While the various biographies about Charles and Susannah Spurgeon naturally include their relationship as they work their way through their individual lives, I had never seen a book which focused solely on their relationship. In the introduction to his book Yours, Till Heaven Ray Rhodes Jr. lets the reader know that this book will look at this relationship "from a thematic rather than a purely chronological perspective" (19). There is a timeline at the beginning of the book, and the first and last chapters introduce and conclude their relationship but rather than just following the chronological timeline of their relationship Rhodes picks themes from their marriage and follows how they changed through the ups and downs of life, and, ultimately, challenges the reader to wonder how well these same themes are seen in their own relationship with their significant other.
Using the Spurgeon's relationship, Rhodes shows throughout his book that "marital love is much more substantive than romantic feelings. Such love includes practical ministry - two hearts beating as one in Christ's service" (156). For the Spurgeons this service was not just the sermons, lessons, and books which they provided but also in how they talked about and treated each other, and how they supported each other through illness, controversy, and sorrow. The many letters between the two of them, even as Charles often travelled on speaking engagements, reveal the depth of love and service for the other. Susannah once "confessed, his letters were 'simply a loving husband's daily notes to his sick wife, a record of his journeyings gladly and faithfully preserved in with the sole object of pleasing her, and relieving her of sorrowful loneliness'" (107). Rhodes masterfully describes and reflects on the central themes of the Spurgeon's marriage.
One of the things I really appreciated about the thematic approach which Rhodes took was how he was able to draw the reader's attention to a specific element of their relationship and trace it from their days of engagement to their final days as they both suffered from illness. While there were moments of chronological jumping, Rhodes provides enough summary details for the reader to not feel lost as they continue to see how the Spurgeons were driven by the same mission or the important role reading to each other played in their marriage. These are themes which someone might notice as they are reading through a biography, but this book brings them to the forefront and shows the reader how valuable they were and still are.
Each chapter is filled with quotes from Charles and Susannah which give life to whatever theme the chapter is exploring. It is not just Rhodes explaining how the Spurgeons valued humor, but the reader hears Spurgeon laughing about how "There are difficulties in everything except eating pancakes" (85) or lamenting that "It would be a great pity if a man never spent five minutes with his wife, but was forced to always be hard at work" (42) or lovingly declaring "If there is only one good wife in England, I am the man who put the ring on her finger, and long may she wear it" (185). Rhodes uses these quotes to gives life to the theme and to show how the Spurgeons were aware of the importance of these themes and intentional about keeping them as central elements of their marriage. There are also several pages of pictures at the end of the book which help the reader see some of the places and events which are described in the book.
While I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about either Charles or Susannah Spurgeon, this book is not intended to be a biography on either of them (although the reader certainly leaves this book with a clearer picture of their lives) but to be a reflection on their relationship which provides a mirror for couples to reflect on their own relationship.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishers through their blogger review program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255