marriage

[Review] – A Loving Life

Just this past week I overheard a conversation about the book of Ruth–and was immediately reminded of A Loving Life, which I first read last October! Many are familiar with Miller’s A Praying Life; what A Praying Life does for your approach to prayer, A Loving Life will do for your approach to hesed love. While I expected this to be a book on love, I was completely unprepared for it to dramatically challenge the basic approach to covenantal love–and to do so through the story of Ruth from the Old Testament.

Aim of the book

Right away Miller opens with the lines, “…at the heart of love is incarnation that leads to death. Death is at the center of love.” The 20+ years of real-life lessons that Miller packs into the book will shift our American tendency from a modest discussion on the theories of love into the nitty-gritty applications of love–especially within the context of marriage.

Miller aims to address some of the commonly asked, but rarely answered satisfactorily, questions our culture has on love:

  1. What is love?
  2. How do we redefine love in light of the Gospel?
  3. What is the bond that keeps community together?
  4. What do we do in lamenting hard times–when it seems God himself has deserted us?
  5. How does love influence our approach to prayer?
  6. What does femininity and masculinity looks like in light of hesed love?

The power of this book is the close ties to the story of Ruth from the Bible. Without this structure, these answers might become dry, inapplicable to daily life. But because of the story–and the masterful approach Miller takes to unpack the story–this book deserves a spot on every bookshelf.

What I Wish

My only wish for this book is that someone would’ve handed it to me on, before, or just after the day I proposed to my wife. This would have helped me mature faster in how I loved her. Not to avoid pain and the lessons I learned, but to help me love her as she needed, not as I thought she needed.

What I Walked Away With

Whenever I read, I filter the text three 6 questions based off of the Swedish Method (below). Not only is this helpful in processing the information during consumption, but it’s also a helpful schema to share the information with others.

Any New Ideas?

  • While not a new idea to me at all, the idea of hesed love is powerful (and my wife had it engraved into my wedding ring). This is a powerful definition of love, one that he–and I–think is crucial to understand and work out in day-to-day life in marriage. Miller defines hesed as:
    • “Steadfast love. It combines commitment with sacrifice. Hesed is one-way love. Love without an exit strategy.”
    • I rarely process how to lament well–especially with those close to me. Since reading this book, we’ve walked with friends through divorce, loss of un-born children, health issues, and the consequences of sin. This book really helped give me language for this:
      • “What can we say to Naomi’s lament? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We just weep with her. That is good theology, to weep with those that weep.”

Any Questions it doesn’t answer?

This book is solid on love, but doesn’t address some of the questions I would have regarding singleness, or the playing-out of love within a community (such as small groups in church, or friend groups in general). Clearly not the primary aim of the book, but I did find myself yearning for some more diverse applications of his thoughts/experiences.

How can this be applied?

My first impulse was to go and buy multiple copies and distribute it to friends who were about to be married. The text helps reduce the learning curve of what “sacrificial love” in marriage is all about.

Sheepishly, my second impulse was to reflect on how I can better embrace the messiness of vulnerability and love with my wife, family, friends, and community. It was a slow and arduous process, but I believe all the relationships are for the better for it–but not without some significant times in prayer and surrender to my selfish desires on my end.

Notable Quotes:

>"Suffering is the crucible for love. We don't learn how to love anywhere else."

>"We deepen our love of God not by direct pursuit of God, but through the good work of love, where we enter the gospel and the pattern of Christ's life becomes our pattern. Of course, we always have to begin with God's love for us--that's faith. But once we have that faith foundation, we deepen faith by love. That's what the J-curve is al about. As we enter a life of love, we get to know God."

How does it make much of Jesus?

To read this book and miss how it makes much of Jesus would take a) great skill or b) never reading so much as a page. But the most Jesus-exalting action of the book is the call to look to the work of Jesus on the Cross for the impetus for pressing into the vulnerabilities of love. And pressing in not for love itself, but for a richer, fuller relationship with him.

Who Should Read This?

  • Everyone, but especially those you know who are newly engaged to be married, recently married, or struggle capturing the bigger picture of loving others well.

If this didn’t exist, what would be missing?

  • We would be missing a great chapter in the volume of Christian living literature equipping us to press into the biblical calls for loving others well.

Summary

I cannot recommend this book highly enough–a year later and I’m still sharing the insights gathered from this book with those I know, every single week.


I’m grateful for Crossway who gave me an early copy of A Loving Life through their program, Beyond the Page. I’ve partnered with Beyond the Page to review and provide feedback on the various books they publish. I encourage you to check out the program and see if it strikes your interest.