Enter the Ringby D.A. & Elicia Horton
Length: Approximately 7 hours.
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Marriage is a fight that every married couple must be willing to engage in. In boxing terms, we must be ready to “enter the ring” and actually take part in the fight. There is no sitting on the sidelines and watching. We have to be actively fighting day in and day out to have gospel-centered marriages.
Who should read this?
This book is written primarily for married couples. It is especially suited for young married couples who may still be in the honeymoon phase or think that their marriage could never have problems. I also think it will prove to be a great resource for pre-marriage counseling because it very honestly presents the true struggles of marriage from a gospel centered, biblical perspective.
Biblical counselors and pastors will greatly benefit from having this book on their shelves as they meet counselees in need of some genuine marriage counseling. Single Christians could benefit from the book as well, but it is not primarily geared toward them.
Enter the Ring is written to provide tools and perspectives for how to fight for marriage in a world in which the institution of marriage has fallen on hard times. Horton and his wife Elicia take turns sharing wonderful stories about their marriage and how God has used the gospel to grow them as individuals and improve their marriage.
From the outset, they lay out the gospel and its implications on marriage. A strong emphasis of this book is that togetherness is a key aspect of a gospel-saturated marriage (p.9). Throughout the book, readers are called to pray and are shown how prayer has been a deeply foundational aspect of the Horton marriage. They open the book with this groundwork and tease that out throughout the rest of the book.
The opening chapter ends with this reminder: “The battle for the togetherness scripture prescribes does not come automatically… it takes each spouse committing to walk in step with the Holy Spirit who indwells them…” (p.24) D.A. and Elicia show this as they seamlessly bounce back and forth between their perspectives and present a picture of a gospel-centered marriage as they have experienced it.
Their illustrations are not simply fillers to make readers laugh. Each and every personal narrative found in this book helps readers to picture the very principles and attitudes being taught within its pages.
Enter the Ring covers several vital aspects of marriage including:
- Oneness: D.A. and Elicia discuss barriers to communication and tips to overcome these barriers as married couples seek to become one in Christ.
- Communication: The Hortons show breakdowns in communication, the various levels of communication, the implementation of the five love languages, and practical ways to resolve conflict.
- Suffering: D.A. and Elicia give readers a glimpse into their own personal suffering and how this suffering impacts the marriage relationship.They work through Ephesians 6 and show how putting on spiritual armor is an absolute necessity when suffering arises in a marriage. Marriage is a spiritual battleground.
- Family Life: This chapter is solid gold and provides framework for how to seek God as a family. There are sections for husbands, wives, and married couples as parents. Since both D.A. and Elicia write in this section, the husbands and wives sections are written from the perspective of each spouse. The parenting section, from my experience, is a rarity in a marriage book. There is so much practical help for parenting in the context of a godly marriage.
- Purity: Sexual purity is a must for marriage, and this chapter provides some very practical wisdom for both spouses. The opening paragraph says a lot: “Marriage is not the cure for fornication, lust, or pornography. The gospel is.” That sentence needs to be stated to every unmarried person who is negatively impacted by sexual sin.
- Finances: The Hortons share a biblical perspective on generosity, give practical tips on budgeting and taking care of finances, and provide readers with more personal examples of how they’ve managed their money. This is another excellent chapter! A must-read for pre-marital counseling.
- Gospel-saturated individual lives: A gospel-saturated marriage must first be the result of gospel-centered spouses. If each spouse isn’t first living a gospel-centered life with an identity in Christ, they will not be able to have gospel-centered oneness in their marriage.
- Singleness. Though seemingly out of place in a marriage book, this chapter was a great reminder for me that marriage isn’t a marker of true or mature Christianity. More importantly, singleness is a gift to the Church and married couples must do a better job of welcoming single people into their lives without trying to play matchmaker. This was a very encouraging and convicting way to end the book.
As a married man, pastor, and student of biblical counseling, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For me, the illustrations in this book are useful case studies to help leaders and counselors work through difficult scenarios in marriage. Though D.A. and Elicia don’t represent every marriage or every issue in marriage, they do provide readers with some very vivid and practical information to think through.
I felt as if I had a glimpse into a marriage that certainly would have fallen apart had it not been for God’s grace. Through biblical wisdom, community, accountability, and pastoral leadership their marriage went from being another statistic about divorce in Christianity to a remarkable example of God’s great grace!
I was extremely encouraged at how gospely this book was. There are many gospel-centered marriage books, and there need to be many more. I long for the day that there is an over-saturation of gospel-centered marriage books in our bookstores! On nearly every page there was some mention of scripture, Christ, or the gospel.
Even in the midst of their greatest marital woes, there wasn’t reliance on secular psychology or manmade methods to help improve their marriage. Instead, there was page after page of biblical and pastoral wisdom that is able to help struggling marriages.
Though rich with theological depth, D.A. and Elicia’s writing style made Enter the Ring an easy read. It was hard to put the book down! With strong exposition of scripture, poignant life situations, and practical advice, I was caught up in it! As I plowed through the pages, I had thoughts like, “Wow! I never would’ve imagined that other marriages had the issues ours does!” or “I can’t believe they struggle with that! I can use this as a way to encourage _________ in their marriage!”
I even purchased this book for a friend of mine because I thought it would be a help for his marriage.
The only weaknesses I noticed were small and do not hinder the message or excellence of this book:
- The first weakness I noticed was the use of acronyms found throughout as they shared how they worked through their marital struggles. As a person who enjoys good acronyms, it isn’t difficult for me to file them away. Off the top of my head I can remember the FEAR, IDEAL, and Three C’s. However, it would have been nice to have an appendix listing these acronyms with worksheets to help couples practice using them.
- Another weakness, which is an expansion of the previous point is that I wish there was an appendix! There are so many good practical aspects in this book! It would have been great to have them all placed together at the end of the book for readers to put to practice.
- It would have also been good to get a list of recommended books and resources on each of the topics throughout the book (i.e. on finances, purity, conflict management, etc.). For pastors, it is easy to know which resources to grab, but the average reader may need some guidance for that.
- Lastly, some readers may be turned off at how much the authors referenced themselves and their stories. Authenticity is important, and it is a strength of this book. However, using oneself as an example of how to do things right has the potential to spill over into to pride and self-righteousness. I don’t sense that is the case, but I see the temptation to read the assumption of pride into the book.
Today, marriages are in disarray. The notion of commitment is waning in the minds of young people today. As a millennial, I am downtrodden by the destruction of marriage in our society. Worse, my heart breaks at the dysfunction and disintegration of marriage even in the Church. Books like these must not only be written; they must be read and placed into the hands of our local church members.
If you don’t have a practical marriage book on your shelf, Enter the Ring is a great addition! If you know a family struggling in their marriage, a couple seeking to get married, or need practical, gospel-centered help for your own marriage, this is an excellent resource for you! It is filled with sound exposition of scripture, great illustrations and examples to follow, and practical tips on how fight for a good marriage. Don’t let this book fly under the radar!
“Marriage is not the cure for fornication, lust, or pornography. The gospel is.” (p.137)
“Our identity is not based on being married, divorced, single, or widowed—our identity is centered on the fact that we are in Christ!… If our identity is anywhere but Christ, we’ll dismiss, discount, and become discontent with God’s calling to live on mission.” (p.182)