Book Review: Fierce Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick

I try to read a book on marriage or parenting at least once each year. This year, the book I've chosen is Fierce Marriage: Radically Pursuing Each Other in Light of Christ's Relentless Love by Ryan and Selena Frederick (fiercemarriage.com). I’ve been encouraged and challenged by this book, and I was happy to be a part of their social media launch team. Overall, I'll tell you that this husband and wife duo will positively impact your marriage. Here's my thoughts on the book.

What I Loved

This book tackled many of the same topics most good Christian marriage books do. The difference in my opinion is that the Fredericks gave a more balanced perspective on those topics by writing together. Upwards of forty percent of the book is dedicated to telling stories. While I know this is helpful for some, this isn't my preference. By the midway point of the book, I found myself simply skimming the stories. Having said this, the meat of the book easily overcomes this weakness. The Frederick's use of Scripture was spot on, and their explanations are easy to understand and readily applicable. Chapter 6, the chapter on communication, was worth the price of the book. This chapter pointed repeatedly to the truth that communication problems are first and foremost matters of the heart, that is issues of pride. Then, the Fredericks went on to give very practical application points for fighting pride in the midst of regular marital communication. Most importantly, Fierce Marriage consistently points the reader back to their need to focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The book shows us our need for this individually and as a couple.

How I Plan on Using This Book

I plan on recommending this book to newly married couples, couples who may or may not have had pre-marital counseling, but may be struggling to grow in their relationship. This book is another faithful guide for marriage, one of life’s most pivotal decisions, since it addresses everything from expectations to handling conflict while staying focused on the gospel.

I recommend this book to you as well. Whether you’ve been married six months or more than sixty years, this book will help you love your Lord and spouse better. Get it as soon as possible and be edified.

Where Family Starts

As a pastor, I love hearing young couples approach me and say something to effect of, "We're thinking about starting a family."  Most are sharing their excitement about trying to have kids. While I understand what they're communicating, it leads me to remind them that it's not kids that make a family but rather when a man and woman covenant together to become a husband and a wife.

A family starts when God leads a man and a woman to commit their lives to each other in holy matrimony. This is a holy covenant they make before God, family, and friends. This covenant is not about their happiness, but their holiness. The couple leave their current families thereby creating a new one (Gen. 2:24, Matt. 19:5, Eph. 5:31). It's in the "two becoming one" that at a new family is formed.

I remind couples of this truth all the time in pre-marital counseling as well as the couples who are adding to their family, and I give them another encouragement as well. I encourage them to be intentional about practicing family worship--the disciplines of prayer and Bible study together. If they can establish these habits early and consistently, it will already be in place when kids arrive. Of course, family worship looks different when kids are in the mix, but the pattern will already be there. 

Since our immediate family is the first ministry calling of married believers, it's important to figure this out as early as possible. But there is still hope for those who are new to practicing spiritual disciplines together as a couple. It's never too late to start. Family discipleship doesn't have a critical start date. All it requires is simple faithfulness to God and his Word.

If you're a newlywed, share below what has helped you make prayer and Bible study a priority early in your marriage.  

Date Night Hacks

Justin Buzzard's book, Date Your Wife (Crossway, 2012), was a wake up call for me. Buzzard writes, "Most men think the mission ends after they marry the woman they love... The reality is that the mission has only just begun." He spends the rest of the book reminding me to continue to date their wife. Continue to pursue them while at the same time protecting them.

When I read the book, I was failing at pursuing my wife. The idea of a regular date night was a novel concept to me. I thought a date had to be elaborate and expensive. But if your date nights are always an undertaking, you may have adopted a performance mentality--looking to prove your love by topping your last date night with one that's bigger and better. More important than being elaborate is being regular and consistent. Being together is what makes it a date.

Most men think the mission ends after they marry the woman they love... The reality is that the mission has only just begun.
— Justin Buzzard

Here are a few hacks to make dates more meaningful without necessarily being more expensive. These date ideas are low cost, but they do require some creativity:

Home Dates

You don't have to go out to have a date. But sometimes what makes staying in most meaningful is not doing the ordinary. Don't turn on the TV. Let the laundry sit (And if you must do housework, the key is to do it together). Put your phone down. Make dinner together--and not the usual stuff. Try making something fancy. Build a fire and just hang out. Play a game (You know, the one you hate, but she loves). Pull out the your wedding album and reminisce. Does your wife have any hobbies the two of you can do together? Scrapbooking? Card-making? Have you considered learning about it with her? Be creative. The key is spending time together and sharing your time and heart.

Walking Dates

Go for a walk in the park or by the river, lake, or ocean. Explore that part of your city you have always wanted to see. Walk through the mall or shopping center and window shop or people watch. Walking (or running together if you're so inclined) is not only good exercise; it's also a good way to unwind together.

Talking Dates

Sometimes we just need to talk. We need to get alone--away from the craziness of the daily routine--and talk about what's working and what's not. We need to talk about our strengths and weaknesses, where the kids are at, and about our hopes and dreams. When you go out to talk, it's important to listen to one another. Don't judge or try to fix. Just listen. Intentional listening is necessary not only to get on the same page but to truly grow in oneness (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6). Communication is how the two of you learn you are stronger together than you could ever be apart. While this can be done at no cost, sharing a coffee or drink and a long conversation might be the best investment you can make in the health of your marriage--much more beneficial than a fancy dinner or show. 

Date nights are important. Husbands, make them a priority. Be intentional. They don't have to cost much. Just spend time together. It's one of the major keys to growing that intimacy.

I know I've missed some ideas. If you have great ones, share them in the comments below.