Choosing Marriage — Update and Book Review

The past few months have been a whirlwind.  Soooooo many things have happened since my last posting. Since my last post I have both gotten engaged and married. This gave my last read, Choosing Marriage, special significance.

I discovered the book through the Relevant Magazine Love & Money Podcast, which was co-hosted by Debra Fileta, the author of Choosing Marriage. I highly recommend the Podcast, but today I want to focus on the book, which I am finding tremendously helpful.

The author, Deb Fileta, is a licensed professional counselor. She combines her insight as a counselor with Christian wisdom in Choosing Marriage.

Choosing Marriage is packed full of wisdom for making your marriage better, but also for making yourself better. The need for making yourself better is a major theme throughout the book, making it a good pick for singles as well as couples. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of relationships and is followed by two sets of questions: one for married couples and one for singles. 

Deb Fileta starts by talking about what it means to choose marriage. She gives good reasons to choose marriage. In a culture full of people telling singles to “be content,” Deb Fileta spends all her time on reasons to choose marriage. This is so refreshing.

One major theme of the book is that you must choose your marriage over other things – making the best choice for your marriage in the face of other interests. This will often involve sacrifice; sometimes small, sometimes great. Sometimes that means putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. It’s about the choice to choose self or choose marriage. She urges readers to always choose marriage. 

One thing the author points out quickly is that it’s never “Me vs. You” in a marriage. It’s always “Me vs. We.” It’s always a matter of whether to choose self or marriage. This was a revolutionary idea. I’m used to seeing the other person as the opponent. This formula emphasizes that it’s not one person versus another. It’s choosing my own selfishness or choosing love. This puts the focus of the issue on me and the fact that I get to make the choice. That’s empowering. And it’s a game changer.

Deb Fileta also spends some time talking about walls that people erect to protect themselves or deal with life: isolation, withdrawal, fantasy, denial. She talks about how destructive they can be, but also talks about how to recognize them and how to break them down through vulnerability and intimacy.

Maintaining intimacy is one of the keys to a lasting marriage, and I don’t just mean sexual intimacy. Deb Fileta talks about the need to have regular connection with your spouse, beginning with conversation. Surface conversation about the weather isn’t enough. Deb Fileta outlines the four levels of conversation couple should regularly have: facts, opinions, feelings, and beliefs. She also stresses the need to always connect with your spouse first. We have to be careful about confiding and discussing too much with friends and family. This includes venting. According to Deb Fileta, the more you connect to other people about the matters of your life the less you’ll need to connect with your spouse about it. This works against the intimacy couples should be building. She stresses the importance of investing your time in your spouse rather than everyone else. 

As a Christian author, Deb Fileta emphasizes the importance of nurturing a deep relationship with God. I’d expect this from a Christian book about marriage. What I didn’t expect is the correlation between nurturing a relationship with God and loving your spouse well. Connection to God facilitates to connection with each other. She notes that we can only love our spouses properly when we have been refreshed and transformed by God himself. Pursuing a relationship with God will produce the fruit of the Spirit, which are essential to loving your spouse.

One of the things I like the best about Deb Fileta’s approach to relationships is her focus on improving yourself. She urges every reader to pursue greater health and wholeness as an individual because this will improve your relationship. She suggests that improving yourself is one of the best ways to improve your relationship. I really like the emphasis on improving yourself and seeing the positive impact on your marriage.

This was a really great read. It was full of insight and wisdom and I am sure I’ll be a better wife because of this book. I would recommend this book for couples for sure. I’d recommend this book for singles if they’re looking for ways to improve themselves in preparation for marriage. This book is less about what to look for and more about what you can do to be ready when you meet him or her. 

There are a lot of books about marriage out there. I feel like this one is unique because it gives the reader a way of looking at marriage that I have not seen presented any other book. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of individual health and the power each individual has to improve their marriage. Highly recommended.

Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey

I recently read Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey, on the recommendation of a friend. She knows I’m in a challenging place in life and faith and she thought it would help me. Of course, she was right. Out of Sorts is about the process of sorting out your faith. Over time we accumulate things and sometimes need to sort out our beliefs.

Sarah Bessey begins by talking about the process of sorting through her grandmother’s belongings upon her passing. It was a healing process for her. But when her other grandmother passed away Bessey was denied the opportunity to take part in the sorting, and that seemed to deepen the sense of loss that she felt.

As I read the book I found that Sarah Bessey is no stranger to loss. She has had several miscarriages and has walked through sorrow with family and friends. She addresses suffering and pain in a chapter dedicated to the sacred practice of lamenting in a healthy, biblical way.

Part of Sarah Bessey’s history is her extended departure from the church. Out of Sorts is the story of her gradually finding her way back. As she describes the process of finding her way back she lights the way for the rest of us.

One thing I love about this book is the way that Bessey affirms all Christian faith traditions. So often different faith traditions like to criticize other faith traditions for what they seem to lack. And that’s not our place. We are called to love and call forth the best in one another. Sarah Bessey affirms that different aspects of Christian faith have helped and strengthened her — everything from the Word of Faith to the beauty and consistency of the liturgical traditions.

Another thing I love about this book is that she addresses things that Believers who may be struggling in their faith may find difficult. For example, Sarah Bessey directly takes on the topic of evil and suffering. She has given birth to stillborn children and lost friends and loved ones far too soon. She had to endure the pat answers and foolish attempts to explain away her suffering. In her book Sarah Bessey dismisses them all and offers her thoughts on evil and suffering without being dogmatic. After being exposed to so much dogma in the past and hearing so many pat answers to my own grief, I really appreciate her thoughts and her approach to sharing her thoughts.

Y’all… The chapter on vocation and calling absolutely rocked my world. I wasn’t expecting to find such a chapter in this book. Sarah Bessey writes about her life as a pastor’s wife and then her life once they had left full-time ministry. This chapter really spoke to me. I found this chapter so healing. So freeing. And I feel like it has caused me to question some of my anger. For that reason alone I may need to re-read it.

This book was a dense read at times. Sarah Bessey is a scholar and it shows. I have deep respect for conscientious scholarship and Sarah Bessey has done a phenomenal job in her study. And she brings it to this book in a way that is not overbearing. Life is messy. There are no black-and-white answers. Sarah Bessey says these things time and time again. But for her, everything comes down to the heart of Jesus. At this point, I’m not sure if I can say the same. After reading this book though, I have more things to consider as I work out what the heart of Jesus really is.

Let me end with a quote from Out of Sorts that I think sums up the book very nicely:

“I hope we all wrestle. I hope we look deep into our hearts and sift through our theology, our methodology, our praxis, all of it. I hope we get angry and say true things. I hope we push back against celebrity and consumerism; I hope we live into our birthright as a prophetic outpost for the Kingdom. I hope we get our toes stepped on and then forgive. I hope we become open-hearted and open-armed. I hope we are known as the ones who love.”