I was asked if I wanted to read an advanced copy of What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, by Paul David Tripp and published by Crossway Books. Um, yes please?
This is probably one of the best books I've said "yes" to when it comes to reviewing. If I were in the habit of giving away 5 stars around these parts, I'd give this one 1,000. Even then, that would not be enough stars to rate this book because it was absolutely awesome in every single way.
Before Jonathan and I got married we read a ton of marriage books. If the title or the subject matter had anything to do with the mere idea of being married then you can probably assume we read it. We also went through months of premarital counseling, watched video series, listened to audio series and tried to learn as much as we could as we entered into this holy state. We also
This book takes the cake when it comes to all the materials that we read through though! I'm pretty sure it was written for us and we certainly wish it was written by us. (I don't think I've ever said that about a book before in my life, but it's true!)
Are you married? Pick up a copy of this book. If you're married, you need it. Why do I think this book is the best I've ever read on the topic? Where do I even begin?
Let me put it this way - Paul David Tripp is realistic. He's not here to tell married couples (or those considering becoming so) that 'love is all' anyone needs. He refers to soon-to-be-weds as being in a state of romantic delirium, full of unrealistic but happy-ish thoughts about what marriage is. He has noticed that as soon as the "honeymoon" is over and people get on about their daily lives - they have some adjustments to make. Suddenly you discover that you didn't marry the person that you thought you did. Oh, not to say your mate is evil. He's not saying that at all! He's just making the case that we're each sinful and once you enter into the marriage state, you have not only your own sins to deal with (which are suddenly magnified by 1,000) but you have your own sins to deal with. Wait! What? Yeah. You heard correctly. Tripp is here to tell you that you are a sinner. He recommends not even beginning to look in your spouse's direction.
To give you a visual, Tripp points out (har) that our typical behavior when things aren't going "our way" in our own little personal kingdom is to do something like this:
We like to place the blame on other people whenever possible. "Never take personal responsibility" is frequently our motto whether we realize it or not, right? It's pathetic when you think about it! We're oafs when we do that.
Instead, Trip says that we should stand in front of a mirror and do this:
Point that finger at the person who is really causing the problem. That's right! Tripp says that the person who is causing the problems in your marriage is none other than the blessed you. The sooner we are open to examining our own behaviors, and setting pride aside to address our own sin issues, the sooner our marriage will be repaired and restored.
He describes this in terms of personal kingdoms - His and Hers, respectively. We each want ultimate sovereignty in the relationship. Jonathan - do this. Carrie - do that. What each person is essentially saying is, "Make ME feel comfortable!" Tripp admonishes couples not to do that. We shouldn't be selfishly decreeing that things look the way we personally and individually think that they ought. Rather, he says to focus on becoming one flesh and creating a new identity with one another. It wouldn't look like me and it wouldn't look like Jonathan. It would look like Jonathan & Carrie, together. That new unit is something uniquely different and a component of who we used to be (but are not anymore.) No longer is it Jonathan or Carrie but Jonathan AND Carrie. (One little word change can make all the difference.)
Tripp further says that the thing to do is not necessarily to "learn how to love your spouse" (like so many other marriage books that we read!) but "learn how to love God." This entire book is essentially based on the concept that in order to love your spouse, you must first learn to love God - to worship Him. Tripp maintains that if you fail to learn how to love and worship God as the Creator of Marriage, you will never learn how to effectively love your spouse.
When couples get married, they seem to be focused on the fact that life is now suddenly all about their new loving partnership.
He is so awesome. She is beautiful. He is so charming. She is so generous. He is so smart. She is so patient.
Our eyes are focused on the external and the temporary (in so many ways) that we kinda forget to look up in order to establish this new romantic relationship in way that will foster growth between the couple for the long haul that is apparently marriage.
"This is the bottom line: the war for our marriages is a war of worship. The fundamental problem of every marriage is misplaced worship. The cure for every marriage is renewed worship of God. Does it sound too simple? Well, it is and it isn't. Although this principle is true of every marriage, the war and the cure look different for every couple, because the way the war plays out and the way the cure heals is different for each couple. It is different for each couple due to how God has hardwired us, who He placed us near, and where He has chosen for us to live. Yet, despite our differences, we all suffer from the same problem, and we all look to the same cure." Chapter 17, Worship, Work, and Grace)Most Christians, having heard the instruction to "love God and by doing so, you'll learn to love your spouse" will nod their heads in agreement. I would have to agree that the statement sounds "simplistic" on its face. But my heart leaped when I read these words because of the deeper truth - the war on worship, and the war on individual marriages is very real. And if we, as Christians, realized this, maybe we would learn to stay alert and fight harder for that 'which God has joined together' (both for our own marriages and for others'.) Instead, we married couples tend to feel 'hard pressed on every side' - even by those who profess love for us! But as Tripp points out, because we are so different we will experience different trials and need to be alert as marriage units as to what threats come into the individualized relationship and threaten to destroy or weaken it.
Let me put this very bluntly: my top priority as Jonathan's wife is to serve God and when I do that I will be learning to serving Jonathan well. The same is true for him. If something or someone threatens to step into our marriage and harm it, we should be vigilant to step up and say, "We cannot allow this in." As Tripp also points out, good marriages don't happen by accident. Good marriages happen as a result of hard work. I walked away from this book affirmed and encouraged that fighting for my marriage and my relationship with Jonathan is the best thing I could possibly do in my lifetime and doing so isn't something I should be made to feel like I should have to apologize for. I promised to be married to him. I promised to love him. I promised to care for him. I promised to work with him to build a relationship that would stand before God. Our priority is therefore bound up in this new relationship - this idea that Jonathan and Carrie would come together and become one - a new unit and identity that is different than any other.
It has been disheartening to us of late to hear of marriages falling apart. It wounds us, regardless of how close we were or are to the couple, because it is a marriage, which we believe is something special and sacred. A marriage is a covenant between two people and before God, and speaking strictly with regards to marriages which are not abusive, are designed to last. We've been given repeated reminders of late that we cannot slack off in purposing to be married. We seem to have few options available to us but to work hard and protect something that God put together (on purpose.)
I closed this book feeling encouraged and refreshed. I'm excited about it! (Can you tell?) I think What Did You Expect? knocks the socks off of other books on marriage because it tells couples these days what they need to hear. That is? Laziness will destroy your marriage. It WILL be attacked (by society or maybe even those 'closer to home') and your job as one of the partners in the marriage is to stand firm in favor of the union, honoring God by honoring what He's called you to.
Jonathan here with an extra note... I was going to write more of my thoughts, but after reading Carrie's review she's said almost everything on my mind! One thing that really did stand out to me while reading this book was that it seems to have grown out of a desire to communicate "what people really need to learn from premarital counseling." However, I think people will be most able to really grasp these concepts after they've been married for a period of months or years, and can relate more directly to the examples being described. But Paul Tripp really hits the nail on the head with such a direct and powerful message, I believe that people incorporating the gospel into their marriages the way he describes can turn around even the most difficult of relationships.
The book releases in April so it's not available just quite yet. However, if you would like to pre-order the book, you can take advantage of THIS PRE-ORDER SPECIAL offered by Crossway. If you order during the month of March (and are one of the first 1500 to do so!) then you will receive 35% off the cost (that's a better deal than Amazon, folks!). CLICK HERE to see the special.
I DO hope you will choose to read this book because this is one of 'the greats' that I think is worth your time. Why is it worth your time? Because I think marriage is worth it. Mine and yours.
THIS POST ORIGINALLY POSTED AS A GIVEAWAY BUT THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.