How to Get(Stay) Married Forever: a book review

Are you married? Would you like to be married? Still looking for ‘the One’?

In Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage that goes the Distance (previously titled Going All the Way), Craig Groeschel discusses how you can you can make love last forever . Groeschel’s first point is that ‘the One’ you are looking for is not a romantic interest but Jesus (see what he did there?). Your spouse would be your ‘number two’ He then goes on to discuss the dynamics and the personal commitments which will nurture a good marriage.

This is the third book by Craig Groeschel I’ve read (I’ve also read Weird and Chazown). In the previous two books, I liked a lot of what he had to say but found his hook a little gimmicky. In this book, Groeschel is much more straightforward in his presentation and says some great things; however I seem to be a little out of Craig Groeschel’s target audience. This is a book for those preparing for marriage. Actually, a good chunk of the book is for people who are still in the dating scene but maybe  thinking about marriage at some point. As someone who is happily married for 10 years, I found this book offered less constructive material for my own relationship (only the last few chapters).

But no matter, it was a fun read and Groeschel has good things to say. I am occasionally asked by single friends if I could recommend a good book on dating  and I think this could be a helpful book for college age singles.  There is a lot of practical advice here about making sure you keep Jesus central, developing a solid friendship as the foundation for marriage,  keeping sexually pure, why cohabitation is a bad idea, how to break up with the wrong person, how in Christ starting over and being healed from past mistakes is possible, keeping your relationship with Jesus and keeping your (future) spouse a priority. Groeschel is a good communicator and he does a great job of encouraging singles to live lives  that are holy, healthy and pleasing to God.

When he does get down to discussing married life, he offers what I would call a soft complementarianism. He believes that husbands were created to be the leader of the home (he bases this on the created order. Men were created first because they are hardwired to be the initiator of things. Just so you know, this is bad exegesis). While he overstates his case for male leadership a little, he is careful to put this in the context of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21) and certainly men need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their relationships rather than passively stand by.  Likewise he has some good advice to wives (or would be wives) to deal with insecurities in their hearts, but much of his discussion of wives is how to submit to their husbands leadership. As an egalitarian, I disagree with how Groeschel is parsing biblical data here, but he makes some constructive points.

One of the best chapters of the book is called Habits of the Heart where Craig discusses the sort of godly habits which will nurture a godly marriage. These include:

  • dealing with your past
  • growing with good people (accountability and mentoring and severing of unhealthy friendships)
  • learning to listen well
  • guarding your own heart
  • facing and resolving conflict well
  • being financially responsible
  • investing in your relationship with God

I think that each of these habits are important for maintaining vitality and health in my marriage (though I need to grow in a few of these).  But what makes this book an enjoyable read is not Groeschel’s good advice, but his humility and good humor. Groeschel is funny and is vulnerable enough to share about past mistakes he’s made. So even though I am the wrong person to read this book, I still liked it.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.


Bad Hebrew but a good book: a book review

Sometimes, I am overly critical and curmudgeony against mega-churches and their pastors but I like Craig Groeschel a lot. And I really like this book, Chazown, a lot, but I got problems with the title. So while this is generally a pretty positive review, the next paragraph is a little cranky. If you’re avoiding negativity in your life, you might want to skip it and pick up this review in paragraph three.

The title, Chazown comes from the Hebrew: חָזוֹן or ḥāzôn (Romanized according to SBL). As Craig says, it means vision and he’s right, but why he chose to spell it this way irks me. When you a quick google search of “Chazon,” “Hazon,” or Chazown, you discover that the first two spellings are in far greater usage. Most of the hits for “Chazown” seem to relate directly or indirectly to Craig’s book, a couple of online lexicons and a Youtube clip from a documentary on Cher’s son’s sexchange operation (Chaz- Own). Maybe this is a legitimate way of writing a holem vav(a pointed vav indicating an ‘o’ vowel) but it is not what I was taught, and it doesn’t seem to me to be that common. I kind of think it’s similar to me writing a book called Selah Vee from the French for “That’s life?” Why not spell it like everyone else? In the accompanying website, Groeschel pronounces “Chazown” with a hard k (Kazone) instead of the soft guttural kh sound. Of course beyond faulty spelling and pronounciation, why name it “Chazown” anyway? The answer: marketing. Beyond a brief reference to the King James Version’s rendering of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish (newer translations have the much more liberating, ‘cast off restraints’ instead of perishing),” there is little discussion in the book of the Hebrew concept of vision; instead Groeschel loads the term with his own understanding of what vision is. The use of the Hebrew here, is simply because if you saw another Christian/personal development/leadership book with “vision” in the title, you probably wouldn’t buy it. But you don’t know Hebrew so Chazown is exciting.

All right, rant over. This is very helpful book which is thoughtfully engaged in helping people achieve God’s ‘chazown’ for their life. Groeschel helps people cast a vision for becoming all that God made them and take steps to walk into it. He begins in part 1 to get people to envision of where they want their life to end up (writing your epitaph). In part 2, he presents three overlapping circles which point to God’s vision for your life: your core values, your spiritual gifts and your past experiences. In part 3 he talks about the convergence of these three areas and how they reveal where God may be calling you. In part 4, Groeschel presents the image of a wheel with five ‘spokes’ which hold things together and allow us to acheive our vision. It is his contention that if we are to stay on track with “God’s chazown” in our life we need to cultivate our: (1) relationship with God, (2)relationship with people, (3)integrity in our finances, (4)make healthy choices about diet and exercise, (5) and attend to meaningful work. While I have a theological objection to placing God as another spoke in the wheel of our dreams (God is the center, the axle and the wheel itself), I like how holistic Groeschel is in his approach. His image illustrates how these areas are not ‘seperate spheres’ but interrelated and necessary components which need our attention.

In part 5, Groschel talks about the need for accountability. In the end matter of the book, he gives helpful advice for picking up the pieces when we feel like we’ve failed God and ourselves.

I have read through the book and found it challenging at different points and think it has some useful tools for self discovery, attending to areas of spiritual/physical health, and discovering where God may be calling you. I have finished the book, but plan to reread sections and go back and complete several of the exercises. the book also includes questions for personal use or group discussion making it a thoughtful choice for a church small group. As someone who has worked in college ministry, I think that this would be particularly helpful in that context.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this fair and honest review (albeit cranky in places).