Book Review: The Sacred Search, by Gary Thomas

Something really cool happened recently: I started dating a new guy. Because it’s been a while since I’ve been in a relationship, I felt like I could use some guidance going through this process. So I decided to pick up a book called The Sacred Search to see if I could glean some wisdom from the author, Gary Thomas.

I must admit, I have really been enjoying the dating process. I’ve been going new places, having lots of fun, and just enjoying getting to know another person. It’s really intoxicating. But the first sentence of this book sobered me up very quickly : “The faithful pastor’s face grew taut as he told me, ‘Let me be honest with you. My marriage has constituted the biggest cross of my life.”

Just like that, I realized that this is not a game. This is a lifetime decision that must be made consciously and prayerfully. Once that reality was established, the author went on to give guidance to readers who are dating or considering marriage.

One of the first things Gary Thomas says is that infatuation will lead you wrong every time. According to the research he cites, infatuation lasts approximately 18 months. So Gary Thomas recommends basing your marriage on more than infatuation. He also cautions against basing the desire to marry someone on things like beauty, physical appearance, financial standing, position or status, or sexual chemistry. Unfortunately, lots of people make the mistake of basing marital decisions on fleeting things like these and it leads to a lifetime of frustration. Gary Thomas writes to help his readers avoid this fate.

This book has been eye-opening for me. It is giving me things to think about that would never have crossed my mind. For example, one of the things Gary Thomas points out is that a husband and wife need have similar marriage styles, the way that the husband and the wife relate to one another and build a life together. For example, some people are focused on in the arts. Others are more focused on the corporate world, or the kids, or their home and garden. Thomas encourages readers to think about things like how you will spend your evenings. How will you spend weekends? How will you spend vacations? All of these are the things that are reflected in your marital style. Do you prefer to lots of time together? Or do you plan to have separate interest and hobbies? These things are important because a couple needs to match in terms of style.

Gary Thomas brought up an issue I hadn’t given much thought to: gender roles. He doesn’t get into whether the Complementarian model (where the wife submits to the husband) or the Egalitarian model (where it’s 50-50) is better. He just urges couples to make sure the they both agree on the role that each partner will play. Disagreement here leads to all kinds of frustration.

The central theme in this book, which is woven from the beginning to the end, is that a marriage without a mission is likely to fail. I don’t quite agree, but I do feel like Gary Thomas has a point. Having a greater mission for your marriage gives you something to work toward. When life throws its curve balls at you, you need a sense of shared mission to help you to grow together and not apart. And it happens that Gary Thomas has such a mission to suggest for marriage: the mission of marriage should be to seek first the king of God together. That should be the mission of each individual and it should be the mission of the couple. Working toward that mission will help couples to grow together and glorify God together. While I’m not sure if this is the case 100% of the time, I do feel that these are wise words. I do think it’s important for people to have a mission. I hadn’t really thought about having a mission for a marriage, but I suppose it makes sense. And this is something that I will definitely be talking over with the gentleman I’m dating.

Another thing Gary Thomas encourages is making your communication three-way, God being at the center. Gary Thomas urges couples to discuss God often. What is God saying to them? What is God doing in them? He also encourages couples to discuss struggles and areas where God is calling them higher.

Throughout the book Gary Thomas reminds readers that the purpose of marriage is to build a life together that glorifies God. He encourages readers to marry for the right reasons and to choose a person that will be a good partner in building a life. Your mate can be a huge blessing or source of great frustration. Thomas urges readers to choose wisely.

The book’s biggest strength: This book helps you to ask important questions. It alerts you to blind spots and gives sound advice for evaluating a partner.

The book’s biggest weakness: I feel like the author stated things too strongly at times. For example, a marriage without a mission (namely, the mission to seek the Kingdom above all else) is likely to fail. There are countless couples that don’t have this mission (or a mission at all) and they build happy, successful marriages.

Should you read the book? I highly recommend it. If you are dating, or planning on dating, you should read this book. It helps you to think past for long walks in the park and whether or not he likes dogs and more about questions like, is the actively pursuing God? What is he working on? This book will help you to think and consider things that you wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. And considering the far-reaching consequences of a poor marital choice, I think it’s worthwhile to clean any wisdom you can. This book is a great place to start.

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