This book fully deserves this revised and expanded 20th anniversary edition. I enjoyed reading it for the first time years ago and valued greatly rereading it with another decade of married experience behind me. The author is a Canadian who intended to become a monk but fell in love with and married a doctor.Without doubt, this is one of the best books on Christian marriage and it deserves to be more widely known in the UK. The book is beautifully written with extended allegorical illustrations.
The opening story of hawks soaring over the monastery gives the flavour of the book instantly. Mason looks at predictable issues such as love, intimacy and sex, as well as less well-travelled terrain such as death, brokenness and submission in marriage.
On submission, for example, those looking for endorsement of patriarchy will be sorely disappointed. If men are fortunate enough to be treated like kings at home it is only, in Mason's view, that they 'might better be enabled to become a servant'. He sees no distinction in Paul's words to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-25 because for Mason,'to love is to submit and to submit is to love'. Brokenness is viewed as being at the heart of intimacy. What is tough in marriage is what's tough in encountering God – the strain of living in the light of a conscience other than our own. The only way it can be done is in the strength of God's love which overcomes our pettiness and exposes our selfishness.
There are many thoughtprovoking applications of Scripture. On 1 Corinthians 7:4, for example, Mason writes: 'In marriage not just the body is given but the heart. One heart is given in exchange for another, and in this mutual proprietorship is found the deepest and most radical expression of intimacy. It might almost be said that love is the total willingness to be owned'.
There are also some superb one-liners. On sex, for example, he believes that for many it is 'the most powerful and moving experience that life has to offer, and more overwhelmingly holy than anything that happens in church'. On the sense of feeling trapped in marriage he suggests, 'When the prison door of love clangs shut, the only thing to do is to become more in love than ever'.
Perhaps one of the reasons this book has not been widely promoted is that we increasingly live in an age of instant 'fix-it' solutions. It does not fit into that mould and is much more of a 'Why?' rather than a 'How?'book on marriage.'Why?' is however, an increasingly relevant question as the role of marriage is constantly undermined, marriage-rates are falling and many young people, including Christians, opt to live together instead.
I have a cluster of weddings coming up and this book will be among our gifts for each couple. If you need a fresh touch from God upon your marriage, or know others who do, then this book may help.