Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Meaning of Marriage (Part 2 of 3)

After yesterday’s brief review of The Meaning of Marriage, today I will go through the first half in more detail:

In Chapter 1: The Secret of Marriage, Keller states that secret of marriage is the gospel, for the gospel helps us to understand marriage and marriage helps us to understand the gospel. It is through the gospel that we find the power and the pattern for marriage:
God’s saving love in Christ...is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. (p48)
The truth and love combined in the gospel gives us the power and the knowledge of how to be married.

It is true that marriage is hard work, but it is worth it:
Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. (p21)
Keller also deals with a very helpful misconception in this chapter: the idea that we have to find our soul mate, the perfect person to marry. No, he says, we never marry the ‘right person’. For 2 reasons: we change throughout our lives and we are sinful.

In Chapter 2: The Power for Marriage, Keller unpacks the idea that is in the Holy Spirit who helps us to have the power for marriage, working against the main enemy of marriage – the sinful self-centredness of our hearts.
Only if you have the ministry of the Spirit in your life will you be fully furnished to face the challenges of marriage in general. And only if you are filled with the Spirit will you have all you need to perform the duty of serving your spouse in particular. (p52-3)
He challenges us to look at the reasons for issues in a marriage:
When facing any problem in marriage, the first thing you look for at the base of it is, in some measure, self-centredness and an unwillingness to serve or minister to the other. (p59)
Making it a priority to know, fear and serve the Lord Jesus gives us power and strength for this type of marriage and helps us to continue to want to serve the other and let go of our self-centredness.

I found this chapter particularly helpful in thinking through where many issues in marriage come from – our desire to put ourselves first, rather than serve first.

Chapter 3: The Essence of Marriage helps us to consider what is at the centre of marriage – love. But so much more than that – a covenantal love. A love that is a promise and a commitment, a love that promises to last the future, not just the present.
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? (p78)
A marriage is a covenant relationship, one is that is a covenant made both between two people, but also between a person and God. In the marriage ceremony you make promises before God: “Will you take this woman to be your wife?” is not answered to the wife, but to God: “I will”. Then you make promises to each other.
[A covenant] is a relationship far more intimate and personal that a merely legal, business relationship. Yet at the same time, it is far more durable, binding and unconditional that one based on mere feeling and affection. A covenant relationship is a stunning blend of law and love. (p84, my emphasis)
Not only that but the covenant love of a marriage declares much more that a current love for one another, but a future intention to continue to love:
In a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. (p87)
Therefore in any marriage, there will be times when we must choose to continue to love our spouses, when it doesn’t come easily. Love at this point is action, not feeling. It is decision to follow through on the promise previously made.

Each of these chapters had helpful insights both for me and others whom we talk about marriage with. Lots to think about and lots to work on!

More coming tomorrow...

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Meaning of Marriage (Part 1)

The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

Another book on marriage has entered the Christian world and it is a good one.  

Timothy Keller has done his Christian audience a great service with this book. This is not another ‘how to be married book’: how to communicate, how to deal with arguments, etc.  Those types of books do have great value, especially for those who are engaged or in the early years of marriage (one of our recent favourites is Now That You Are Engaged reviewed here).

What Keller has done is to lift our vision of marriage much higher that just the husband and wife. He places God squarely at the centre of every marriage and as the creator of marriage.

He seeks to provide an answer to questions such as: What is meaning of marriage? Why does marriage exist? What does it mean to enter a covenant? What is Christian friendship, and how does it find its fullest expression in marriage? Where does the power to continue in marriage come from? How then shall we view singleness?

Keller strongly grounds this work in the word of God, and ends up providing a very helpful framework of marriage as being a relationship of Christian friendship, promised in a covenant of love, powered by the Holy Spirit.

Last year, I reviewed Married for God by Christopher Ash in some detail. At the time I thought it filled a void in the market for marriage books: one that actually described marriage from God’s perspective. This one stands beside it well.

It would be very good for:
  • already married couples to raise their eyes to the purpose of their relationship
  • for engaged couples, to give them a solid grounding in God’s view of marriage and the importance of the relationship
  • for anyone wanting to think ‘theologically’ about marriage
  • for young people, to ensure they have a God-centred view of marriage as they approach their relationships and life choices.

I think is probably an easier read than Married for God and I found it more logical on some points.  Personally, I also found it more encouraging and less dry.

All in all a very good book for anyone who wants to think about marriage theologically. Which all of us should!

Over the next two days, I will delve into this book in a bit more depth, covering Ch 1-3 tomorrow and Ch 4-8 on Wednesday. That gives me a chance to think through it more, and to whet your appetite to read it yourself! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Help

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

This is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel. And what a debut - this is a strong, intelligent book.

It’s Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and Miss Skeeter is home from college wanting to be a journalist, yet having failed (in her mother’s eyes) to find a husband. The woman who raised her, the coloured help Constantine, has gone with no explanation. At the same time, two other maids, Aibileen and Minny work for her friends. They raise the children, care for the home and cook for everyone, yet are expected to use separate bathrooms to their white employers.

As Skeeter starts to question the very life into which she has been born - the segregated south - she, Aibileen and Minny embark on a journey to tell the story of the ‘help’.

It’s poignant, sad, astonishing, frightening and funny. It makes you question how white people could possibly be so ignorant and racist. Then you stop to think about the history of the USA, Australia, South Africa, Europe, etc and you realise that we have been at it for many years. Having said that, next week’s book (The Novel in the Viola) reminded me that race may actually have nothing to do with it, but rather money or status - more to come on that!

This book is well worth the read, both for the wonderful piece of writing that it is, but also for the eye-opening piece of history that it offers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Promise

The Promise

Do you have any understanding of the Arab/Israeli situation?  How it all started in the late 1940s and how it looks today?   I don't, never having looked into it in detail or understood the small amount I knew.  Now I'm sure TV dramas don't get all details right, but I really enjoyed this and it opened my eyes into some of the complexities of the situation.

The Promise is a 4 part drama series that was screened by SBS towards the end of last year.   

It combines two stories.  The first is of Len, a British soldier part of the post-WWII peace-keeping force in Palestine.  At the time when Jews were fleeing Europe after the horrors of WWII, those who chose to settle in Palestine often clashed with the Palestinians living there.   He has sympathies for the Jews having witnessed some of the atrocities of concentration camps; yet also befriends an Arab, Mohammed and becomes involved with his family.

At the same time, we meet Claire, Len's granddaughter, who has discovered his diary of those days.  Travelling to Israel on a gap year with a friend, and hosted by her rich Israeli family, she sets out to track down Mohammed's family.  Travelling to the West Bank, Hebron and Gaza, her eyes are opened into the current situation in Israel today. I wouldn't have thought any 18 year old would be quite as blithely stupid as she was wandering into war zones, yet then, you never know - at 18 you do think you are invincible! 

I found it very interesting, very moving and quite believable.  It managed to convey both sides of the issues well, although I think in the end the Israelis ended up looking worse.  I cannot comment on the accuracy, but I appreciated some of the insights.

It's no longer on the SBS website, but my guess is they will show it again in 2012.  More details are on the British Channel 4 website.  Look out for it on TV, or in your local library.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jane Austen in Scarsdale

Jane Austen in Scarsdale, Paula Marantz Cohen

Is it true there are very few original stories out there?

Why is there an enduring literary obsession with Jane Austen?

I must say I don't fully understand it, but sometimes I do enjoy it. Jane Austen in Scarsdale is Paula Marantz Cohen's modern version of Persuasion.  Anne fell in love with Ben at 21 but her family persuaded her that he wasn't good enough.  Thirteen years later she is working as a high school guidance counselor and Ben re-enters her life when his nephew enrols at the school.

For those who know the story you can, of course, predict the ending. 

It is lovely, light and witty reading: a love story with astute observations about students and parents thrown in for entertainment.  Perfect for a summer holiday or a lazy afternoon.

* If anyone has a copy of Jane Austen in Boca, a Pride and Prejudice rewrite, I would love to borrow it - no library near me seems to have it!