November's Recommended Resource
In one of the books I read on youth ministry, I came across a significant piece of wisdom from a long-time youth pastor about setting expectations. He basically said, "Don't forget that you, as a youth pastor, you will have relatively no impact on the lives of these kids when compared to their parents." That's a starling way to put it, but there's no doubt that parents are the most significant influence when it comes to who our kids will become. And when we think about parents, we need to think about marriage. So for the month of November, I'm recommending The Intimate Mystery: Creating Strength and Beauty in Your Marriage by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman, III.
Allender and Longman build their short book around the three commandments in Genesis 2:24, which reads, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Or as they put it, "leave, weave, and cleave."
One of the things I love about this book is that Allender (and he seems to be the main author, here) has an arresting way of writing things that, if nothing else, will make you stop and think about your own marriage. And I think that's his aim. There's lots of wisdom throughout the books pages (and companion Bible studies at the end which are great for couples or small groups), but the affect that the authors really seem to be going for is to jostle you into thinking about your marriage in a fresh way. And that's because, as Allender puts it -- and he's a marriage counselor -- he says, "In my experience, people let their marriage happen, hope they get along, and utterly ignore the necessity to grow as a person and as a couple for the enhancement of their marriage." But he goes on to say that it doesn't have to be that way, and he bets it all on the gospel, and how God's grace changes things.
Allender and Longman take the reader through what they call the matrix of marriage, and work hard to speak honestly and to deal with the messiness of marriage that we all experience. Allender is particularly open and vulnerable (and very funny) when he relates his teaching to his own marriage, and you will find that, as a reader and a spouse, you'll feel your own guard coming down and a gentle nudge toward humbler tones.
If you know that the health of your marriage impacts your kids and you are looking either for something to get you and your spouse beyond "letting your marriage happen" or something which will help you take another step toward intimacy, I recommend this book.