A few months ago my wife, Trisha, and I (Justin) found ourselves at the starting line of the Indianapolis mini-marathon. If we could finish the 13.1 miles, it would fulfill our three-year goal to run the race together. Trish had been training about three times per week, working her way up to longer runs. I had been training sporadically at best. I was counting on the adrenaline of being with thirty-one thousand running mates to carry me farther than my training could.
As we approached the four-mile marker, I got a huge smile on my face. We were running at a ten-minute-mile pace, and I felt really good. I said to Trish, “This is amazing. I’ve never run beyond four miles at one time before!”
“What!” she said. I could tell she was more concerned than impressed.
“I ran three times a week for the last month, but I only ran three miles each time. Every step we take past four miles is a personal best for me.”
“You’re crazy!” she said.
I preferred to think I was brilliant. “Think of all the time I saved not doing those long runs on Saturdays,” I said.
Famous last words.
As we approached mile ten, I could feel my legs tighten with every step. I kept waiting for what everyone calls “the runner’s high” to find me, but it never arrived. When we crossed mile ten, I went down. My quadriceps were balls of tightness, and I couldn’t bend my legs or take a step without piercing pain.
My in-shape wife was just hitting her second wind but was gracious enough to stop and help me stretch. As I lay on the ground in pain, I said to her, “I don’t understand why my legs are cramping up so bad. I drank water all along the way. I stretched out. I felt great just ten minutes ago.”
“Justin,” she said, “you don’t train for the first ten miles. You train for the last three.”
For the next three miles, we walked, kind of ran, and stopped to stretch when I needed to. Trisha could have gone ahead of me and finished in good standing, but she sacrificed her half-marathon time to stay with my ill-trained, broken-down body. We finished in just under three hours.
When most of us get married, we think we are ready for the race before us. We are optimistic. We are in love. We have a plan and a dream. We’ve dated for a year; we went to premarital counseling for a month; we read at least half of a “preparing for your marriage” book. We’ve trained. We’ve prepared. We’re ready.
What most couples don’t realize is that we don’t train for the first ten miles of marriage; we train for the last three. Seemingly without warning, many marriages fall down in the middle of the race. Marriages that seemed fine a few months or years earlier fall victim to the grueling difficulty of the marathon. Couples who had every intention of finishing their race together either run at different paces or quit altogether.
Beyond Ordinary is written by two fellow runners. We’ve tripped and fallen along the way, but by God’s grace, we’ve found the “runner’s high” in the marriage marathon. This book is a reminder of just how amazing the journey together can be.
Beyond Ordinary is designed to help you along the way. It will stretch you. It will challenge you. It will inspire you to keep running. It will ask you to help each other up and to run with grace and purpose. To leave ordinary behind as you race toward extraordinary.
Ordinary is the biggest enemy of a great marriage. Ordinary is characterized by dissatisfaction, misunderstanding, and stale love. Ordinary is the birthplace of adultery. Ordinary is a place where divorce looks better than staying together. Ordinary is the subtle trap that convinces you that your marriage is as good as it will ever get. Ordinary marriages lose hope. Ordinary marriages lose vision. Ordinary marriages give in to compromise.
The way to an ordinary marriage is the path of least resistance. If you want an extraordinary marriage, you will have to choose it.
This book is a weapon designed to wage war against ordinary. It isn’t about communicating better or learning what planet your spouse is from or what love language he or she speaks. Instead, this book is a transparent look into the lives of two people who have journeyed from extraordinary to ordinary to nightmarish—and back again, by God’s grace. This is a book about the heart: our hearts, your heart, and the heart of every marriage.
If you’re looking for a book that lists five easy steps to a great marriage, go back to the bookstore. But if you remember what extraordinary felt like and are determined to do whatever it takes to get back there, keep reading.
There will be times when it will feel like it’s over, but it’s not over. There will be times when you will be tempted to throw this book across the room. Go ahead—it can handle it! This book will challenge you to ask questions about yourself and your marriage that will be uncomfortable to consider. Embrace those questions and be honest. It is as we face our fears and learn to tell the truth that we begin to leave ordinary behind in our relationships with God and in our marriages.
Ordinary will be defeated with each turn of the page and with the belief that God is fighting for you more than you are fighting for yourself.
Welcome to the movement beyond marriage as usual.