i'm wary of prescriptive statements about gender identity, especially if cloaked in religious language, because they often don't mesh with my understanding of scripture. narrowly defined gender roles presented as The Biblical Way can be hurtful, inaccurate, and unnecessarily limiting.
of course, holding opinions about something you've never read is unfair (and pretty lame), so when i was offered the opportunity to review the eldredges' new marriage book, i was interested.
john and stasi co-wrote love and war: finding the marriage you've dreamed of, and i have to say, it was better than i thought it might be.
they argue that marriage is a love story, and the setting is war, specifically spiritual war. in the bible, marriage is often presented as an earthly picture of the unconditional, sacrificial love that Christ has for the Church. the eldredges put it this way:
God created marriage as a living, breathing portrait laid out before the eyes of the world so that they might see the story of the ages. A love story, set in the midst of desperate times. It is a story of redemption, a story of healing; it is a story of love. God gives us marriage to illustrate his heart toward us. It is the deepest and most mythic reality of the world--that love is true, that God pursues us.the eldredges offer a lot of godly wisdom. because of the spiritual significance God puts on marriage, it is especially vulnerable to spiritual attack. God can use marriage to transform us into the people he's created us to be. changing destructive habits and patterns within ourselves and our marriages is not impossible, especially with prayer.
all in all, i found it to be a practical and helpful book. they humbly and openly share some of the struggles in their own marriage and some of the ways they've experienced God at work in their life together. it's challenging and encouraging without being preachy.
of course, not ever single part sat well with me. as i understand it (again, not having read other titles), the eldredges have a thesis that men have a need to "rescue a beauty" and women have a longing to offer their beauty and have it appreciated. or something like that. i hope that they're talking about beauty in the Larger Sense, but i don't really get it, and it kind of creeps me out. the authors seem to emphasize beauty as the valuable thing women bring to a relationship [men offer strength], which is insulting, shallow, and pretty hard to defend biblically. by "beauty" they apparently also mean inner beauty, but it's such a loaded word that they'd have done better to express themselves with another--especially for readers who have not read their other work.
in the book, stasi admits to struggling with her weight and says
Packing on the weight sent a message to John that was clear and strong: You are not worth being beautiful for.ick.
then, there is this little goodie, from john:
When I got home, I fixed the leaking kitchen sink--a triumph that makes a man feel mighty fine. (I tried to help Stasi relate, "Imagine you just lost five pounds today.)i think i threw up a little in my mouth just typing that out.
yes, several passages and lines fired up the feminist in me, but if you are willing to overlook them (and perhaps they wouldn't bother you), love and war does contain wisdom about growing a marriage that honors God. i'd call it a worthwhile read, all things considered.
want to read it for yourself? i'm giving away my copy. just leave a comment by noon on february 14 and make sure i have a way to get in touch. (U.S. addresses only.)
i received a copy of this book but was not otherwise compensated for this review.