I want to preface my review by saying that I understand that Justin and Trisha Davis (the authors) are real people. I think it shows great courage to write a book sharing the darkest, ugliest parts of your life in the hopes that God would be glorified through your testimony and that others might be helped.
Unfortunately, though, I didn't feel that the book was executed well. First, let me explain the layout of the book. The book is divided into twelve chapters. Each chapter begins with Justin and Trisha telling a little about their storyâ€”how they met, some about their dating life, their young marriage, having children, struggles in their marriage, the issues that nearly caused their marriage to crumble, and a bit about how they were able to overcome those problems. The "story" alternates between the two of them, so you get both perspectives. This section reads like a blog or a conversation. Then the last half to two-thirds of the chapter is "teaching" on marriage and topics geared toward helping couples improve their marriage. This section reads very much like a sermon.
Now, here's what I liked about the book. It was well-written, technically speaking. Everything made sense and was well-edited. I also liked the back-and-forth style of the first part of each chapter, allowing both Justin and Trisha to tell their story in their own words.
From the beginning, I found it extremely difficult to like Justin and Trishaâ€”as they chose to portray themselves through the first section of each chapter. Justin especially seemed unlikable, and I wondered all along why "Team Justin" felt so strongly that Trisha and Justin should date and marry.
Throughout the book, Justin told story after story of awful things he said and did to Trisha and their children. There were only two instances that I can recall that he prefaced it by saying he was sorry or ashamed or something similar. Since this is not a journal but is written from the perspective of having repented of these sins, I wished he would have shown that repentance throughout the book. I needed him to reiterate over and over that he regretted these things, that it was painful to admit them, that it was embarrassing and shameful to have to share with the world what he had done.
Similarly, as Trisha shared mistakes that she made in their marriage, she confessed to what she did but I didn't feel her sorrow, grief, or repentance over these actions and words. (Side note: Justin and Trisha most likely are extremely remorseful and repentant of the actions that took place in their marriage, but it doesn't come through in how they tell their story in this book.) And with both Justin and Trisha, it seemed that blame was the name of the gameâ€”obviously in the past, but it felt like they were still blaming each other, other people, and their circumstances at the end of the book without taking personal responsibility for what happened. With all of this presented as the background, it made it difficult to view the "sermon" portions of the chapters as something that I should listen to and put into practice.
In regards to the content of the book, I left the book feeling like I needed more of the "after" part of their story. The build up to the "final straw" and the chapters dealing with the initial response was so drawn out and had me feeling so negative towards marriage in general and Justin and Trisha in particular that I needed more of the "redemption" part of their story. I wanted to know how in the world they managed to save their marriage after ten chapters of such tragedy. I wanted to know how they are doing now. How is their marriage different now than when they first got married or when they first started trying to make things right? What steps are they taking to prevent another catastrophe? What accountability is in place for both of them to keep things moving in the right direction? Some fairly serious things happened during the first ten years of their marriage, and the "fix" was simply glossed over. The last few chapters were long on sermon and short on personal account, which contributed to this feeling of needing more.
My final problem was with the overall tone of the book. I read Christian booksâ€”both fiction and non-fictionâ€”because I want to read books that leave me feeling hopeful. On a whole, I didn't feel that this book was hopeful and inspiring. Parts of it were very negative and hopeless.
I really struggled while writing this review. These are real people who are sharing their personal story. I never want to appear to criticize someone's story because it's just thatâ€”their storyâ€”and everyone's story is worth telling. My goal was to critique the telling of the story without diminishing or attacking this couple or how God has worked in and through them. I hope I have succeeded in doing so.
With that said, I would not recommend this book. I believe other books would be more helpful to couples in crisis and portray an overall more hopeful picture of how God can redeem anything for our good and His glory.
Justin and Trisha Davis use their story throughout Beyond Ordinary to explore various aspects of marriage. The book can be classified as a cautionary tale of "do as I say, not as I do." The Davis's marriage has been marked by serious conflict, betrayal, and mistrust....They held nothing back. Each chapter addresses a specific attribute of marriage and how to take it "beyond ordinary." They tell their own story over the course of these chapters, opening with their history and moving into a section on that topic's biblical support. The book aims to allow readers to learn from the Davis's mistakes and save their marriages before its too late.
This book is about Justin and Trisha Davis' marriage. The book is part of their story and then part advice/help in all marriages. Things happened in their marriage that I never saw coming. This book really kept my attention and it is amazing what God has done in their lives/marriage. I felt like I benefitted from their advice and I think everyone could whether your marriage is fine or is in trouble. I would recommend this book to all, whether you are just recently married or have been married for 50 years.
Even though I'm not married and have no immediate plans to be, I thought this might be a good book to read. I was right. At first, the authors, Justin and Trisha, seemed rather shallow and mediocre, and they did struggle in their marriage a lot. However, some of their advice is applicable even to single people, for our relationships with God and others. For instance, the everyday choices we make, whether they are selfish or sacrificial, and putting God first. There were many practical and good tips. No doubt it would be even more helpful for married couples to read. There were questions at the end of each chapter for those who are married to apply to themselves.
Here are a few quotes which were helpful to me:
'We went from "I love you so much; how can I serve you?" to "If you loved me, then you would do this for me."'
'In order to move beyond ordinary, we have to be intentional. We have an enemy who is intentionally coming against our marriage relationships. We won't drift into extraordinary; we will have to fight for it.'
'Distorting truth and compromising truth often seems innocent and harmless, but it always comes with a price.'
'When we start expecting our spouses' words, behavior, or choices to fill parts of our hearts that only God can fill, we set ourselves up for ordinary marriages.'
'But much like the Israelites, we can easily stop focusing on the presence of God and focus instead on the presents of God.'
'The crossroads that all of us stand at every day is do I choose ordinary again today, or do I choose extraordinary?'
'Bitterness is like picking up a stone to throw and holding on to it so you'll have ammunition the next time you're wounded. We take our stones, hold them tight, and find comfort in them. But if we dwell in bitterness long enough, resentment is sure to follow.'
'I had tried to escape the crushing of teeth and the breaking of bones and in the process had also forgone the faithfulness and mercies and salvation and compassion of God.'
'When we do not live in the fullness of God's love, we are incapable of loving others fully.'
'Wherever sin lives, intimacy dies. That is true in your relationship with God, and it is true in your marriage. But the good news is that wherever intimacy lives, sin dies.'
'We sometimes confuse discipline with a lack of grace, but discipline is an extension of grace.'
"Beyond Ordinary" by Justin and Trisha Davis is a unique marriage book, combining autobiography with gentle advice. Justin and Trisha write in the final chapter that their goal in writing this book is to help both couples whose marriage is in crisis and couples whose marriage is okay, but just ordinary.
The book takes readers from the earliest days of Justin and Trisha's relationship to current day. Each of the twelve chapters, though, identifies something significant about the relationship at the point of time covered. Justin and Trisha take turns talking, telling that segment of the story from his or her point of view. Then, together, they tell what they've learned from the experience. They share with great vulnerability in hopes that God will use their story to save or strengthen other marriages.
It was a privilege to read this book, and I'll gladly recommend it to anyone looking for information that can help to bolster and better their marriage. As the Davis's say in Chapter 11, "We have to choose oneness . . . because none of us drift toward oneness." "Beyond Ordinary" will encourage couples as they make this daily choice.