Last Wednesday my good husband and I celebrated thirty-one years together. Would it be unromantic to say that a good marriage requires perseverance? Of course, it’s pleasant work, and the rewards are great, but here are three small ways that I’ve noticed us persevering in our years together:
Persevere in Believing
We’ve come through some challenging times, but I have never once thought my good husband wasn’t doing his best to provide or parent or take his responsibility seriously. He has never given up on me, either. We have believed the best about each other, and, at the same time, held onto a solid belief in a sovereign God who oversees everything here on this country hill.
Persevere in Forgiving
Have I mentioned that no one who lives at this address is perfect? Forgiveness is the oil that keeps this marriage machine running, and it’s been helpful for us to check in frequently with little questions like, “Are we okay?”
Just in case.
Persevere in Dreaming
Who ever thought we’d be crazy enough to drive a minivan with four kids in it cross-country and live in a tent for five weeks?
Who ever dreamed that we’d actually tear out the ugly old kitchen and rebuild new?
And who knows what’s ahead for this crazy pair of empty nesters. (Well, actually, there’s a wedding this summer, and maybe a trip to Colorado…)
Wherever you are in your marriage journey, why not stop right now and think about how believing, forgiving, and dreaming could land on your relationship in a healing and hopeful way!
Now, Let’s Talk Books
The title of this post promised three great books to add to your reading list, and it’s been an unusually good month for reading here on the hill. One of my favorite thinkers has published new material, and there is even a recommendation for the teens in your life–but trust me, you’ll want to read it yourself, too.
Let’s get started…
One Degree of Freedom
YA Fiction is not my usual genre, but this coming of age tale set deep in the Soviet satellite nation of Romania during the Cold War was not only riveting but also inspiring. One Degree of Freedom includes all the usual fifteen-year-old conflicts–grades and career choices, friendship drama, parent/child tension–but they are ratcheted up a notch when the Communist Party is watching your every move and any indiscretion may put you and your family in mortal danger!
Adriana is a strong protagonist, but not sticky-sweet-perfect, so her growth as a character is both believable and motivating. She is learning how to be a friend, and the compelling action of the novel sweeps the reader into a world of spies and hidden rooms and dark secrets, a world where hope is a thing of the past, just like the “fairy tales” that only the grandmothers recall. History buffs will appreciate author Taryn Hutchison’s detailed research and book nerds will be delighted to discover all the references to classic children’s literature.
Reading the Times
Some books probe a reader’s unexplored territory.
If you have not been in the habit of thinking about your consumption of the news, Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro is likely to land on your brain and your heart with some weight. That’s a very good thing, because our interaction with the events of the day is both formative and consequential.
Bilbro argues that the believer’s chief interest in the news is as a tool for loving our neighbor well. Only as we understand our times in light of the gospel’s meta-narrative are we adequately equippped to respond to current events with excellence and grace-seasoned wisdom. Our embrace of the gospel insists that all points in time be traced to and understood in light of what is timeless and that the truth claims of all words be evaluated in light of the Living Word. I understand that Henry David Thoreau was not a Christian, but he spoke better than he knew when he wrote, “Read not the times. Read the Eternities. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.”
Reading the Times was a gold mine for jarring content, richness of expression, and suggestions for future reading. What a gift to be challenged to take up T.S. Eliot’s recommended “occupation for the saint.” I have so far to go before I truly “apprehend the point of intersection of the timeless with time,” but at least now, I know I should be paying attention to it.
A.J. Swoboda has re-written the narrative around doubt in evangelical circles at a time when the word “desconstruction” has become almost a slogan for the visible and the influential. He suggests that, rather than a sign that our faith is circling the drain, our struggle with faith might be “the surest sign we actually have one.” (377) After Doubt, with its implied message that there is, indeed, Christianity “after doubt,” is brutally honest, but intensely hopeful about all that is good and joyful when believers allow time for reconstruction to follow the seasons of deconstruction that happen in the course of a following life.
Rather than glorifying deconstruction or dismissing doubt, what if we believed that Jesus is actually fully present in the chasm between doubt and faith? What if on the other side of the chasm there lies a deeper hope and trust in Christ? Swoboda advocates for navigating doubt through spiritual practices and through prudent management of one’s thought life and one’s choice of companions.
It turns out that our contemporary Western world with our Enlightenment sensibilities is more predisposed to leaving than to staying and to moving on rather than honoring where we came from. I am not immune to this either, having borrowed Philip Yancey’s moniker as a “recovering fundamentalist” more than once over the years. Readers exhausted with the prevalence of deconstruction narratives will rejoice to see it used, not as a sign post at the opening of a dark, yawning chasm, but instead as a bridge under our feet as we join centuries of faithful followers in the ongoing process of construction, deconstruction, and blessed, grace-fueled REconstruction to the glory of God.
P.S. A.J. has been a favorite thinker of mine for some time, and I reviewed A Glorious Dark here. He’s a great podcast guest as well, and here’s a link to his conversation with James Bryan Smith on Things Above.
Since we started this post talking about marriage, let’s finish with a few quick recommendations to strengthen your marriage. These are resources I’ve read myself and reviewed here on the blog, so I’ll simply share the titles with embedded links to my input, and you can take it from there.
Would it be unromantic to say that a good marriage requires perseverance? Of course, it’s pleasant work, and the rewards are great, but here are three small ways that I’ve noticed us persevering in our years together…Tweet
Here are the titles and authors, linked to my reviews:
Katharina and Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
That’s it for May!
Grace be with you all,
Join me for the May Book Talk! One of my favorite thinkers has published new material, and there is even a recommendation for the teens in your life.Tweet
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