It was with just a little bit of fear that I began to read Mark and Grace Driscoll's new book, Real Marriage The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together. I know Mark Driscoll is controversial, and I had heard tidbits about the content of this book over the past year as they were writing it. I wanted to read it because I am always on the lookout for material to use with my counselee's. I also wanted to know if I should steer them away from this book.
I was very impressed by the first half of this book. The author's are very honest about their own trials and difficulties both before and during their marriage. Neither arrived to their marriage bed pure and both admit they brought a few trunk loads of baggage down the aisle with them on their wedding day. The beauty is in their overcoming the many challenges they faced through their married years.
Here are a few highlights I found in the book. Space does not allow me to give you all of what I found, but only a few snippets.
In the chapter titled: Friends with Benefits they talk about the critical aspect of being best friends in your marriage. They take the word F-R-I-E-N-D-S and devote a short portion of the chapter to each aspect of marital friendship. In the R-Reciprocal section the author says, "Christian marriage is reciprocal acts of covenant love." (pg 30) They go on to list a great number of quotes that detail the ways people demonstrate reciprocal acts of love toward one another. Some of the examples brought me to tears they were so tender and loving!
In the I-Intimate section the author outlines three basic forms of marriage: back-to back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face (pg 32). In this portion they bring out the importance of intimacy beyond the bedroom where a husband and wife know each other deeply. They share feelings, are vulnerable with each other, and hold each other accountable.
The Third and Fourth Chapters of this book were my favorite. Chapter Three is titled Men and Marriage. While it is written to men, Mark Driscoll invites women to read it too. He speaks lovingly yet is quite honest about the condition of manhood in the 21st century; it is not good. He then gives the men A Wife's Perspective and outlines 5 different ways to honor your wife. This is only a portion of the material in this gem of a chapter, and I really thought all of this is done with excellence.
Chapter four is written by Grace Driscoll and is called The Respectful Wife. She biblically defines respect and fleshes out the definition through small sections that encourage women to have Heads of Respect, Hearts of Respect, and Hands of Respect. She goes on to instruct women on how to disagree, counsel, encourage, and submit respectfully. I was greatly encouraged by this chapter as well!
Mark and Grace address bitterness and forgiveness biblically, and even encourage struggling spouses to enlist the help of biblical counselors for help if needed. This was very refreshing for me, as most Christian books these days are quick to refer people to "professionals."
The second part of this book I am less excited about; it is the section that addresses sexuality. I will say that the majority of this part of the book is tastefully done in my opinion. The information in this section is certainly informative and includes statistics that are eye-opening in some cases. A married adult in our culture should not be shocked by anything they discuss with one exception, the chapter entitled Can We_______?
This chapter consists of questions that Mark and Grace Driscoll have been asked over the years regarding sexual acts within marriage. They state, "...we are explaining what a married couple may do, not what they must do." They frame each sexual topic with the questions: Is It Lawful? Is It Helpful? Is It Enslaving? Within this format they defend or debunk each sexual act with the use of Scripture. I personally found this chapter a little bit "gritty" for my taste, but I was not overly offended by it.
Overall, this book is excellent and despite what you may think about Mark Driscoll or his preaching and teaching at Mars Hill Seattle, this book is well worth your time to read. It gave my husband and I many hours of discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of our own marriage. If you were to purchase this book, I would do so with the intention of reading it with your husband and having some very honest discussions as you do so.