Years ago my wife and I were given some misleading marriage advice. “If you want your marriage to survive, you need to have a weekly date night. Hire a babysitter, go out for dinner, romance each other, and have a grant time.” We were doing fine together, but we decided to try out the date night necessity thesis. It wasn’t long before we figured out the weekly date night rule is overkill for us. Besides, unless you’ve only got one child, who can afford that kind of date night?
And yet the advice wasn’t all bad. Over the course of 17 years of marriage we have found it true that we need devoted “couple time”. If for no other reason than to get a break from the kids and some quiet adult time. One of the “dates” we’ve found that works for us is taking long, brisk walks. That’s what we do when it’s not too cold outside and the sun is still up. But when both of those conditions are not met, we’ve discovered another “date” that works well for us. Reading out loud to each other. My wife, being a busy mother and running a home-based business, has little time to pleasure read on her own. She dreams of someday pursuing her passion and gift for counseling, and recognizes that gaining experience should be joined with education and training. So together we’ve committed to read books that will help her as a lay counselor, and me as a pastor, to help others, better understand our own hearts, and strengthen our marriage. One we recently finished reading and discussing is called Married For God: Making Your Marriage The Best It Can Be (MFG), by Christopher Ash.
This is by no means the first marriage book I’ve read. Many books in the genre are self-help: how to improve your marriage by changing your spouse. A few are scholarly works of psychology or sociology. Those are interesting, but not exactly uplifting reading for date nights! But there are a few that strike a balance between personally practical, relationally and socially insightful, and well-grounded in reality. I call these types of marriage books “gospel-oriented” because marriage from a Christian perspective must deeply engage all three angles. Most gospel-oriented marriage books include all of these angles but major on one. MFG emphasizes the grounded in reality perspective. As such it functions as a sort of primer on the basic questions surrounding the divine and human institution of marriage. Continue reading