Between 16 years of marriage and earning my Masters Degree in pastoral counseling, I have read dozens and dozens of books on marriage, relationships, sex, and parenting. Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity is one of the best, particularly because it is one of the only that is solely devoted to marriage and family in terms of the big picture implications of faith, spiritual development, and eternal life. Whereas many books of the genre focus on particular aspects of relational dynamics, communications, or commitment, You and Me Forever presents an approach to marriage purely in the context of Paul’s directions in Ephesians 5 that the husband is to stand in the position of Christ in relation to his bride, the church. Chan argues that this means that husbands are to love sacrificially, serve, and most importantly to prepare their wives spiritually for eternity. This is accomplished through leadership, teaching, and prayer. Chan’s commitment to this approach is well illustrated in the opening chapters of the book, which do not deal with marriage directly at all, but rather present a Biblical framework for salvation and sanctification. He argues that the husband’s first responsibility is to be saved and grow spiritually. Without this foundation, he is incapable of fulfilling his role in the marriage. After establishing this basic element, Chan goes on to discuss eternity and Heaven. He asserts that if the majority of our time with our spouses is going to be spent in Heaven, Paul’s direction for husbands to live their lives preparing their wives for eternity becomes a supreme act of love. He argues that time spent in Heaven, rejoicing in God’s presence will make the work, service, and sacrifice in this life worthwhile. The text goes on to apply this concept to marital conflict, parenting, and other areas of the marriage relationship. The text presents a big picture perspective that marriage and family exist with the mission of pursuing deeper relationships with Jesus. Through those deeper relationships and our imitation of Him, harmony is introduced into the marriage because we are imitating a selfless Savior and working toward a common goal.
The ideas presented in the text aren’t new ones, per se. I’ve come across the basic ideas in other marriage books on more than one occasion. I would argue that what’s new and refreshing about this book is its undiluted focus that Chan takes in presenting the truth that marriage is an institution that exists for the purpose of discipleship and glorifying God. You and Me Forever takes this concept and works through it thoroughly, without allowing for distractions. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I like practical advice. As a guy, I want a to-do list that I can work through. Chan’s book doesn’t work toward being a self-help user manual with tidbits of advice, but I found its treatment of a topic that can be somewhat abstract to be simultaneously practical. As he works through the implications of spiritual leadership and imitating Christ, he constantly brings the ideas back to every day examples from his own life. This results in a book that presents big ideas that find application in everyday circumstances.
One area of trepidation I had coming into reading the book was in the idea of eternal relationship. Jesus teaches that marriage will not continue into eternity, but is instead an institution that exists in the creation only for now. I worried that he would make a theological leap that was unbiblical. I believe he handled this matter in a manner that is faithful to the scriptures. He affirms the teaching that marriage will not be for eternity, but instead suggests that the knowledge of our past relationships will continue to exist, only reframed in terms of eternal truths. This is a concept he works through his book thoroughly. I feel he spent adequate time on this idea to justify it Biblically, but not so much as to bore the non-theology-nerd readers. Some folks may find this unsatisfying, but I would argue that to do so would have detracted from the larger focus and message of the book. I’d like to read more on the idea from a Biblical perspective, but it’s hard to fault the author for making the choice he did in this component of the text.