Introduction from Extreme Romance
Brad Paisley muses in a song that “if love was a plane, nobody’d get on.” Why? Because, he sings, “there’s a six in ten chance [the plane would be] going down.” The odds of having a successful, vibrant, lifelong relationship are less than forty percent. Almost half of marriages end in divorce, and who knows what percentage of the couples who do stay together are doing it for love, not just for financial or pragmatic reasons?
Thankfully, contrary to the popular view, love is not like the lottery. You don’t have to nibble your nails hoping that you’ll get lucky and fall into lifelong love. Love is a choice and a good marriage is something you work toward. It’s a lot like music. If you hope to pick up the perfect instrument and instantly make beautiful music with it, well, sorry to break it to you – but it’s not going to happen. If you want to play an instrument well it will take a lot of time and commitment. Years of practice are required to play some instruments really well. So it is with marriage. Achieving a good marriage takes work and discipline. I know this runs contrary to the romance novels and chick flick movies that depict true love as a by-product of the right chemical combination. People who buy into that philosophy need to get out of the lab and into the real world.
Infatuation and hormones can trick you into thinking that fairytale, work-free love exists, but that kind of imaginary love won’t last. Millions of broken hearts testify to this reality. But you don’t have to become a cynic about love and marriage; you need to become a realist, because real true romance does exist and it is more satisfying than you can imagine. I know. I taste it regularly.
True love takes work. Keeping yourself pure and marrying the first person you give your heart to won’t automatically create true love. Asking the father first and “doing courtship” won’t guarantee it either. This book is not promising that proper procedure or keeping yourself pure will guarantee a perfect marriage. As someone who has been married for almost four years, I’ve seen firsthand how the initial rush of feelings wears off and the newness and excitement peters out. The wonderful love story that was running on automatic during the thrills of new love now switches to manual gear and we find it’s ultimately our choice what we will make of it.
Physical affection that was constantly tempting us during our engagement now takes work. This may sound strange to you single people, but sometimes I must make a deliberate choice to hug Heidi or give her a kiss or a back rub. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying these things have lost their pleasure or that I don’t enjoy these things. I do! It’s just that there are so many other things – kids, work, projects, and goals – that distract me from my relationship with Heidi. For our love to flourish, I have to make deliberate, intentional choices.
However, just because true love isn’t automatic doesn’t mean it can’t be found. I have seen examples of marriages that inspire me. My own parents have been married twenty-eight years and are more in love now than when they said “I do.” Every year, they go down to a cottage in Montana to celebrate their anniversary and they have to yank themselves away to go back home after a week of their doing who-knows-what together. Even after eleven kids and all they have been through, their shared glance across the room still sizzles. In them, I see that lifelong romantic love is possible and very much worth fighting for.
Marriage can be the sweetest thing that ever happened to you, full of rich surprises and fantastic adventure. However, it can also be something that fills you, your spouse, and your children with pain and heartache. A bad marriage can be a terrible chain around your neck that will torment you for years.
Which kind of marriage will yours be? It’s up to you.
The decisions you make in your single years will go a long way in determining the quality of your marriage. When you are young, long-term consequences may be the furthest thing from your mind; life is often focused on the next thrill. But your choices will affect your future. Wise decisions will bear delicious fruit that brings great delight. Foolish decisions can grow deep-rooted weeds that will choke and stab you for many years. A good marriage is possible, but it will take a lot of work and preparation. In this book I’d like to share with you some tools you need and steps you can take to make “happily-ever-after” a reality.
I want to inspire you single people to start investing right now in your future marriage relationship. Begin to do the hard work and you will reap huge benefits if God does lead you into a relationship. And even if He doesn’t, you can still live “happily-ever-after” as a single person. The things we are suggesting will give you a solid foundation for an incredible, God-honoring marriage. But the reasons for building this strong foundation far exceed marriage. I believe that the actions and decisions that will form an excellent foundation for marriage are simply practical out-workings of obeying the greatest commandments – loving God and loving man. To obtain the riches of a relationship with God requires that we follow Christ’s example of obedience to God’s commands for life.
Our deepest need in life is not marriage. It is to regain fellowship with our Creator. Therefore, our ultimate goal in life should be to know God and obey His unique call for our life. A commitment to purity and self-sacrifice are the ingredients of a successful marriage, but a pursuit of these things is not a waste if God decides singleness is best for your life.
Our desire in writing this book is to equip young people for marriage, but this equipping should also be standard procedure for all who take the name of Christ. Your primary motivation for taking the steps this book suggests should be to obey and glorify your Creator. If your motivation for pursuing purity is merely so that you will have a better marriage, you’ll be tempted to give in and compromise if God withholds marriage. If your only purpose for your single years is to prepare for marriage, then will your life become purposeless if marriage doesn’t arrive?
Marriage is not the end purpose of life! Knowing and obeying God is. It is only when you get these priorities straight that marriage can become all that God wants it to be. Ironically then, your willingness to surrender to God the possibility of marriage may be the best way to prepare for it. That being said, the vast majority of you who are reading this book will someday get married, and I believe it’s wise to live with an eye to the future, being aware of the consequences your actions will have on your possible future marriage and the future marriages of those with whom you interact.
There are so many lies that surround sex and love. Young people are falling for these lies and being robbed of the full delight that God has for them. Grave consequences can follow deception. If a young woman believes her drink is safe, she will go ahead and drink it. However, if that drink was spiked with a drug, awful consequences will follow. I believe Satan is taking the wonderful wine of love and spiking it so that what was supposed to be delightfully sweet now tastes of bitter heartache. I hope to expose some of these lies, so you can experience all that God wants to give you! I also want you to get a look at love, romance, and marriage from God’s perspective and not let the culture define your views. Godly, zesty romances and marriages begin with a right perspective and understanding. Proper expectations will also go a long way to being prepared for true love.
We love talking about this wonderful gift and hope you will prayerfully consider the ideas we share about it. We’re excited about these principles because we have found them to be very rewarding. Godly romance is so incredibly satisfying – it is truly worth the work.
A quick note about who wrote what in this book. I (Jesse) have written the majority of it. But every time Heidi contributes, her name will be noted in bold. It shouldn’t be too confusing.
It is now our privilege to share with you the love story that God wrote for us. We enjoy turning the page each day to see what our loving Author has planned. We share this story not as a statement that you should do things the way we did, but to show you that when you put things in God’s hand, you will be blessed. After our story, we would like to share some of the practical strategies we learned in the trenches while waiting for God to bring the right one along. God’s got a blueprint for making true love. He holds out to us the tools and supplies. Now it’s up to you to make true love a reality, so you too can experience extreme romance.