Laurie & Matt Krieg, An Impossible Marriage: What Our Mixed-Orientation Marriage Has Taught Us About Love and the Gospel (IVP, 2020)
‘People say our marriage is impossible. They are right’ (p.5).
So begins Laurie and Matt Krieg’s raw, honest retelling of their journey through the most painful season of their marriage. Eight years in, the birth of their second child triggered a trauma memory for Laurie which made their marriage so impossible that it almost ended.
But people were calling their marriage impossible long before that. Laurie is same-sex attracted and Matt struggled with a pornography addiction for five years of their marriage.
Weaving their own story with rich biblical insight and hard-won wisdom, this book unpacks what the Kriegs have learned about marriage and the gospel.
Weaving their own story with rich biblical insight and hard-won wisdom, this book unpacks what the Kriegs have learned about marriage and the gospel through all this impossibility. The true purpose of marriage, says Laurie, is ‘to point to God. When a man and woman are united as one through marriage, we become a metaphor of “the way Christ and the church are one” (Ephesians 5:32) ... Christ wants to be one with us’ (p.4). Laurie and Matt use their book to ground this mysterious, rich truth in the simple and everyday. Through their story, they show us what this oneness means practically in the good and the hard times of their marriage. They contend that every marriage is impossible, not just their own. The call to self-sacrifice and oneness with your spouse is impossible. But then the Kriegs put God’s faithfulness on display, showing us ‘the impossible-made-possible because of Jesus’ (p.9).
This book is a great encouragement to those who are married, saturated as it is with the comfort and the hope that ‘God cares about our marriage more than we do’ (p.35). It ends with a study guide for couples, or small groups of couples, though some of the questions can be adapted for a single person too.
For the single or same-sex attracted person, this book is also a great encouragement – reminding us of the high value of marriage, and that a choice of celibacy upholds this beautiful metaphor. It also serves as a reminder that sex and marriage are not ultimate – that they are a picture of the full reality that we will all one day experience. ‘[Sex] is fasting compared to what true union with the Father will feel like’ (p.90).
The book does discuss the trauma of childhood sexual assault. It’s not done in a graphic way, but it is honest, which may be helpful for some readers, but triggering for others. There are some helpful sections on how our brains and bodies respond to memories of trauma, which could be a good starting point for those who don’t understand their own responses or the responses of someone else.
This book would also be helpful for Christians stuck in sin cycles, whether sexual or otherwise, those who are drowning in guilt and shame. The authors can relate. Laurie talks about the same-sex relationship she couldn’t seem to get free of in college, and later her shame at not being able to be a ‘good wife’ and have sex with her husband. Matt opens up about his porn addiction and idolisation of sex, with some helpful insight on the deeper needs we all have and how we must look to God primarily to meet them.
This biblical view of sex will be helpful for all readers, married or single.
The Kriegs’ story also serves to challenge the often harmful advice in many Christian circles or marriage books. ‘The fact that both the world and the church say that sex is the indicator of closeness is a fallacy. Sex can be awash in oneness, but it is not the barometer of it’ (p.156). Their perspective walks the biblical line, avoiding both an elevation of sex and a diminishing of it while always pointing to the fuller reality it is meant to illustrate. This more biblical view of sex will be helpful for all readers, married or single.
There are a few things about this book that I struggled with. A couple of sections illustrate a visual prayer technique which may be helpful for some (and certainly is for the authors), but which I personally found a bit wacky! There’s also a metaphor running through the book that I feel extends too far – as a married couple, they’re like a single cell in the body of Christ, but that cell is really a mountain, which contains seven gardens, each of which is fed by ten aqueducts…if you’re lost, you aren’t alone! I had to reread some sections to really get my head around it. But in the end, I’m glad I did; I can see a lot of value here in understanding myself and how I relate to others in all of life.
On the whole, this is an excellent read. ‘Marriage only makes sense if it tells a bigger story’ (p.72), and through their own marriage, Laurie and Matt show us this bigger story, helping us to gaze on The Marriage that all earthly marriages are pointing towards.
We have more resources on mixed-orientation marriage here.