Happy marriages don’t just happen.

It’s National Marriage Week! And we are celebrating with a $1.99 Kindle special (available here!) of Jerry and Claudia Root’s and Jeremy Rios’ book, Naked and Unashamed: a guide to the necessary work of Christian marriage. Enjoy the authors’ preface to their practical and inspiring guide.

Preface: The Purpose of this Book

This book exists because, despite the abundance of magazines, articles, and self-help volumes available, people continue to struggle with marriage.

On the one hand, the cottage industry of wedding planners, consultants, Pinterest pages, and independent bloggers has shaped young hearts to dream and plan for the biggest day of their lives. The day is everything, and they will plan each element with precision, from flowers to cake decorations to party favors. Acting on this crafted desire, couples will spend an enormous amount of time and money preparing for the wedding. Ironically, they will spend little to no time or money in preparation for their marriage itself. The investment into the perfect day is all out of proportion with the investment into life together after the day. At times it even seems as if people are more interested in getting married than they are in staying married. This book exists to help couples prepare for the rest of their life together.

On the other hand, it seems that too few couples comprehend the degree of work required to make a marriage successful. Divorce rates are clear evidence of this, but so also are the many married people who are in dire need of counseling and care, who persist in loneliness and difficulty, feeling ill-equipped to navigate the unforeseen difficulties of marriage. Many people hope one day to get married; few people seem to know what it really means to be married. The truth of the matter is that happy marriages rarely just happen. In fact, the majority of the time they will require at least as much energy and preparation as is directed toward the grand celebration on the wedding day. This book exists to coach couples through strategies that will assist them to succeed.

On the wedding day, a bride and groom will make a promise before God and the witness of their friends and family—a promise to have and hold one another, in sickness and health, in wealth or poverty, until death. Sometimes these promises are uttered in a rush of devoted emotion, at the same time sometimes their demands are glibly considered; yet no couple (we trust!) sets out intentionally to fail. While no book can promise perfect success, the best we can do—and this we hope to do—is to offer hope and guidance to couples in preparation for marriage, to couples struggling in marriage, and possibly encouragement to couples thriving in marriage. Marriage, in point of fact, is a living, growing thing, and a resource such as this one hopes simply to provide a plumb to what is bent, a balm to what is broken, and an enrichment to what is thriving.

If marriage is so difficult, and if the risks are so high, then it might be tempting to conclude that it is not worth bothering about. This is unsatisfying, chiefly because we are convinced that marriage—with all its difficulties—remains one of the best hopes for human happiness and fulfillment. A successful marriage is a thing of unprecedented and radiant beauty, and as G. K. Chesterton (a great believer in marriage) said “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”[i] This book is targeted for any person who wishes, given the liabilities of marriage, to attempt to maximize its benefits and experience the fullness of its joys.

Billy Bray, Welsh preacher and evangelist, hearing once about other people’s trials of faith stood and exclaimed, “Well, friends, I have been taking vinegar and honey, but, praise the Lord, I’ve had the vinegar with a spoon, and the honey with a ladle.”[ii] Many couples may feel that in marriage they’ve had honey by the teaspoon and vinegar by the ladle. As we said, no book can promise success, and yet the couple that commits to reading together, to learning together, to discussing together, to developing good habits together—that couple will gain a significant advantage in the management and enjoyment of their common life. All marriages ought to begin with the best possible foundation. All existing marriages ought to have the courage to reexamine and correct their foundation as necessary. And, by God’s grace, the honey will outweigh the vinegar beyond measure.

[i] G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (London: Cassell and Company, Limited: 1910), 254.

[ii] Billy Bray, The King’s Son (London: Bible Christian Book-Room, 1874), 29.

New Year’s Resolution—be more like your dogs!

Author of Faithfully Yours for Kids, Peggy Frezon, shares her New Year’s Resolution—to be more like her dogs.

If we’re smart, we can learn a lot from our dogs. Following their example, we can learn to play with gusto, eat heartily, and nap often. We can learn how to forgive others and love unconditionally. We can also discover lessons to apply to our spiritual lives.

Keep Daily Quiet Time—My golden retriever Ernest’s quiet time consists of stretching out in a patch of sunlight streaming in through the window, resting his head on his paws, and closing his eyes. I can see his muscles relax and his expression fill with contented peace. Following his example, I curl up on my big green chair, relax my body, close my eyes and allow God to enter my mind. Allowing Him to direct my path fills me with contented peace.

Wait Faithfully—When we first rescued our senior dog Ike, he used to cry whenever I left the house. I could hear his heart-wrenching whines, even outside in the driveway as I was climbing into the car. After a while, Ike began to trust that I’d always return. He stopped crying when I left. He waited for me faithfully, in comfort that he’d be okay while I was gone. We are never truly separated from God, but when times are tough and it seems like He is far away, I can trust that He is always there. If I wait faithfully, I will hear Him and feel His loving touch again.

 Love thy Neighbor— My dogs live for walks around the neighborhood. They think everyone they meet is their friend. I love the way Ernest approaches little children so gently. And how Petey wags and pulls me toward everyone he meets. Their open and accepting approach to people warms my heart. Sometimes I find myself too busy with my own life to pay attention to others. Or I make judgments about others’ interests and feelings. But if I act more like my dogs, I’ll greet others wholeheartedly without judgment or reservation.

Devour Enthusiastically—Ernest and Petey don’t pick at their food. They gobble it up heartily, wasting no time in consuming every last morsel. God is the nourishment for my soul. I want to receive Him eagerly and joyfully, and be filled with the Bread of Life. Just like Ernest and Petey, I will not hunger or thirst!

So this year, I’m going to try to be more like my dogs.

 Adapted from Pawprints on my Heart by Peggy Frezon, Guideposts.com Jan. 2015