How many times can I say that it's been a long time since I posted anything? I think I've run out of excuses! So rather than offer an excuse, here's a new post ... in the form of a book recommendation for "Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough"!
It's weird how I found this book. Back on January 10 I was studying for my upcoming message on "Why Church" (video) and in googling the phrase "why church" I came across a series of articles on the Prodigal Magazine website called precisely that, "Why Church." In the series several writers explain why they love the church, even with all its flaws and shortcomings. I read each article with interest, and found great value in reading them. It's amazing how much hurt takes place in organizational churches, and as a pastor I know I've caused some hurt as well. I am flawed and I let people down. I try to make it right, but I know I don't always do that and there are probably some stories that could be told about the people I've hurt. But it was beautiful to read people's stories of why they loved the church in spite of the miscues, stubbed toes, hurt feelings and other maladies that go with interacting with fallen humanity. So I encourage you to take some time to read some of those articles for your own benefit. (*Insert standard disclaimer here about how I don't necessarily agree with everything on the site, blah, blah, blah. Just read and decide for yourself!
In the midst of all those articles there was one called "A Death in the Family" by a fellow named Matt Appling who I had never heard of before (which isn't saying much - you'd be surprised who I don't know!). I really enjoyed reading the article so I clicked on the author's name which took me to his blog (*insert standard disclaimer here about how I don't necessarily agree ... yadda, yadda, yadda... ;) and it just so happens that his most recent blog entry was entitled "Why I Don't Like Marriage Books (Except This One)" - well that instantly got my attention. As I read it I understood what he meant about how most marriage books are written from the idealistic point-of-view by people who have it all together and if you'll just follow their few steps, you'll have it all together too. I added a comment to his blog about liking Gary Chapman's "Five Love Languages" and Willard Harvey's "His Needs: Her Needs" and then I said I looked forward to reading the book.
Let me tell you, I didn't know what I was getting myself into! After purchasing and downloading the Kindle version of the book I found myself pulled into the story as Justin and Trish Davis (of RefineUs Ministries) take turns walking the reader through their story from each one's point of view. This is no ivory tower marriage! They bravely lay bare the mistakes and failures they each made as their marriage began drifting towards the shoals that eventually destroyed it, bringing them to the decision of rebuilding it from the bottom up. I was stunned as I read things that I completely identified with - attitudes, excuses, selfishnesses ... they were all plainly there for me to see in my own life as I read page after page and encouraged my wife to read along with me.
She, too, was caught up in the story and actually finished the book before me. We found ourselves talking about the parts of the story that we identified with, owning up to mistakes we had made, confessing areas that were revealed to us that we were still holding on to even after 25 years of marriage and ministry. It was so refreshing to have these conversations. And painful! But so healing!!! Even though we had not made all the same mistakes, there were many layers of issues that began to be peeled back in our conversations, and we're looking forward to even more great talks as we plan to re-read the book together and have recommended it to several friends.
Justin and Trisha, you'll probably never read this, but thank you for having the courage to open up your lives to others and share the hope and healing you've found. You've paved a way for many to follow. We're right behind you! We no longer settle for "good enough" ... we want EXTRAORDINARY! And if my friends want extraordinary too, they'll get this book! And now, back to your regularly scheduled scrolling. :)