Friday, March 13, 2015

You and Me Forever: A Book Review

When was offering You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan as their monthly free offering, I was immediately on board.  His most famous book, Crazy Love, convicted me, called me out and crushed me. I expected nothing less from this foray into the common area of Christian advice on marriage. 

This isn't the first (or fifth for that matter) book on Christian marriage I've read.  Lots of them have good advice, sensible action plans and are immediately applicable to both the Christian and non-Christian wife.  A few of them have even convinced me that in some matter or the other I was not being the wife God called me to be. 

Chan's book wasn't like that.  He and his wife wrote nothing that could be considered as simple as "good advice" and little that was applicable to a non-Christian except the idea that if you aren't serving God, you're missing out.  The whole book can be summed up like this: "Stop being so obsessed with your marriage."

Surprised?  I was. 

Chan never hesitates to be countercultural, and the book begins with the premise that the purpose of marriage is to bring glory to God. Thus if our marriage is a success in every other way - happy, peaceful, prosperous and fruitful - yet we push God to the side, all we have done is set up an idol.  He states that we are likely to consider our families as coming in a "close second" to our love for God.  That too he says is a symptom of our idolatry of the family.  God should be first, loved far and away more than any good gift he gave us, including the gift of a loving spouse and wonderful children.  The chapter on parenting echoes this theme.  Chan says that it is no wonder that we lose our children to the world when our priorities make it clear that we love them more than Jesus.   Why shouldn't they place their own wants and needs above God as well?

Within this framework Francis and his wife Lisa make some powerful and convicting points, beginning with this stinging verse. 

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

Although the verse is not in context applied to families, the Chans point out that any time I set myself up in a proud way (say for example in an argument I insist I am right, or I get all caught up in what I do or don't deserve) that I have in fact set myself up as the opponent of God not my husband.  And guess what happens to the opponents of God?  They lose.  On the other hand, any time I can be humble in my home, God is prepared to show favor to me.  Chan gives no guarantee this this will automatically produce a blissful marriage; if only one spouse is humbly seeking God, marriage could still be a place of suffering. However, it is impossible to succeed with God as your opponent.

Lisa also tells the story of once asking her husband what one thing would make her a better wife. He said, she should rely more on God and less on him.  She goes on to explain that she was looking to him for comfort, for peace, for security and for joy. However, she should have BROUGHT all those things to her marriage from a rich life with God, not demanded them from her very human husband.

The point that spoke most to me was the chapter on the mission. Lots of marriage books point out that couples are happier when two things are true: they share dreams for the future, and they share hobbies or interests. In a twist, You and Me Forever says there is no dream worth dreaming except that we'd all make it to heaven, no hobby or interest that beats our desire to fulfill God's mission on earth.  Marriages that glorify God make that easier as people see peace and joy in our home. Self-focused and idolatrous marriages are too interested in soccer, vacations, and getting more STUFF to even notice that the world is literally going to Hell all around them. The years we were abroad were marked (as I hope these years in America will be) by a unity between us because, as the Chans put it, we were too BUSY serving God to obsess about our marriage.

This is not a book I'd recommend to non-Christians.  Unlike other titles on the Christian bookstores marriage shelves, it has little to aid a troubled marriage from a secular point of view.  Yet for a Christian it is the perfect wake-up call.  Challenging, convicting and crushing, it pointed me upward to God-his spirit and his work- instead of inward to my own hopes and hurts. 


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