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Gary Thomas is a Southern Baptist pastor, a husband and the father of three children. This gives him a tri-fold source of insight into what it takes to make a marriage work. He uses this wisdom well in The Sacred Search.
The book gives specific parameters about what to look for in a future spouse. It also outlines some of the reasons why and ideas about how to break up a relationship with the wrong person before it goes on too long.
Thomas sees a healthy marriage as a life-long commitment that will provide an environment for raising healthy children and build up the community of faith in which it subsists.
I agree with him about this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the many divorces, fatherless children and serial marriages that we endure in this country contribute greatly to the increasing social and moral chaos we are experiencing as a nation and a culture.
Seen that way, the advice that Reverend Thomas gives in this book takes on a crucial quality. He believes that the purpose of each human life is to glorify the Lord and that the decision of whether or not to marry, or who to marry should be made in light of this one thing.
However, he does not support the idea that young people should just “wait for the Lord” to bring them the proper spouse and deliver him or her to their front door. He feels that the search for a spouse is an important activity that people should enter into in an intentional and intelligent way. While he acknowledges the power of infatuation, he dismisses it as a reason for marrying.According to Reverend Thomas, a young Christian should consider a prospective spouse seriously by looking for character, a strong Christian faith and general compatibility in terms of temperament and interests.
I agree with all this. Where I part company with Reverend Thomas somewhat is in the lengthy laundry list of things he suggests that people look for in a prospective spouse. He advises just about everything except hooking them up to a lie detector to check them out. I just don’t think that this level of thinking it through is practical.
I also don’t think it’s necessary. Based on my experience of a long marriage, I think that people can and do change for one another (something that Rev Thomas dismisses out of hand) and that if the marriage is to work, they will have to. It isn’t necessary or even possible to marry someone who shares all your interests or who has the same temperament as you.
It’s more important that you are able to accept these differences and make space for your individuality in the marriage. I think it is also necessary that both of you be willing to change for the other. You can’t marry someone who is going to fit with you in every aspect. Any marriage that requires one person to do all the changing and the other person to do none of it is almost certainly bound to fail.
Sometimes, you have to do things that aren’t your ideal preference just for the simple reason that it makes your spouse happy. Both of you have to do this from time to time. I have no quarrel with what Reverend Thomas says in this book, except that I think he doesn’t give enough emphasis to the need to give to one another. Marriage is a mutual self-giving. You have to love your spouse so much that their happiness makes you happy; and both of you must feel that way about the other.
The Sacred Search is a good book. It’s full of wisdom and good ideas. I plan to give it to my sons to read. However, I also want them to know that, while it’s full of good ideas, it isn’t an iron-clad rule book.