Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough (Review)
Marriages don’t have to be ordinary. God can help couples find oneness and intimacy, or recapture it. The authors share from their marriage godly beginnings, deterioration, building resentment, the consequences of an extramarital affair, restoration, and healing.
I love when authors boil their story down to a single, potent theme: Only God can turn our marriages into extra-ordinary. This is the theme of Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough.
So many couples settle for less than ordinary. Extra-ordinary has to come on a heart level. God has to transform our hearts as individuals and as a couple. In a way, this book is the story of God taking an ordinary (or less than ordinary) marriage and transforming it. It is their journey of coming to a deeper understanding of the oneness, intimacy, and trust God wants couples to have in marriage.
Incremental vs. Transformational Change
Chapter 10 “No Ordinary Healing” has a wonderful section on fixing our marriages and changing. I think it illustrates the central theme of the book and how married couples get off track when their marriages need fixing.
Incremental Change “is you and your spouse doing your best…making big promises…[working only on the] change you are in control of…. Incremental change tells you if you try hard enough, you can cuss less, drink less, click on pornography less, eat less, lose your temper less, spend less, lust less, lie less, cheat less. Incremental change is motivated by guilt and shame and feelings of incompetence and failure” (p.183).
“Incremental change doesn’t allow you to experience grace and forgiveness because you are constantly trying to make up for the sin in your life” (p.184).
Transformational Change “is about surrender, vulnerability and transparency; humility and dependency. Transformational change at its core aims to destroy you, and if you are willing to pay that price, it will totally destroy every part of you. It’s messy and bloody and it hurts deep and it will cost you everything. It is pulling all of your junk out and laying it on the table for all to see no matter what they think about you” (p.184)
The Back Third of the Book: Restoration
I knew that the authors’ marriage was threatened by an affair and that they recovered, so I wanted to read the last third of the book. My wife and I work with individuals entrenched in sexual sin, as well as their spouses. In most cases, their world is either blown apart, or about to be blown apart by the truth.
If your marriage is in need of restoration, you may want to start with Chapter 8 with Justin’s confession. Here’s a striking quote that shows the reader how bad their marriage got:
“[Justin to Trisha] ‘I don’t love you. I don’t want to be married to you. I want out.’…It wasn’t a confession of remorse, regret, or repentance. It was a confession of resignation. I was finished.” (p.133)
The details of the affair are not shared in this book (a wise choice in my opinion). The authors reflect the decay in their marriage and unhealthy patterns that were present (as a couple and as individuals), but there is a gap. In one chapter, Justin feels the Holy Spirit telling him to confess to another man where his heart was going. In the next chapter, Justin comes home from a conference ready to leave his wife for another woman. I wish this gap would have been acknowledged. It’s was a hard jump for me to make.
I appreciate Trisha’s perspective on the affair when she says, “In our story, the affair gets all the attention, but what I have come to realize is that I had a forgiveness issue long before the affair” (p.147).
“The affair wasn’t the problem in our marriage; it was a visible and destructive symptom of an illness that had lived in my heart undetected. Insecurity and fear had ruled my life for years” (p.150).
There are tremendous sections on brokenness and forgiveness in this book. An “ordinary” response in today’s culture to an affair is separation and divorce. God helped the authors discover the “extraordinary” heart change required to recover from an affair.
The Value of Reflection and Counseling
The affair forced them into an intense period of counseling and reflection. The depth of this book comes from the authors’ looking back at their personal and marriage histories. It was easier for them to see in retrospect and with good counsel how destructive patterns evolved. Marriages don’t blow up overnight. There is a slow fade that takes place. I think the authors do a good job of reflecting on this deterioration, diagnosing it, and giving the reader strong takeaways for their own marriages.
Check Out RefineUs.org
Justin and Trisha Davis have a wonderful ministry called Refine Us. They have a lot to say about marriage restoration and enrichment. Check out their blog, website, and upcoming speaking appearances at RefineUs.org. I love the tagline on their site: Restoring Hope, Renewing Relationships.