What were you thinking when you chose to marry this person? If honest, those are the thoughts most pastors have had when counseling a couple in crisis. We may never actually say it aloud. But we think it.
The thought is moot, of course. By that point it is too late. No longer is it a "start over" mission, especially for the pastor who will fight for redemption, not divorce. Thus, for the pastor who believes in lifelong covenants, it is a "miracle of redemption" mission. In those situations, the point is to find the renewal only the gospel can provide and to point that couple toward to the gospel at every turn. And yet, when a couple comes to you for help but won't stop bickering across the couch, those moot thoughts can flood your mind. If only they could have backed up and started this off right! If only they knew what they were getting into when they were dating! I wish this was pre-marital counseling, not divorce avoidance counseling!
What if we could turn back the clock and help singles discover the path of wisdom with regard to choosing a spouse? What would I say?
One of the ways to strengthen marriages is to parachute, so to speak, into a person's life before they are married, in order to guide their motives, emotions, purposes, and vision of what marriage is all about. Only in that light, after all, can we gain insight into whom they should marry. This is essentially what Gary Thomas is after in The Sacred Search (David C. Cook), a book that follows upon his well-known Sacred Marriage. Thomas wrote this book as a ministry to help singles realize that why and how they find a spouse is a fundamental ingredient in the health of the future marriage. Like a golfer that realizes the success of the shot is in the swing, so a marriage must be set up right by the heart, motives, passions, and vision one uses to choose a spouse in the first place. "It's not," he writes, "that the "who" doesn't matter (in fact, it matters very much); it's just that asking and settling the "why" question first will set you up to make a wise choice about the "who."
Let me pose two questions before proceeding. First, does the world really need another book like this? Well, in many ways Thomas does not say anything new. I believe he would freely admit that. As a co-author of a book on relationships, I felt called to contribute another entry into to this genre because individual books have shelf lives, and certain writers tend to attract certain audiences. Some people will read a book on an important topic because they like the author. Thus, that person is now exposed to helpful truth. So, yes, I think it is important that books like this keep coming into the market, with a fresh voice and a fresh readership. Second, do books like this handle Scripture in a way that Scripture was meant to be handled? I found Thomas's handling of Scripture and theological themes appropriate and in accord with the authorial intent of those passages. One may not agree with every nuance, and I will get to some of my cautions in this review, but I believe books like Sacred Search are valid expressions of the truth and the point of Scripture.