Real-Life Marriage: It's Not About Me is coauthored by Tim and Anne Evans, a longtime married couple involved in Christian marriage counseling for many years. The Colorado authors open and close their book with an appealing image: "Marriage is a lot like climbing a mountain" (345). This image not only sets the tone of the book, but implies its purpose and invites a diverse audience.
Both men and women who are currently in a marital relationship for six months or six decades can benefit from reading this volume. Anyone who anticipates taking marriage vows in the future would be well advised to read it. As a wife of more than thirty years, I can only wish that someone had given me this book during my marriage preparation. Yet, even more than premarital concerns, this book addresses issues of great interest to any practicing Christian: sin, prayer, forgiveness, divorce, abortion, and family planning. The authors do not overlook critical sexual issues such as rape, abuse, and incest. With empathy, they discuss real relational and sexual issues that have plagued people for their lifetimes. Because of its conversational and comprehensive nature, this book and its companion workbook are recommended to CBE readers. It is a good tool for a wide range of readers who may be diverse in ages, backgrounds, faith stories, marital status, and experiences.
The authors meet real marital issues head on by using God's word. The Scriptures are the basis for answers to difficult questions. From their own experiences, Tim and Anne Evans share their personal failures and triumphs in life and in their marriage in such a way that the reader is often surprised by their honesty. They extol, encourage, and challenge readers.
The goal is to encourage readers to enter into the "big story," which involves the plans and purposes of God. God is the main character of this story, and life is all about him. In contrast, most of us live "small story" lives, where it is "all about me." We are the main characters in our stories as we struggle to understand human relationships and our relationship with God. Disregarding God and his plans, we focus on our own needs and desires (4-5).
Thus, within God's "big story," the purpose of human marriage is to honor God. To do that, we "Reflect and Reveal the plurality and character of God" to the world, to "Rule together in unity," and to "Reproduce" (5). This is what the authors call "God's original Plan A for marriage" and is the basis for the rest of the book (94-95). God's original Plan A was the unity of one man and one woman in spirit, soul, and body, unified in loving submission to him. In the same way, they are united to each other, mutually submitting to one another in love. As a consequence of sin, sadly, any human plans that deviate from God's original intentions for marriage are considered "Plan B." By following their own Plan B, men and women encounter strife, confusion, and even disaster. Yet, the unity that was lost by the entrance of sin (with God and with each other) has been regained by the reconciling, healing work of Jesus Christ.
While the authors are not biblical scholars, they discuss difficult gender-related passages (i.e., Genesis 1-3). Their uncomplicated explanations of these passages support the viewpoint of men and women working together in a marriage as equal partners. They cautiously explain other passages that pertain to sexual issues (i.e., Romans 1:24-32) and define cryptic words such as "mutuality" and "egalitarianism" (88-89). The authors handle these words and passages lightly, without extensive debate or harsh judgment.
Two interesting thoughts came to my mind while reading Real-Life Marriage. First, the idea of the Creator's original Plan A that was rejected by humanity and replaced with Plan B is one plausible explanation for the considerable difficulties experienced by the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. It is an understatement to say that God's model of marriage was dreadfully disregarded by (male) leaders in the Ancient Near East. While some scholars have observed oppressive, patriarchal views and actions described in the ancient writings, little has been said in scholarship about the redemption of the marital relationship in the New Testament. Marriage can and should look different on the other side of the cross. Second, while the authors bravely used controversial biblical passages to support their views, it was beyond their focus to say that women are to be treated with equality in other relationships, though perhaps the marital relationship is the proper place to begin the healing of old wounds within the church and the community. Suffice it to say that it is easy to cast blame on those who are not following God's intended plan for human relationships without seeing our own, self-centered "small stories."