I am not sure why I am reading Francis Chan's 5th and most recent book being about marriage as I am not even married. After visiting the You And Me Forever website, it claims that it is also meant for those single or dating. It is not so much about marriage as it is about the eternal rewards and regrets that come with how we spend our lives.
While Francis writes the majority, his wife Lisa contributes as a co-author. Each chapter contains a section that she wrote on her own. Lisa is a speaker and host of the True Beauty series. At the time this book became published in 2014, they both have five children. As of 2018, they have seven.
Every book cover of Chan's writing has become unique and symbolic. That trend has remained the same with this cover as well. The title has a simple hand drawn style to it with two hand prints interlaced with each other. One has a teal colour, while the other has a tan colour.
Francis and Lisa completely flip the narrative found in most books about marriage. They view marriage in an unconventional way. Their focus shifts from marriage to making disciples. While many books provide keys to a great marriage, Francis and Lisa provide the opposite. Their keys to a great marriage is to not focus on it. Chan's Crazy Love helps readers understand their relationship with God. You And Me Forever helps readers understand their most important human relationship: marriage. So if this is a book about marriage in light of eternity, what exactly can singles and dating couples take away? Regardless of the stage of life, You And Me Forever helps readers discover adventure, and how to thrive in it. Readers should also have a Bible with them as there is plenty of scriptural support in these seven chapters.
There is nothing wrong for a single author to write a book on marriage. I would say that a married couple writing a book together provides a well rounded view. I appreciated Lisa's words as she offers helpful insights from a female perspective. These are insights that both men and women can take away. The end of each chapter initiates challenges for readers to take on and apply what they have learned. If they want to take it a step further, there are seven interactive videos on their website. These video sessions create a more rewarding experience for each chapter. Francis has always been a masterful storyteller with his analogies to convey a point. You And Me Forever is so far the richest book in analogies with Lisa also providing some of her own as well. I would say chapter 4, "Don't waste your marriage" is their most passionate chapter. It is full of rich analogies along with the urgent importance of marriage as a tool for God's kingdom and mission.
"Similar to Paul (1 Cor. 9:24-27), we view our life on earth as a race. I was told by a marathon runner that you should try to run the second half of the race faster than the first. And once the finish line is in sight, many runners sprint. They use up every ounce of energy they have left because they know they can collapse once they break the tape. I want to run my life in that same manner. I want the second half to be stronger than the first. In America, the norm is to do the opposite: do radical things for Christ when you are 18-25, then slow down once you are married. When you have children, your service to Jesus slows to a crawlyou have your family to think about. Then it's only a matter of time before you forget you are even in a race. Instead, you focus on building a home and settling down. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can run faster as the race goes on. In our final years, we can sprint, knowing that we can collapse into His arms." - page 184
Lisa's contributions and perspective was a pleasure to read. I have always enjoyed reading Francis' teachings, but I found a desire for more of Lisa's teachings. It seemed like every chapter consisted of about two thirds of Francis' words and one third of Lisa's words. Considering this is a book shared by two authors, it would have been nice to see their work split up more even. I do understand Lisa may not consider herself a teacher or a leader compared to Francis. What is unfortunate is that her practical and helpful wisdom was far and few. Simply put, there was not enough Lisa for readers (especially female readers).
On page 98, Francis states that making disciples "takes priority over everything else". But on page 114 he states that "seeking His kingdom must be our first priority". So which comes first? Making disciples or seeking His Kingdom? I understand that both statements are truthful and connected. Seeking the kingdom involves making disciples. These priorities, if not clarified, may cause confusion. At least a re-wording will help provide clarity.
I was at first skeptical of the claim that singles can also read this book. It was a pleasant surprised how true that claim actually is. You & Me Forever did not feel like a book meant only for marriages. It is more about the importance of living for eternity. The only chapter that may exclude singles is chapter 6 as it talks about raising children. All the other remaining chapters have plenty of teachings everyone could learn from. Francis and Lisa did not write in a way that felt like they are only talking to husbands and wives. They are talking to everyone.
Francis and Lisa did not want to sell a book that was only going to make money. In fact, You And Me Forever was suppose to be free and accessible to everyone to help point marriages back to Christ. Instead, they accomplished both in the ultimate win-win situation. They leveraged their book to not only help marriages, but to help others around the world. For anyone unable to buy a copy, their site offers a free downloadable version. For anyone that purchases a copy, all proceeds go towards building a village in East Africa. This 5 million dollar goal also helps various gospel-centred ministries around the world. This includes providing shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of children and exploited women.
If you are looking for a book telling you how to have a happy marriage, this is not the one you want. Readers that desire a happy marriage will disagree with what Francis and Lisa write. But readers will be hard pressed to discredit or dispute their message. They build a compelling case to strive for a rewarding marriage; not a happy one. They do it all with the focus of discipleship, the kingdom of God, and eternity. Francis and Lisa have painted marriage on a tiny area of a large canvas. They hope readers do not focus on that tiny area and instead on the rest of the canvas.
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