Monday, July 19, 2010

Marriage Builder - by Crabb part 2

So, I finished "The Marriage Builder" today! It's been an excellent read, and worth going through slowly and really thinking deeply about the concepts discussed. I view this as a life-changing book; one which I continually think back to after the reading is complete.

In the section talked about in the last blog, he discussed manipulation. He follows that section with a pretty lengthy section on communication. In this section he describes the difference between desires and goals.

He begins the section discussing unhealthy emotional and verbal reactions we have in our marriages (i.e. stuffing feelings down, dumping feelings on someone); his conclusion is to fully acknowledge our feelings in prayer and selectively express those thoughts if it serves a purpose. He insists that we can cultivate control over spontaneous reactions through practice.

Then he brings up goals and desires. "A goal is an objective that is under my control" (p.74) "A desire is an objective that I may legitimately and fervently want, but cannot reach through my efforts alone." (p.74) He discusses how most quarrels comes from unfulfilled desires, according to the Bible. ("What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?...James 4) He claims that, "The proper response to a desire is prayer. To a goal, the appropriate response is a set of responsible actions. If we confuse our goals and desires, our responses will be wrong. Too many people pray for their goals (Lord, make me treat my wife more kindly) and assume responsibility for their desires (Honey, will you get off my back?!?). The principle to remember is, Pray for your desires and assume responsibilities for your goals." (p.75)

It's not that a desire can never have goals attached to it. In fact, in his kind of funny metaphor he described what it would be like if you believed you could make it rain in order to water your back yard. You are powerless to make it rain; that's a desire - not a goal. But, what if you changed the goal to "I want to make sure my lawn gets some water on it". Then, since it's within your power to buy a sprinkler or what-not - it's an actual goal that can be accomplished. So, sometimes it may be essential for some of us to figure out how to change some of our goals into thing that are actual goals, and not desires.

He then has a short chapter on sex, called "body oneness" and contrasts worldly views of sex with biblical ones. In short, he says that sex is more than just physical enjoyment and fun - it is those things too (hopefully), but it's also about sharing a deep connection with one another (or, "oneness" as he puts it).

His final section is on the 3 building blocks of a healthy marriage: grace, commitment, and acceptance.

His grace chapter is about having hope that redemption and change are truly possible through Christ. It's about not throwing in the towel. He also speaks in this chapter to the situation that some find themselves in, where one partner is willing to work on a marriage and the other one is not.

His chapter on commitment is about having true commitment for our spouse that is deeper than mere grudging duty to one another. He also speaks about the deep joy that faithfulness and obedience to God can have in our lives. "All my needs are met in Christ. The riches of heaven are mine. I am called to believe this. And God has given me a taste of what lies ahead to excite my faith. The problem, sadly, is that very few Christians have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The joy of fellowship with Christ and service in His name is less than a thrilling reality for too many Christians because of inadequate commitment to Him. But those who have cast their entire lot with Christ know something of the peace and joy He provides...As long as God's plan includes a loving wife, I have little difficulty believing in His goodness. But when He calls me to love a rejecting woman, it requires herculean faith to continue believing that His plan is good. If I do continue in that confidence, however, the essential joy of ministry remains. The missionary whose efforts God rewards with many converts returns to his home church beaming with enthusiastic reports of God's blessing. The missionary whose equally faithful efforts yield no apparent fruit cannot feel the same quality of excitement. Although the pain of discouragement is real and can provoke spiritual struggle and self-examination, the faithful servant of God has reason for joy in the guarantee that every act of obedience done for the sake of Christ is accomplishing its intended purpose and brings a smile to the lips of the Savior. I confess that I would much prefer to be the missionary with the booming ministry, or the husband of a loving wife. But whether blessed with pleasant circumstances or tested by painful trial, the Christian's final basis for joy remains the same: The confidence that our faithfulness pleases Christ and is used by Him according to His sovereign plan. Because His plan is good, obedience and commitment bring joy to the sincere Christian." (p.123-125)

And finally, his last chapter is on accepting one another. This chapter is about forgiveness, and the ability to truly accept another person despite all of their flaws. True acceptance also means a willingness to not punish the other person, and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable to hurt over and over again rather than protecting ourselves with an emotional shield.

Overall, an excellent marriage book - highly recommended. It also includes a few appendixes and a lengthy discussion guide for couples.

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