I have some very definite and clearly defined thoughts on marriage. And yet, I have never written much about it.
For one thing, I’ve been married less than a decade. For another, well, I just haven’t felt like marriage was a topic I needed to tackle.
Enter the Patheos Book Club and The Sacred Search: What if it’s Not about Who You Marry, but Why?, by Gary Thomas.
I have to admit: the title got my dander up a bit. It also got me to thinking. By the time I had finished the first chapter, I had to admit that I pretty much agreed with the author.
I’ve been through a number of divorces, though none were in my own marriage. I’ve seen “bad marriages” up close and personal.
Thomas brings up a number of good points:
What if we spent time actually considering what life would be like married to Person X?
In some cases, people go against all proof and reason and marry based on their feelings. Those feelings of infatuation die and there goes the marriage. (I’m vastly simplifying.)
Marriage is a life-long commitment. Or, if you don’t buy that, think this: who gets married saying, “Gee, I can’t wait for this to end”? No one I know. Probably no one you know.
So shouldn’t this sort of commitment get at least as much effort as selecting our college major, buying our first car, financing our first hours, or any of the other major decisions we make? Shouldn’t we commit ourselves to doing the best job we can?
What if our feelings aren’t completely reliable?
You know, I sure liked that dog at the humane society when we got her, but after a few months, she proved to be less than desirable. She wasn’t a fit. Thank goodness she was a dog.
I’ve learned, time and again, that feelings are not reality. They just aren’t.
Though I learned this, I didn’t really believe it until I was well into my own married life.
What if God was a foundational part of the decision process?
This is a bit trickier, because though I agree with Thomas on the broad sweeps throughout this book, we do have differences doctrinally. Reading this book made me actually sad for those who can’t go to Confession and experience the graces of that sacrament. It made me sort of sorry for my non-Catholic friends and family who are stuck wondering what forgiveness looks like, how it feels, what it means.
Updated to add:
I do NOT mean to imply, in any way shape or form, that I believe God’s grace and forgiveness does not extend to non-Catholics. Quite the contrary. A comment over on Amazon asked me rather pointedly whether I really believed that God didn’t forgive non-Catholics, and no. Not at all. There is a grace and beauty in the sacraments, and that is what I wish we could all share, but IN NO WAY do I intend to imply that I think there is not forgiveness for anyone else.
What if there’s not just ONE PERSON for you?
I remember, in college, our Hall Director saying, during our RA training, that she felt like it had to be your “time” to be married, that it wasn’t as important if it was the right person as it was that you were ready for it. When she said it, I felt a little tug, and maybe my understanding of the world grew a bit.
I can look back and think of someone in my past who might have been a doggone good husband. He’s not who I’m married to now, and I’m glad of it. I’m sure my husband, if pressed (no, I’m not going to), could say the same.
This whole notion of “The One Person” is not biblically based, and chances are, it’s not true for any of us. Thomas presents it well.
What if life is just messy?
This isn’t one of Thomas’s points, but I couldn’t help but think it after I finished the book. I don’t know that I would just hand this book to a single in my life and let them read it. I would have rolled my eyes back into my head in my single days, though part of that might have been the hard-hitting Bible references. I think this is the kind of book you give to someone you know, and maybe even someone you can read it with. That, or someone who is very mature in their faith and their approach to life. I’m pretty sure the young singles in my life would maybe not so much appreciate this book. (This might just be me.)
All in all, a good resource.
I have never attempted to read this sort of book before, and I have to say: I enjoyed reading this book. It was well-done, and though not Catholic, my doctrinal dander stayed calm and my theological nose didn’t get worked up sniffing out “problems.” (There are a few hesitations I had, but you know what? It’s a good book.)
I liked it. It made me look at my own marriage, and it also made me want to read another marriage book (you know, one for not-quite-old fogies).