Friday, August 30, 2013

Beyond Ordinary by Justin & Trisha Davis

Beyond Ordinary
by Justin & Trisha Davis
Christian Non-Fiction / Marriage
Available January 2013
Tyndale House
256 pages

Read an excerpt
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About the Book
How safe is your marriage? The answer may surprise you. The biggest threat to any marriage isn’t infidelity or miscommunication. The greatest enemy is ordinary. Ordinary marriages lose hope. Ordinary marriages lack vision. Ordinary marriages give in to compromise. Ordinary is the belief that this is as good as it will ever get. And when we begin to settle for ordinary, it’s easy to move from “I do” to “I’m done.”

Justin and Trisha Davis know just how dangerous ordinary can be. In this beautifully written book, Justin and Trisha take us inside the slow fade that occurred in their own marriage—each telling the story from their own perspective. Together, they reveal the mistakes they made, the work they avoided, the thoughts and feelings that led to an affair and near divorce, and finally, the heart-change that had to occur in both of them before they could experience the hope, healing, and restoration of a truly extraordinary marriage. 

My Thoughts
I want to preface my review by saying that I understand that Justin and Trisha Davis (the authors) are real people. I think it shows great courage to write a book sharing the darkest, ugliest parts of your life in the hopes that God would be glorified through your testimony and that others might be helped.

Unfortunately, though, I didn’t feel that the book was executed well. First, let me explain the layout of the book. The book is divided into twelve chapters. Each chapter begins with Justin and Trisha telling a little about their story—how they met, some about their dating life, their young marriage, having children, struggles in their marriage, the issues that nearly caused their marriage to crumble, and a bit about how they were able to overcome those problems. The “story” alternates between the two of them, so you get both perspectives. This section reads like a blog or a conversation. Then the last half to two-thirds of the chapter is “teaching” on marriage and topics geared toward helping couples improve their marriage. This section reads very much like a sermon.

Now, here’s what I liked about the book. It was well-written, technically speaking. Everything made sense and was well-edited. I also liked the back-and-forth style of the first part of each chapter, allowing both Justin and Trisha to tell their story in their own words.

From the beginning, I found it extremely difficult to like Justin and Trisha—as they chose to portray themselves through the first section of each chapter. Justin especially seemed unlikable, and I wondered all along why “Team Justin” felt so strongly that Trisha and Justin should date and marry.

Throughout the book, Justin told story after story of awful things he said and did to Trisha and their children. There were only two instances that I can recall that he prefaced it by saying he was sorry or ashamed or something similar. Since this is not a journal but is written from the perspective of having repented of these sins, I wished he would have shown that repentance throughout the book. I needed him to reiterate over and over that he regretted these things, that it was painful to admit them, that it was embarrassing and shameful to have to share with the world what he had done.

Similarly, as Trisha shared mistakes that she made in their marriage, she confessed to what she did but I didn’t feel her sorrow, grief, or repentance over these actions and words. (Side note: Justin and Trisha most likely are extremely remorseful and repentant of the actions that took place in their marriage, but it doesn’t come through in how they tell their story in this book.) And with both Justin and Trisha, it seemed that blame was the name of the game—obviously in the past, but it felt like they were still blaming each other, other people, and their circumstances at the end of the book without taking personal responsibility for what happened. With all of this presented as the background, it made it difficult to view the “sermon” portions of the chapters as something that I should listen to and put into practice.

In regards to the content of the book, I left the book feeling like I needed more of the “after” part of their story. The build up to the “final straw” and the chapters dealing with the initial response was so drawn out and had me feeling so negative towards marriage in general and Justin and Trisha in particular that I needed more of the “redemption” part of their story. I wanted to know how in the world they managed to save their marriage after ten chapters of such tragedy. I wanted to know how they are doing now. How is their marriage different now than when they first got married or when they first started trying to make things right? What steps are they taking to prevent another catastrophe? What accountability is in place for both of them to keep things moving in the right direction? Some fairly serious things happened during the first ten years of their marriage, and the “fix” was simply glossed over. The last few chapters were long on sermon and short on personal account, which contributed to this feeling of needing more.

My final problem was with the overall tone of the book. I read Christian books—both fiction and non-fiction—because I want to read books that leave me feeling hopeful. On a whole, I didn’t feel that this book was hopeful and inspiring. Parts of it were very negative and hopeless.

I really struggled while writing this review. These are real people who are sharing their personal story. I never want to appear to criticize someone’s story because it’s just that—their story—and everyone’s story is worth telling. My goal was to critique the telling of the story without diminishing or attacking this couple or how God has worked in and through them. I hope I have succeeded in doing so.

With that said, I would not recommend this book. I believe other books would be more helpful to couples in crisis and portray an overall more hopeful picture of how God can redeem anything for our good and His glory. [1 star]

About the Authors
Justin and Trisha met at Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois. Justin received his BA in Christian education, and Trisha later earned her BA degree from Indiana University. The Davises' return to ministry is the result of a victorious battle for their marriage and family. After successfully planting their first church, their marriage was devastated by an affair. What followed was a four-year journey of pain, grief, and ultimately, by the grace of God, the restoration of their relationship.

In 2009 they founded RefineUs Ministries, Inc., to ignite a movement in the church and among pastors and church planters to build healthy marriages and families. They consider the resurrection of their marriage to be a great gift and feel it a privilege to use RefineUs to help others find that same healing. Today Justin and Trisha are bloggers, authors, and teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, where they reside with their three boys. Justin is currently campus and teaching pastor of Cross Point Community Church, Bellevue Campus.

1 comment:

  1. I have been married 24 years. I have to say it hasn't always been a walk in the park. We still have those days even now that we walk with and serve the Lord. There is no perfect marriage. This side of glory we are all human and mistakes and selfishness will be a part of our lives. I don't know that any book has ever or will be written that can help all marriages. Some do well with ordinary, some must have lots of adventure, some are quiet, some are very vocal...well, you get my meaning. As long as we are serving the Lord and honoring our spouses like His Word instructs us the road will be easier. God first, Husband second, family...all else will fall into place. Thank you for your honest review of this book. I have learned in my short time here and looking through your blog that you seem very honest and your reviews are excellent! God Bless!

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