I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas. I had grown up in the world of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl with some over-macho’d clips from Mark Driscoll thrown in when I got to college. I tried the courtship thing…twice (sorta). It was enough to disillusion me of the dream-world promised with it. Courtship, as such, didn’t seem worth it.
And part of that was realizing that the principle flaw of that approach is over-thinking it. This means that those who are by nature introspective are doomed, and those who aren’t feel lost, and neither is going to be happy with it very easily. So, in the interest of full-disclosure, I requested this book for review because I was looking for some other way that people could deal with the issue of Christian marriage (besides talking to my pastor. He has some great thoughts on this stuff and I wish he’d write a book so other people could benefit from it, but he’s rather busy).
Thomas does a great job with this book in telling people WHY not to marry, and suggesting that our problem in our American evangelical culture is we spend too much time talking about WHO not to marry. That point is money, and I’m glad Thomas spends as much space in the book discussing it as he does, because we need the chance to sit in that mindset for a little while, and realize we’ve been over-thinking it. Thomas also offers several more practical suggestions about thinking things through with your significant other (taking the time to be honest about what you want in a partner, what your priorities are, and where you are hoping to go in five years, ten years, etc.). It’s so easy, as Thomas points out, to let infatuation carry you through the first year and half to two years of your relationship, but when infatuation fades out…what are you left with?
That said, I do think Thomas spends too much effort on dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s when it comes to the moral nature of Christian marriage. While divorce is a very serious issue, I’m not sure that a book about finding someone to marry is the place to address it. I’m also not convinced that’s the place to talk about your views of gender roles in Christian marriage (as an aside, I appreciate that Thomas does say that you need to talk about these things with your girlfriend/boyfriend, because if you don’t agree on what your roles are in marriage, you shouldn’t get married). But in all things, it seems that the moral aspects of Christian marriage and working towards Christian marriage would be helped more by the power of the radical grace of Jesus than by boundaries and “helpful tips to guard yourself.”
Sacred Search is a worthwhile and even helpful read, but remember it isn’t a promise, and it isn’t The Manual for Getting Married. It’s a tool, and for those trying to think outside of the courtship mindset, I would definitely suggest it as your way out.