Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: Love & War

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed OfLove and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John Eldredge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to not review this book immediately after reading it, because I wasn't sure how to approach it. Now, about a week later, I'm still not sure I have any better idea of how to describe it, but the fact that it has stayed with me for over a week's time, is telling to me as I usually churn and burn through books and their content. There are few books that resonate deeply within my heart - and while I don't know if this book is to that kind of status, I did really, really appreciate it.

It's interesting reading a book on marriage as a single person. The couple of other books on marriage that I've read this year ("Flux" by Peggy Orenstein and "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert) have always left me deeply questioning whether or not I really wanted to enter into this commitment. The hardships and realities that come with marriage are all too apparent in a Western culture like ours today in which about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And those books put up a big red warning flag on the "fairytale" romances and endings often portrayed by Hollywood and Jane Austen that I have always loved. And to be honest, what girl doesn't want the fairytale? Of course there is a desire for a knight in shining armor - even the most independent of us have to admit that once in a while (I mean, come on, Beyonce "Ms. Independent" Knowles even married Jay-Z!).

What John and Stasi do though, in addressing the realities of hardships in marriages, is also provide tools and context for how to get through the hard stuff, and also why there is hard stuff. The Eldredges have always been upfront about the spiritual warfare and battle that goes on in our lives (See "Waking the Dead", "Epic", "Sacred Romance", "Captivating", "Walking with God"). But what they remind us - and what I think is one of their biggest gifts in my opinion - is that we are fighting a spiritual battle and NOTHING is spared from this war of attrition. Satan wants to see the ruin of marriages and hurt hearts and vows and agreements to never love again - because then he completely takes us out of the battle. I think the complacency component and routine that marriages can fall into walk a dangerous line in forgetting this fact.

What I also think that they do very well is to also emphasize the unbelievable and beautiful love that occurs in marriage - and how that gives us a glimpse into God's love for us. The grace and love that can come out of a marriage in seeing two people learn how to love beyond faults and baggage and the sin that is inherent in each of us, is a taste of heaven.

One of the best pieces of advice that I think they also provide is the idea of a shared adventure between the partners - something that is bigger than both the husband and wife that helps them focus their attention on not just each other, but on the kingdom at large. For example, the shared adventure/passion that the Eldredges embarked on is the creation of Ransomed Heart Ministries - a ministry that seeks to help men and women discover the heart of God and heal hearts while doing so. For others it could be the feeding of the poor, or the fight against the slave trade, or bringing the message of Christ to high school kids. It's not so much what the adventure, the vision is, but that it is shared between the husband and wife.

John and Stasi are very open and honest in this book. You won't find very many book or movie references here, which might appeal to some or jar other longtime fans that have come to expect that from them. I, for one, found it a highly intriguing and heart-engaging book. It caused me to ask questions of my own heart and views on marriage and come to realize that I have a hard time believing that anyone could love me beyond all of my baggage and selfishness. And if that is true, what does that say about my belief in God? It is something that I will continue to ruminate over. But all in all, I do highly recommend it and would encourage those who are married or thinking of getting married, or people who have ever thought about marriage in general, should go and pick up this book. I don't think you'll regret doing so.

**Many thanks to the publisher for the free copy of this book**

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