Marital Counseling in the Context of a True Story


By the time a couple finishes the first round of premarital counseling, most are willing to admit that marriage requires, and affects, personal change. All will affirm that marriage involves cherishing and being cherished.

However, only after the rings are exchanged, the threshold crossed and the first dinner bloopers endured, does light dawn on the truth that these aspects of marriage are not only true, they are nonnegotiable and they are mutually dependent.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s trilogy, Emma of Aurora, The Change and Cherish Trilogy, is a fascinating, didactic work of historical fiction. In her remarkably accurate account of the life of Emma Wagner Giesy, Kirkpatrick quietly unveils the perils, the promises, the possibilities and the purpose of marriage.

Emma Wagner Giesy’s life was fraught with perils. She had a strong mind and a ferocious sense of independence. Neither bode well for her in the ultra-conservative, communal Christian colony in Bethel, Missouri, where she grew up. She fell in love with Christian Giesy, during a Christmas morning church service in 1851, as she studied him across the isle dividing male and female worshipers.

Her subsequent marriage to Heir Keil’s right hand man, immediately set her at odds with the colony’s undisputed leader. Tension simmered as Emma worked to manipulate the men in her life to respect her wishes, something unheard of in the patriarchal colony. But she won more battles than she lost and eventually found herself the lone woman accompanying her husband and a small group of scouts westward to find a new homestead for the growing Bethel colony.

Perils of loneliness, physical pain, rejection and exhaustion assaulted Christian and Emma’s marriage. I watched as Emma and Christian changed, almost imperceptibly, learning to cherish each other in spite of their differences.

God’s promises prevailed over and over in this true, rich story. Kirkpatrick uses Emma’s voice to recall Scripture frequently. Familiar Biblical texts became Emma’s lifeline when her husband seemed distant and unfeeling. At the same time, Emma and Christian’s vows to each other endured continuous refining fire, but emerged stronger.

At risk of giving away Emma’s darkest, most transformational peril revealed in Book 2, I’ll simply tell you that through Emma’s story, Kirkpatrick helps the reader to understand God’s promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love Him”, often requires that we believe, “With God all things are possible”.

Finally, Kirkpatrick’s uses Emma’s story to show the purpose of marriage. God designed the union of man and woman in marriage to be unlike any other relationship. The aggravating truth of our stark differences can make marriage one of the most difficult relationships. But it is through the pain of changing that we understand how much God cherishes us. It is in learning to rest in our Father’s love that we become able to accept the differences of others, gently accept God’s changing us, and become able to cherish another human being.

This book is an excellent, unparalleled read. Kirkpatrick develops vibrant, multi-dimensional characters. None is flawless and the reader’s loyalty vacillates, even occasionally leaving the heroine.

The conclusion left me with a deeper self-awareness. It cultivated introspection, an attentiveness to the changes God longs to make in my own life. At the same time, the book left me with peace, a confidence that I am cherished, even as I am changing.

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