“Many books on Christian marriage have been written, but most assume that the Bible puts men in a leadership role, while women are to be submissive. But there’s a better way. Not only is it healthier for families, but it’s more faithful to the Bible. The Bible casts a vision of marriage where men and women co-lead and co-serve as equal partners. This book explores that vision.” (preface)
Mutual By Design is divided into three sections, the first being foundational, the second practical application, and the third “touchy subjects,” or problematic issues like divorce and abuse. This book is the result of a collaboration between highly qualified writers, therapists, and ministers that have come together with CBE- International in order to create a resource to aid couples to thrive in egalitarian marriages. The topics covered are God’s original intentions for marriage, friendship, communication, finances, forgiveness, sex, and defining headship.
The first chapter establishes a ground work that thoroughly spells out the equality and unity between Adam and Eve, the first married couple. They were created in God’s image and for the same purposes of procreation and dominion over the earth. It is clearly explained that the outcome of the fall is not that husbands should rule, but rather that the world will be affected by sin and dominance of men and subjugation of women. Seeing as this was not God’s original intent for marital unity, it can be deduced that creating a more balanced tradition is possible, and helpful, as we work together.
“Mutuality in marriage was God’s design when the foundations of the earth were laid, and it remains God’s desire to this day. Let’s pursue God’s way with all our strength.” (pg. 15)
As the book goes along, I was impressed with the importance it gave to nurturing friendship and mutual respect. Strategies offered in Chapter 3 (on communication) made me feel like I’d just received h a month’s worth of marriage counseling! Several different strategies are laid out, in detail and I wanted to grab my husband of 15 years and print charts and graphs to make sure that we were on the same wavelength! It was like a breath of fresh air how the writers focused on mutual understanding, empathy, and helping couples to find common ground. I’d been so used to reading books in which the husband is encouraged to listen to the wife, the wife is encouraged to give her opinion, and he ends up with the responsibility of making the final decision in question. I’ve heard it a thousand times before that his authority was and her submission led to equal voice in the matter. But this was different. This actually seemed healthy.
As I progressed through each chapter, I became more and more… happy. Thrilled. My husband even noticed that I was smiling from ear to ear, even though our four little sons had systematically destroyed the cleanliness and structure of our house. I guess I was elated that someone was finally teaching couples HOW to live a truly egalitarian marriage rather than to convince them that they should. Somehow, it exemplified the beauty of equal love and equal respect. Honestly, I longed for it. They were saying what I have wanted to hear for years.
The third and final section of the book handles “touchy subjects” like divorce and abuse. In my humble opinion, CBE does a fantastic job of addressing issues that allow for Jesus’ message on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to shine brightly as opposed to Old Testament Law and Paul’s opinions based on traditional laws of that day. There is a clarity provided that helps individuals in IMPOSSIBLE situations to gain the tools that would glorify God but also obtain freedom to live their lives without the oppression and guilt that might be put upon them by others.
Mutual by Design gives me hope for healthy, broken, and healing marriages, where wives and husbands are strengthened by each other, rather than suppressed or elevated by a picture of hierarchy that is detrimental to authentic unity. The strategies and advice offered would work well in ANY relationship (Comp or Egal) and should be considered as absolutely invaluable.
I hope and pray that this book finds its way into many hands. There’s a truth here that is finally being told. It’s about time.
Pastors should read it.
Couples should read it.
Counselors should read it.
*Noelle Toscano is a published author, speaker and the founder of the group, “Preach Like a Girl.” She is also is the manager of the page “Empowered Ezer’s; Resources for the Rising.” She is constantly looking for books that will empower women to thrive freely in their relationship with God. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her husband and four sons. (Noelle has no pets, because there is enough poop to clean already, and she enjoys being indoors, under a blanket… with chips and dip nearby.)