn’t used to speak of a sycophant, minion, or slave. Instead, it is used to describe great strength and support,” Scott writes.
Marriage is a team sport. When we fight, one of us doesn’t “win” the argument. We both lose.
Pushing my ego and pride aside to focus on how I can help my husband is a good way to love him. When I help Matt, we both win. He helps me in return, and together, our efforts glorify the Lord. In humbling myself, I gain much, and I’m modeling Jesus in the process.
4) Respect is key
The biggest thing I have learned in my marriage is that respect is critical. We all want love and respect, but in a marriage, one is primary and the other secondary. As Scott writes in Chapter 12, “Husbands want to be loved, but they want to be respected even more. Wives want to be respected, but they want to be loved even more.”
In my first marriage, I lost all respect for my spouse. But with Matt, I strive to respect him always. This means I don’t seek to control him or manipulate him. I trust that he’s a grownup tasked to lead our family well. I make a conscious choice to “let” him lead. This doesn’t mean I simply do his bidding—it just means I choose to trust his judgment. I don’t try to manage things as I did in the past. He doesn’t need a manager—he needs a wife.
In Chapter 15, Scott writes, “Some husbands don’t lead because their wives are already doing so.”
I show respect for my husband by trusting him and relinquishing that control I used to hold so tightly. I don’t need to control every aspect of our lives. We’re a partnership.
Of course, this is my take as a woman. Scott has plenty of words of wisdom for men throughout this book, but as a wife, I found reading the parts about my role in the marriage the most helpful.
I highly recommend this book!