A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together. Knowing that Gary Thomas is the author of Sacred Marriage, another well-lauded book, I decided to put my name on the hold list. I don't regret it - this was one of the best marriage-enrichment books I have ever read.
There were a few concepts which stood out to me after finishing the book. Toward the beginning, the author encourages each spouse to view the other as God's beloved child. Basically, it is the idea that God, the Father, is our Divine Father-in-Law, who wants nothing more than the very best treatment for his child. When I look at my spouse in that light, it should naturally make me want to treat him better than I have been treating him. Indeed, he encourages wives to think about their sons and whether they would want their daughter-in-law to treat their son in the same manner they treat their husband. This was an eye-opener and made me strive to do better at honoring my husband and serving him.
I think the key thing Thomas does is to flip the perspective from what you are missing from your spouse, into what are you failing to give to your spouse. He urges readers to consider the Judgement Day, when God will not ask about how our spouses treated us, but will instead focus entirely on how we treated our spouse. Even if your spouse is failing to meet your needs, you are never absolved from the task and rewarding opportunity of meeting the needs of your spouse.
The author emphasizes the idea that "a good marriage isn't something you find; it's something you make, and you have to keep on making it." You can stand back and believe that you married the wrong person, but it is far more productive to stop focusing on what the other person is failing to do for you and focus instead on what you are able to give (and the author admits that often this requires looking to the Lord for the strength to do so). Our actions are the only part of the equation we can change, anyway.
In one chapter, Thomas puts forth a rather unbelievable statistic (I didn't take the time to look up the footnote) that one doctor quoted: "Seven out of ten men, upon hearing of a wife's cataclysmic medical diagnosis, leave the marriage." Whoa! Seventy percent? That is a horrendous statistic. I would certainly hope that should something devastating happen to my spouse, I would stay the course and walk alongside my spouse for the whole journey.
On the whole, I found the advice and thoughtful commentary to be quite helpful. I think if you are facing a difficulty in your marriage relationship, this could be a very beneficial book. Moreover, even couples that are relatively sound could benefit from putting these concepts to practice. I like the promise on the back cover: "Whatever season of marriage you are in, A Lifelong Love gives you the practical help you need to infuse your marriage with a spiritual passion that will not only change you but will change the world around you."