Real Marriage

Mark Driscol wrote what I'm seeing as a particularly damaging book called 'Real Marriage'. I have several friends who read the book and took away good things from it. However, in reading through several chapters, I ultimately had to put it down.

To be fair, if you skip over a bunch of important information and get right down to the core of the issues, the book basically captures what true intimacy should look like. And it has nothing to do with whether one holds to complimentarianism or egalitarianism. Driscol also makes solid points when it comes down to core issues which are layers and layers behind the surface issues we may face in our relationships. Given all of this, I suppose the most damaging and overarching issue I found is that "Real Marriage" didn't do the work of unpacking the layers. It takes a "shut up and deal with it" approach, which is fairly typical of Driscol.

The problem, as I see it, is that how things are on the surface can often be symptomatic of much deeper problems that need to be unpacked carefully (sometimes with the help of a certified professional counselor), not exposed with grenades and napalm as Driscol seems to do. Because of its grenadal approach to things, I find this book mutes itself. Instead of speaking the truth in Love, the author deals overly brashly with issues, tending to just bomb through everything instead of surgically cutting and digging down until issues are as fully and properly exposed as possible. The result is that what could have been a great book reads more like a literary caricature of Mark Driscol swinging a large brick around attempting to hit you over the head hard enough that you cry uncle and submit.

I digress ... kind of.

The book takes concepts (such as pride) and throws a blanket over them without any distinctions. So then, everything that could be pride, becomes pride. Period. The book also takes concepts (such as sin) and only views them through a particular, reformed Biblical lens without any consideration of what the idea has come to mean in popular western culture, which encompass Christian popular culture, and doesn't make any attempt to bridge the gap.

This isn't really just a problem with a Mark Driscol book. I see this happening all the time in church world. It's almost a cultural identity thing for Christians to blanket issues and paint them with the same brush regardless of circumstances or context. To be sure, sometimes we need to just get straight to the point without any further digging around. But I think this should be the exception rather than the norm. Being brash just isn't how Jesus calls us to be. Instead, Jesus tells his followers to love one another as he has loved us. Of course, there's a time for getting angry and a time for correcting the impoverished thinking or behavior of others - it's just that we need to wield that anger and rebuke with prayerful precision.

Again and again, 'Real Marriage' just napalms over topics with reformed evangelical fever, which left this reader more than a little frustrated. So let's talk about pride. But before that, let's talk about self esteem, which Driscol equates directly with pride (which, in this author's opinion, is a mistake).

Self-esteem can be a healthy part of loving yourself, because having a sense of self-esteem can position you to then be able to go out and love others as you love yourself. This might look like a person who thinks of themselves as a good person and who in turn gives others the benefit of the doubt. A person can see themselves this way because of , not in spite of the Gospel. What I mean is that having proper self esteem simply means seeing yourself honestly for who you are and loving yourself in spite of your flaws, which in turn enables you to better love others in spite of the their flaws. Conversely, misplaced self-esteem can become destructive pride. Misplaced self-esteem might look like a person who thinks more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3) and who is therefore not able to see themselves accurately and is not really able to in turn see their neighbors and even spouses accurately in order to love them the way they need to be loved.

Timothy Keller once said, "I am more sinful than I dare to imagine, but I am at the same time more loved than I dare to dream". This is a one line summary of the Gospel and is the most accurate way to view our neighbors (our spouses are our closest neighbor). Yes, we are broken and messed up. One look at the news proves this in spades, but that brokenness isn't just 'out there'. It's in us as well. But God has shown his boundless love for us on the cross. We are more sinful that we imagine but more loved than we dare to dream. This is self esteem properly placed.

Misplaced self esteem which in turn leads to pride then can finally lead to Driscol's description of pride. In this case, what we have is something that under-girds the problem of intimacy anorexia. When properly placed as such, Driscol's description becomes pretty accurate.

Self-esteem and pride are therefore loosely related, but are not the same. You could view pride as a corrupted or out of control version of self esteem, self actualization, self-image or self-love. But even pride itself can be expressed in healthy or unhealthy ways. For example, a person may be proud of something they've accomplished but at the same time, they can willingly and humbly give the credit for the accomplishment they are proud of to God, their team, their spouse etc. 

You can be proud of yourself and believe in yourself, but with the knowledge that everything you have is a gift from God, you don't mind not taking the credit and you won't think of yourself so highly that you think you can save yourself. If left unchecked, pride will derail you and can only be kept in check with surpassing humility.

The bible itself has some surprising things to say about pride. Going along with the biblical theme of seeing yourself accurately, Galatians 6:4 says " Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else," We are also challenged to "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). Further, the writer of proverbs warns us: " Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them." This theme seems endless in the Bible. Selfish Pride, which is manifested in vein conceit, malice, self-importance and holier than thou attitudes is a root of all kinds of evil in the world. This kind of pride views ones self as more important than others, and in church world, this is some of the stuff extremism is made of (among many other things, including how religions as institutions have poorly interacted with and blamed one another). There is no room for humility in any worldview or system that sees itself as savior.

But humble people who love Jesus is exactly what this world needs. Jesus followers don't see any system (whether democracy, theocracy, laws or religion) as capable of ultimately saving us; delivering us. We see only Jesus as worthy and capable of holding that position as savior, and it changes all of our relationships, including our marriages, from the inside out.


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