Brian Goins is the pastor of Renaissance Bible Church in Charlotte, NC. He and his wife Jennifer regularly speak at Weekend to Remember events for Family Life, and he has also worked as the creative director for Insight for Living. Like yours truly, he is also a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.
In this book, Goins presents a contextualized plea to guys to lead and love in their marriage like Christ leads and loves the church. Rather than simply exegete the relevant biblical texts, which Goins does superbly, he chose to reorient his ideas into the sports related metaphor of “playing hurt.”
In my mind, this makes the book essentially a “marriage book for the guy who doesn’t read books.” If that was indeed the target Goins had in mind, I think he succeeds for three reasons:
- The book is written in a conversational style
- The book is short but cuts straight to the point
- The book is full of sports references and analogies (and stories).
The agenda Goins sets for the book should further encourage you to check it out:
In this book, I don’t want to guilt-trip you into action. I also don’t want to merely offer tips and techniques on being a better husband. Frankly, there are far better marriage coaches out there than I am. More than anything, I want to expand your vision, and I pray that God will open up your restricted passions. I want you to know that you’re not alone in the battle. And as you learn to play hurt, I hope you’ll discover a few plays you can run to help prevent further injuries (p. 18).
In other words, if you’re a guy, and you’re married, this book is for you. Sure, there are other great marriage books out there, as Goins himself points out. But this book is biblical in its foundation, clear and culturally relevant in its presentation, and full of godly wisdom in its applications. Even if you’ve read several marriage books, this one is particularly suited for guys, yet without sacrificing quality in its biblical and theological advice.
Not to give away too much of the plot line, but the orientation that drives the book is Paul’s playbook for playing hurt. The metaphor of playing hurt is introduced in the opening chapter with references to Kirk Gibson and Curt Schilling’s World Series heroics in the face of stomach flu (Gibson) and a ruptured ankle tendon (Schilling). Later he also references Michael Jordan’s clutch performance in the NBA finals while playing sick (i.e. hurt).
To support this metaphor, Goins works through Paul’s teaching in Scripture about how husbands are to love and lead their wives while relating it to the idea of a sports hero who plays hurt. He looks at our calling to lead (chapter 2); our motivation to keep going (chapter 3); our real enemy trying to thwart our marriage (chapter 4, hint: its not your spouse); our need for allies (chapter 5), proper nutrition (chapter 6), and being a thermostat not thermometer (chapter 7); and our source of power (chapter 8). He then closes out the book with some stories to move the metaphor from the sports world to actual reality in married life (chapter 9).
I was particularly touched by the story in that last chapter about Greg, who tirelessly cares for his wife Lisa, who has been paralyzed by multiple sclerosis. The reason I found this particularly touching is that I know Greg, but had somehow not known this about him. You see, Greg is the director of alumni and placement at DTS, where both Goins and I graduated. Because of that, I actually got a handwritten card in the mail the other day from him. Also, in the 4 years that I was at Dallas and would see Greg around campus, I never saw him without a smile. To now read what goes on when he is not around the seminary campus was very convicting and also encouraging to me in my own married life (even more so when I read Greg’s essay a couple of days later in this book).
In the end, the playbook that Goins puts together, via the apostle Paul looks like this:
- Every husband needs the guts to love like Christ
- Every husband needs the glory of loving like Christ
- Every husband needs other guys to help him love like Christ
- Every husband needs the guidelines to love like Christ (i.e. Nourish and Cherish)
- Every husband needs the gospel that empowers him to love like Christ
As you can see, this also represents an alliterated message that is not too abrasive in its presentation. I found it all flowed together really well and in a way that didn’t seemed forced (you know, like when an awkward word is chosen just so things fit just right). Everything in this book is actively pushing the guys that read it to be more Christ-like in the way they relate to and love their wives. If you think that just might be something you need in your own marriage, then I suggest checking out this book. As someone who reads a lot about sports, and even more about theology, I found this book to be a good mix of both without making either of the subjects seem lame or forced. And that, in and of itself, it quite the accomplishment.
Thanks to Kregel for providing a review copy of this book!