Recently, a friend invited me to join her and a couple of her close friends to have dinner with her future daughter-in-law. It was a delightful, easy evening. My heart's desire was that, above all, this young woman would not feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the years of experience sitting around the table with her. Upon meeting her, I knew she would be fine. She is a gracious, strong, beautiful woman. As the conversation turned to thoughts on marriage, I simply blurted out;
"Throw away all your books on marriage."
While some would respond with "Preach!" others would ask "How could you tell her not to read books about marriage?!?" I understand both. Let me explain.
Visit Amazon and you will find 14,041 books on marriage and 5,503 on Christian marriage. That's a whole lot of advice. While there may be some good advice in the mix, most of it is bad. It's the "how to, how not to, do more, do less, start doing, stop doing" of how to make your marriage work. It's dizzying. It's exhausting. And it doesn't work.
Ask anyone who has been married for any length of time and they will tell you that lists of "to do's" won't change your spouse. "10 Ways to Start Your Marriage Off On the Right Track" sounds wonderful, but one month into it you realize you're off track already - derailed at #3.
A few days after the dinner, I got a call from my friend. She told me the only advice her future daughter-in-law remembered from that evening was, "Throw away all your books on marriage."
To clarify, I am not saying don't read anything. Read some. Read books that point you to Jesus. Read books that remind you of the gospel. Read books that clearly state the good news - that you are a sinner rescued by a great Savior. Read books that help you to see that pointing the finger at your spouse is just like pointing the finger at yourself. You are both wrong, all the time. Neither of you get it right. You won't respect your husband like the Bible says you should. He won't love you like Christ loved the church. In the midst of your falterings and failings, God loves both of you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. Let that fuel the fire and direct your paths.
Throw away your lists. Read a couple good books, (I've listed a few below) but do not rely on them to set your marriage on the right track. Rely on the Person of Jesus Christ to set you both free to love unconditionally, to fail admittedly and to rest continually in this amazing good news!