I have been intensely looking forward to the publication of H. Wallace Goddard’s new book, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, Powerful Principles with Eternal Results because I have read some of the material in a series on Meridian already, and I have been struck by its beauty and power. In fact, just this week I ordered copies to send to every one of my married children. I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, to learn, that Meridian’s managing editor, Kathy H. Kidd, told me she had ordered several copies, too.
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I also intend to give it as my gift of choice for every wedding invitation that comes my way in the future, for one reason.
It is simply the best book on marriage that I have ever read, and I will always count it as a treasure in our library.
Though having a sweet companionship in marriage seems to be a universal dream, the world is fleeing from marriage in a sad resignation that the dream is sometimes hard to execute. Realizing the awesome power of married love and moving to live in oneness with another person requires not just good psychological principles or commonsense generalities that don’t tell us much (like “communicate with each other”).
No, the joy that we hope to find in our marriages comes back to understanding some core principles and true solutions found in focusing on Christ, ideas that Goddard outlines with clarity.
“We will only succeed at marriage as we use eternal gospel principles to become more of what God has invited us to become,” he affirms.
This is, of course, because the person we marry is an eternal soul on a journey. On that journey, we share everything with our spouse, our money, our space, our time, our hopes, our very bodies. And, of course, on that journey, since none of us is perfect, we share our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, our tensions and frustrations. That is not always easy.
Goddard is straight forward, when he asks:
What is God’s purpose for marriage? Did God design marriage as a refuge – a safe haven – from a troubled world? Or did He design marriage as a laboratory where each of us could conduct daily experiments in gospel living? Or did he design marriage as a spiritual challenge course to humble us, stretch us, and refine us?
Yes, to all of the above. For most people, marriage is sometimes a refuge from the storm. At other times, marriage is the storm where cold squalls and pitching decks test our balance and determination as we seek the promised land of marital harmony.
One thing is sure. God did not design marriage as a retirement village where we sunbathe, work the buffet, and play golf. When God ordained marriage, He had loftier and more demanding purposes in mind.
We bring to this demanding and perfecting experience all kinds of maladaptive behavior that we have been busy practicing to one degree or another since our youth. Goddard lists some of these:
- Put my own needs first lest my needs go unmet. (Go for the biggest piece of cake.)
- Defend myself. (Don’t show weakness. Return fire for fire.)
- See the other person as guilty (Consider even innocent behavior as aggressive or selfish.)
- Zero in on weaknesses in others. (Notice what makes others crazy and be prepared to bombard them.)
- Make fun of and minimize the other person. (Treat them with disdain.)
- Color the truth. (Tell stories in ways that make me look innocent and my sibling guilty.)
- Argue their wickedness persuasively. (Describe their faults derisively.)
- Be aware of the audience. (Take advantage of Mom and Dad’s irritations with the enemy sibling.)
- Hurt them and make them afraid. (Learn the tools of terrorism.)
Goddard’s ability to describe the vulnerabilities in our behavior and outlook that we bring to our marriages is incisive. He describes faulty thinking that you instantly know are true, but may not have articulated before. Here are a few samples:
We tend to see our spouse’s faults and shortcomings as character flaws, but we see our own weaknesses as the best we could do in the face of difficult circumstances.
The natural man is inclined to love himself and fix others.
We sometimes believe that everyone else’s view of the world is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are.
Our pride teaches us that we understand our partners and what makes them tick. We presume to understand their thoughts, motives and intent better than even they themselves do.
Goddard tells the story of a husband who listed his wife’s faults for her, and she answered. “You have faults, too.” “Yes,” he responded, “but they don’t bother me like yours do.”
Goddard tells us that a heavenly marriage is about experiencing a mighty change in our hearts. He tells us that the love we can feel for our partners comes from God, and that we should “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.”
He gives us an appendix of recommended reading and with every chapter, questions to consider as we evaluate our own thoughts, feelings and actions.
Readers will find that in these pages, they come to see things as they haven’t seen them before and find solutions to marital challenges that they had not supposed. But do not think that this marriage education is only for marriages that are young or in any way troubled. This book opens the door to consider the awesome power of married love, to build on strengths and enhance oneness, through Christ who gave us the gift of being at-one.
Meridian readers have responded with enthusiasm to this unique book:
I want to respond with gratitude to Brother Goddard’s writing. It is such a joy to read straight talk based on gospel principles from a person who humbly acknowledges his trek through the trenches. I use that metaphor with great intention, for life can certainly feel like a battle against Satanic forces that seek to conquer marriage and family harmony. I have learned so much from Brother Goddard’s writings, and the impact on me personally has been such a blessing because it carries into my relationships with family and into the teaching and sharing I do with others.
In the Church, I think we gloss over marital challenge sometimes, leaving those of us with less than perfect marriages to wonder if we’ve missed out somehow. I applaud Brother Goddard for his honesty and wisdom. In my 17 years of marriage, I’ve been guilty of almost every line of faulty thinking addressed in this series. Brother Goddard has given me a reality check and renewed perspective.
My husband and I have been using these ideas as our lessons for FHE. They have opened up discussions for us that may not have otherwise happened. The Spirit they bring creates an uplifting environment for each of us to talk about what we can do better. These discussions have helped us be more supportive of each other in our respective goals to improve, whereas before we may have unknowingly gotten in each other’s way.
Goddard says that he used to assume that development was linear, that in our mortal journey we progress from our natural man telestial qualities toward fairness, then we add an appreciation of Jesus to move to the celestial level.
“I was wrong,” he said. “We do not become celestial by adding a pinch of celestial. If we are to become perfected, we must have His miraculous help. The natural man must die and be born again as a spiritual being. That is the miracle. We do not climb out. He snatches us and defines us to a new life.”
That is the joyous invitation Goddard describes in his new book.
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