This is an extremely helpful and practical book that addresses the issue of marriage and commitment within a Christian perspective, while taking into account the common objections, misconceptions and realities that marriage entails. The common thread in this book concerns the definition of marriage as complementariness between man and woman characterized by service and support of one to the other. This idea of relationship as service, as a form of sacrifice really, should not be surprising to readers of Keller. Service and sacrifice have defined the walk of the Christian across history and throughout the world. Keller has often referred to this basic notion. In a world that is broken, yet has the promise of redemption, witnessed by the work on the cross, the Christian imitates his/her chief - one who gives all, one who forgives and who leaves healing in his/her wake.
So it is only logical that in this relationship that most closely mirrors God's own relationship to humans, there is the idea of service of one to the other, for the good, for the happiness and fulfillment of the other. Marriage is about what I will do to make the other more themselves. It is not about what I can get out of the other. The subtle reflection is made that marriage, even blissfully happy marriage, is not complete. It is a signpost, pointing in another direction, in a direction where there is the greatest joy.
I particularly appreciated the ease with which the Kellers (written by Tim and Kathy Keller) were able to address the issue of the husband-wife relationship within the traditional questions of gender roles. These have been very painful issues in the church, often visible to non-christian observers. I found the transparent, thought out approach very refreshing and cause for reflection by everyone who has to deal with marriage either personally or within a counselling context. The book definitely does not paint the common stereotypes of Christian male/womanhood that is often part of evangelical christian descriptions of marriage.
Finally, one comes away with the idea that marriage can be fun, that there is much happiness, a profound happiness, that comes from walking through this sometimes very difficult life with someone who is walking with you, in the same direction, who takes part in your adventure, and vice versa. When the challenges come, there is comfort in being two. The Kellers say much when they describe marriage as a very strong friendship that grows into a romantic relationship. It is always better to face the world and to build with someone by your side, no? Perhaps this is something we have lost in our time and place in history. The Kellers do a nice job of restating this idea as a critical part of the foundation of marital relationships.