How’s this for a challenge: With a teammate you've just met, skydive from a plane, kayak a river of Class IV rapids (no life jackets allowed), and then climb the sheer face of a canyon wall. Keep that up for thirty years or so with your teammate, and you get just a hint of life’s most extreme adventure–marriage! From the adrenaline rush of the honeymoon through the obstacles of growing old together, success and enjoyment in marriage depend on your ability to learn new skills, take big risks, endure tough times, and embrace the extreme life-giving power of a lasting marriage.
Extreme Marriage looks at the ultimate commitment between a man and a woman through the exciting lens of extreme sports. Author Terry Owens explores outdoor challenges like skydiving, caving, high-altitude climbing, and more, linking their lessons to the challenges of married life. Forget the old saying about “marrying and settling down.” This book is the high energy guide for the intense adventure of husband and wife.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
1. Session One
Preparation: Read chapters 1 and 2.
There may be a single best way to get from the start of an adventure race to the finish, but there won’t be any flashing neon arrows pointing it out. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Navigation–being able to accurately read both a map and a compass–are critical skills in succeeding in a race of this kind.
“A compass’ primary use for you is to ‘stay found,’” says John LeBlanc on the University of California’s Web site. Reading a compass requires that you make an adjustment for declination–the difference between never-changing true north and magnetic north, which changes depending on your location. Think of God and His instructions for how to have strong, mutually beneficial relationships as true north. You should always know where you are in relation to that constant. Think of your marriage and the unique approach you bring to it as magnetic north. In order to properly navigate, you need to adjust for the declination, the difference between the two.
A map tells you what to expect on your journey. But you have to know both the legend–what the symbols on the map mean–and the scale. An inch on a map can mean a thousand feet, one mile, or some other measurement. Knowing the specifics of your map will make a huge difference in whether or not you succeed in arriving at the destination you had in mind.
Whether or not you finish the marriage race will depend on three things. First, you have to have a clear vision of where you want to go in marriage, what you want your marriage to look like. Second, you have to have theability to adapt to changing circumstances while still focusing on that vision. And, third, you have to race with a fierce determination to finish.
1.Can you identify some successful marriages and the qualities these couples have that appeal to you?
2.What three things do you want your spouse to be able to honestly say about the kind of mate you are?
3.Do you believe that in your marriage both your strengths and weaknesses will be revealed? Explain why you feel this way.
4.Are you comfortable with the idea that God will use your spouse and others to assist in your ongoing transformation?
5.Besides your spouse, what other people can help you with your marriage adventure race?
6.How are you building those relationships?
2. Session Two
Preparation: Read chapter 6.
You’ve probably heard the expression that “seeing is believing.” That may be true when you’re exposed to information that is not consistent with what you believe. But for the most part, on a day-to-day basis, it is the other way around. “Believing is seeing” characterizes our lives. Most days, in most situations, we tend to notice things that are consistent with what we believe to be true.
It could also be said that “believing is acting.” We act based on the beliefs we hold. The surest way to determine what people really believe is to watch how they act. Even though we have beliefs that determine how we behave as husbands and wives, we may not be able to say exactly what they are, where we learned them, or how we developed them. And the beliefs we have may not get us where we want to go.
In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There are many aspects of children He could have been talking about, but a natural openness to new ideas is possibly one of the things Jesus had in mind. Unfortunately, that natural openness and ability to learn tend to diminish as we grow older. Learning as adults is often a matter of unlearning some things in order to learn others.
Think back to the family you grew up in. Was it a single-parent family? Was it a blended family? Was it the traditional husband-father and wife-mother? What did you learn about family dynamics? Your family of origin is the most significant contributor to the development of your beliefs, but other sources have also influenced your beliefs and continue to do so. Think of television shows and movies you’ve watched, books and magazines you’ve read, and probably most important, other relationships you have observed. All of us have taken in unfiltered information about marriage. Some of it was good and will be helpful to our marriage. Some of it was bad and will be hurtful.
1.What three (or more) things have you learned about how a husband relates to his wife?
2.What three (or more) things have you learned about how a wife relates to her husband?
3.What three (or more) things have you learned about marriage relationships?
4.Has anything in your life taught you that marriage is an adventure you prepare for, get better at, and grow in appreciation of?
5.If you were having a face-to-face conversation with Jesus, and He said to you, “Look, unless you change and become like a little child, you’ll never achieve what’s possible in your marriage,” what might He have been talking about for you individually? Your openness to new ideas? Your willingness to try new things? The energy you’re willing to invest in the relationship?
3. Session Three
Preparation: Read chapter 12.
All of us are called as individuals to pursue Christlikeness in our lives. We are to become more like Jesus. No small thing. He was the most completely gifted person you can imagine: courageous, poised, compassionate, faithful, confident, humble–without equal as a leader and a teacher.
He was also the most driven, purposeful person ever. He was absolutely relentless about restoring relationships and building steadfastly loving community. Everything about His life was directed toward that purpose. He aligned His talents and abilities with God’s purpose in the roles of leader and teacher.
Purpose and passion are key characteristics of Jesus. But He also understood His need to balance them with activities that recharged Him. He did it by going away from the crowds to enjoy individual and intimate connection with God. Doing that not only restored Him as an individual, but it also enabled Him to continue His effectiveness in His other roles.
My belief is that midlife crises often result when people haven’t identified their talents and abilities and haven’t found a place to invest them. Lacking individual purpose and passion, they are vulnerable to destructive pursuits. Midlife crises also result when people haven’t recognized their need to recharge or identified healthy activities and interests that they enjoy. After years of sacrificing, they may lunge at selfish pleasures. Identifying purpose and passion and balancing them with recharging interests are critical in living a satisfying life–and probably essential in surviving midlife.
1.What talents and abilities do you see in your spouse?
2.What talents and abilities do you see in yourself?
3.Are these talents and abilities in both of you consistently expressed in satisfying ways?
4.How are you utilizing the talents and abilities God has entrusted to you?
5.How can you work with your mate to ensure that the talents and abilities you each have are consistently expressed in satisfying ways?
6.What activities and interests do you enjoy that make you feel energized and refreshed?
7.What activities and interests does your spouse enjoy that make him or her feel energized and refreshed?
8.How are you being purposeful about making them part of your lives?
4. Session Four
Preparation: Read chapter 4.
The ideas of submission and leadership in marriage are sources of disagreement in the church. People who are smarter than I am have voiced strong, conflicting opinions on what Ephesians 5 means for husbands and wives. I humbly offer a different way to read this passage, hoping it will cause you to reflect on what leadership and submission can look like in your marriage and what the value is.
First of all, my NIV Bible has a section heading just before Ephesians 5:22 entitled “Wives and Husbands.” But husbands and wives are also children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we include verse 21–“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”–in Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives, submission does not seem nearly so gender specific.
“Wives, submit to your husbands.… For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” writes Paul in verses 22 and 23. Pause reading right there and look ahead to verse 25. Paul says to men, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” Now pause again, and this time flip to John 13, which tells about Jesus’s washing the disciples’ feet. Here history’s greatest leader gets up in the middle of a dinner to do one of that culture’s most menial and unrewarding tasks.
In the New Testament, Jesus often teaches with words only. At other times He lets His actions do the teaching. For example, the miracles He performed taught about His divinity and the necessity of faith. But rarely does He directly follow a teaching action with an explicit explanation. This situation at the Last Supper is different. He wants to make absolutely sure His followers get it.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asks in verse 12 after he has finished washing their feet. A between-the-lines paraphrase of verses 13 through 16 could read as follows: “You know who I am. And you know what kind of treatment I could claim to be entitled to. But I’ve never done that. That’s not who I am. I came to serve, not to be served. That’s what it’s all about. No agendas. Nothing required of you in return. This is what we’ve been talking about for the last three years. I’ve just showed you how to do it. This is how a leader serves. Now you do it for others.” He couldn’t have made it any clearer. And then He promises that if they live their lives in this way, they will benefit.
Taking the initiative to love in this way may be the kind of leadership that Paul had in mind, the kind of model he was challenging husbands to pursue and encouraging wives to submit to. It’s taking the sharp end of the rope, leading on a first ascent. When a wife sees her husband living his life in pursuit of Christlikeness, growing through his own shortcomings rather than hiding from them or behind them–and not taking the easy way out in either life or their marriage–she has the inspiration and relational security she needs to offer honest respect.
Though I have suggested it is up to the husband to take the lead, both husbands and wives are called to let go of their sense of entitlement and serve one another in love in order to build their relationship.
1.Under what conditions does Paul say a husband is justified in not loving his wife as Christ loved the church?
2.Under what conditions does Paul say a wife is justified in not respecting her husband?
3.What are some of the justifications you have used, or have heard others use, to justify a husband holding back from expressing love to his wife?
4.What are some of the justifications you have used, or have heard others use, to justify a wife holding back from expressing respect to her husband?
5.What contributions are you consistently making to build a relationship environment that is accepting, encouraging, and purposeful?
6.In the spirit of serving one another in love, can you identify something you do for your mate (for no other reason than to serve) that he or she may not notice?
5. Session Five
Preparation: Read chapter 8.
From day to day in your marriage, you’ll find it most helpful to think of love as a verb rather than a feeling. Instead of just saying, “I love you” (something I’m concerned many couples don’t say nearly enough), imagine saying to your mate, “I love you, and I show that by _________” (fill in the blank with what you do to demonstrate that you understand your spouse and his or her world). Chapman’s love languages are a handy way to simplify the process.
Being that intentional with your thoughts focuses you on your mate. And once in a while, you may even decide to say it in that way. If your spouse is effectively communicating his or her love for you, it can be easy to forget that it was probably a learned skill and most likely an ongoing choice. But being reminded of the investment he or she is making in the marriage ensures that you will feel secure in your spouse’s love and respect.
Regardless of what you feel like, you have an obligation to love your spouse in this way. But you also have an obligation to communicate about yourself and your world so that your spouse can love you. Your communication styles will be different, but the type of information you convey will be the same. Unlike some obligations that you simply want to take care of and move on, meeting these obligations will give you tremendous satisfaction.
1.What is your spouse’s primary love language?
2.What habits are you developing to ensure that you express your love for your spouse in ways he or she understands?
3.Extreme sports are about pushing the envelope and getting better. What one thing could you begin to do in your marriage today that might result in your spouse’s feeling more loved or respected?
4.What is your primary love language?
5.What habits are you developing to ensure that your spouse understands you and your world?
6.What one thing could your spouse begin doing today that would result in your feeling more loved or respected?
6. Session Six
Preparation: Read chapter 9.
With the exception of sex, there is probably no more accurate indicator of the health of your relationship than the way you manage conflict. Once again, conflict is a natural and inevitable result of two people who are potentially different in every way becoming one.
Conflict resolution, learning to live with perpetual issues, and forgiveness are the three disciplines in conflict management. In order to attain a mutually satisfying relationship, it is necessary to become proficient in all. You’re only as strong as your weakest discipline.
You’ll go a long way toward minimizing the negative effects of conflict if you’re willing to admit that the way you approach life is simply a way, your way, not the way. Try to understand how you contribute to conflict in your marriage. Take responsibility for your growth rather than the changes you think your spouse needs to make.
1.Do you seek to understand your spouse’s perspective when there’s conflict in your relationship? Give examples.
2.Do you feel secure enough in your spouse’s acceptance of you that you can initiate a discussion about an area of disagreement or conflict?
3.What happened the last time you initiated a conflict discussion?
4.What influences or stresses outside your marriage drain you of emotional energy and make you more susceptible to unproductive or destructive conflict discussions?
5.Lovingly, respectfully, and with your spouse’s permission, can you identify a “rub” in your relationship?
6.What are you consistently doing to overcome the natural tendency to focus on the negative in order to keep this issue from undermining your relationship?
7. Session Seven
Preparation: Read chapter 11.
Marriage is both mystery and revelation. You really don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. That’s the mystery. It’s okay that you don’t know. What you’ve gotten yourself into, as well as who you and your spouse really are, will be revealed to you with a clarity that is sometimes encouraging, sometimes painful, and sometimes amusing as you go through life together.
You can’t calculate all the possibilities of how your life is going to turn out. There are way too many uncontrollable variables. Chaos theory, also known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions, tells us that a small change in a system’s initial conditions can drastically change the long-term behavior of the entire system. It’s also known as the butterfly effect: a single butterfly flapping its wings in Australia today sets in motion a complex sequence of events that result in a tornado sweeping through a Kansas town a month later.
The greater the number of variables in the system, the more exposed it is to change. That’s not bad as long as you expect the certain uncertainty of change and have developed a serve-one-another-in-love skill set that is second nature.
1.Would you say you’re comfortable with change? Give examples from your life that support your answer.
2.Would you say your spouse is comfortable with change? Give examples from his or her life that support your answer.
3.How prepared are you for change? Your responses to the following list will help you determine your level of readiness.
·Do you have a clear vision of what you want your marriage to be?
·Have you identified distractions that are most likely to get you off track?
·What is your spouse’s love language?
·How does he or she respond to stress?
·How good are your conflict management skills?
·Are you continually making sure you understand your spouse’s world?
8. Session Eight
Preparation: Read chapter 13.
Caving and marriage are both choices. You choose to enter a cave; you choose to enter a marriage. Once you’ve entered, you choose to explore and see what’s there. If you’re going to last very long at either caving or marriage, you choose to develop the habit of looking around at where you are and remembering how you got there. It takes time–months, even years–and there are no shortcuts. There’s a degree of intentionality in caving that other sports can’t match, in marriage that other relationships can’t match.
Both also require a mastery of your fears. In caving, the fears are numerous and obvious. Not so in marriage. Our biggest fears result from our most deeply felt need–intimate connection with another. We fear the pain of being known by someone and either not being completely accepted or, worse, rejected. And we also fear the responsibility that comes with intimately knowing someone else.
If you’re looking for easy and quick rewards in either caving or marriage, you may be disappointed with the results. But if you enjoy the thrill of exploration and have the courage to press on, then the process itself is rewarding. And if you’re in it for the long term, you know that if you just stay with it, you’ll discover places of amazing strength and beauty in your spouse, yourself, and your marriage. Those are the discoveries that make it all worthwhile. And you’ll know you couldn’t have done it any other way.
1.How would you rate the degree of your intentionality in exploring your spouse?
2.Describe your spouse–his or her strengths, interests, dreams, and aspirations. What do you like most about your mate?
3.What were the most influential relationships and events in the personal development of your spouse?
4.What did those relationships and events contribute to who your spouse is today?
5.With his or her permission, describe your understanding of something your spouse is struggling with.
6.What are some discoveries you have made about yourself–good or bad?