Marry for Life by Marrying Right

To join the discussion about The Sacred Search, or for a link to buy it, go here.

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.

  • neenergyobserver

    Yep, yep, yep, and yep. Uh, how many points did you make here, Rebecca, I’m tired and not going to go back and count; extend that string of yep’s to cover everything you said.

    Wish I’d known before I got married what I know now, I wouldn’t have, at least not to that woman-it couldn’t possibly work.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      My Grandmother used to say “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” Too true.

      • neenergyobserver

        Wise people, Grandmothers. :-)

  • Sus

    Nice post!

  • Amy

    Words from a priest to Catholic highschool students decades ago, “Long before you say, “I do,” ask your prospective spouse if he or she will sit down and pray with you. If they won’t, you may want to re-evaluate with whom you want to share the rest of your life with.”

  • Bill S

    “What if God didn’t design relationships to make you happy but to make you holy?”

    That’s and interesting way of looking at it. From my perspective as a non-believer, there really is no design involved. It’s more a matter of getting out of life what you put into it. I wonder if the book deals with inter-faith marriages. I tried looking up information about it but there is not much in terms of reviews or summaries. I kind of believe that I was led to meet and marry my wife even though I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I am in a position now of respecting my wife’s faith and practicing it for her sake. My two sons do not practice any particular faith and one is gay and, as far as I can see, celibate. I once had a book called “What does God Want for My Life”. When my other son saw it, he commented “whatever it is, he’s not getting it” which, at the time, made me feel that I hadn’t raised him very well. So, I don’t think this book would help either son.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Yes, the book deals with inter-faith marriages. It says, don’t do it. Ditto for marrying an unbeliever. He bases this on scripture. I also think he’s making a good point. If the focus of your life is honor the Lord, marrying a non-Christian or an unbeliever is going to make that far more challenging and difficult.

      • Bill S

        “If the focus of your life is honor the Lord”, you are apt to do strange things and have strange prejudices. My friend and his wife are devout Catholics. They adopted three children from Russia and raised them Catholic. They refuse to go to their oldest son’s wedding this coming fall unless he gets married by a priest. The son has been turned off by their fanatacism and doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Church. To me this is tragic. My friend and his wife should make it their top priority to have a good relationship with their son and future daughter-in-law instead of letting religion get in the way. Nothing gets in the way of my relationships with my sons, least of all religion.

  • Subsistent

    If “the purpose of each human life is to glorify the Lord”, may I suggest we take this assertion in the context of what none other than Thomas Aquinas has pointed out: that it’s for OUR sake, our greater happiness, not for His own, that He thus seeks His own glory: “Deus gloriam suam quaerit non propter se, sed propter nos.” (Summa Theol., II-II, Q. 132, art. 1, ad 1.)

  • Erin Pascal

    This is an amazing post and I agree with everything you’ve said and that 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.”–this is the best statement that I have read about marriage and I can totally relate to this. I am very grateful to have come across this post. :)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Erin!

  • K C Thomas

    This is with reference to Bill’s comment about his friend’s son’s marriage. Once the children are adults and if they don’t heed to our advices, we may not be able to do a thing. Our duty is only to give good advice about their future and all possible disadvantages if they reject our advice. we should love them, we should help them , but every step we follow must be christian. We need not reconcile with their anti-catholic attitudes and views.

    • Bill S

      “We need not reconcile with their anti-catholic attitudes and views.”

      Unless, of course, it turns out that they are right and we are wrong, which is always a possibility. I am one who does not believe that older is always wiser. I have learned a lot from my kids. In many ways, I see them as a new and improved version of myself. I see humanity as evolving generation by generation, with each new generation being more advanced than the previous. In this regard, I value what my children have to teach me. They keep me from becoming a dinosaur (although the concept of dinosaurs going extinct because of their inability to adapt has been replaced by a more modern notion that a meteor was responsible for their extinction).