50 Shades of Grace: Inside a godly marriage

Valentine’s Day | Larissa and Ian Murphy share their inspiring story of life together after a devastating accident
by Emily Whitten
Posted 2/13/15, 08:20 am

Millions of Americans will head to their local movie theaters this Valentine’s Day to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, a story in which a young woman submits to physical torture at the hands of the man she loves.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has organized a boycott of the film and has launched the website 50ShadesisAbuse.com. While violence against women is a serious issue in our culture, said the center’s Dawn Hawkins, the Fifty Shades books and movie encourage sexual violence against women by suggesting that being sexually exploited is something women secretly find appealing.

“As we mainstream this even more, women will be even less willing to tell people they’ve been abused,” Hawkins said.

Juli Slattery, co-author of the book Pulling Back the Shades, said the story has had a negative impact on Christian women. 

“It’s normalizing sexual immorality and sexual sin to the point that Christian women are passing around the books,” Slattery said. 

In the midst of bogus examples of love and romance being touted by popular culture, two of the most compelling voices speaking out for God’s design belong to husband and wife Ian and Larissa Murphy. They recently told their story in the book Eight Twenty Eight.

Ian and Larissa had been dating for only 10 months when Ian had a car accident, suffering a traumatic brain injury. Larissa knew he had been engagement ring shopping, and they were making plans for a bright future together. But the accident seemed to put all of that out of reach forever.

She rushed to the hospital, where her life suddenly was filled with medical jargon, neurosurgeons, and sleeping in waiting rooms. Often while waiting, she replayed a voicemail Ian left her only a few days before. He had sung the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles: “I can’t see me loving nobody but you / for all my life.”

“I don’t know when we came across it,” Larissa said. “We just loved that song.” 

There in the hospital, with Ian unable to speak and move, Larissa had to make a decision whether to stay. At the time, she had only been a Christian for a year, but watching Ian’s parents gave her the courage she needed to keep loving him.

“They were choosing to have hope, and they were choosing to fight for joy and believe in God’s faithfulness for them,” she said. “I know, without a doubt, that completely changed the way that I was able to look at each day, just by following their example.”

So, she stayed, not knowing whether he would ever recover. After months and years went by and he still couldn’t walk or talk, she didn’t know whether she could ever have a relationship with him again. Unlike in the world’s love stories, Larissa says her pain and uncertainty drove her to Christ.

“Only God is going to be with us every moment now and every moment in eternity and will never let us down,” she said.

As Ian began to show improvement, his days filled with mundane but challenging tasks such as showering, eating, and therapy. Larissa finished her degree in journalism and found a position nearby, spending as much time as she could with Ian. Eventually, he did recover enough to communicate with Larissa, and they decided that an intimate, loving marriage would be possible.

“It was the first Christmas after his dad passed away, and a friend let us stay at a condo, a ski resort,” Larissa recalled. “Ian asked me if I wanted to hang out in the living room, and the family disappeared, which never happens. We found ourselves the only ones on the main floor. I was kind of suspicious, and I was wearing adult-sized footie pajamas, which is amazing, with little Santas on the feet. I looked really great. … I saw this box with a string being lowered from the balcony above, and I asked Ian what it was, and he said, ‘the ring.’”

Eight Twenty Eight, the title of their book, refers to the date of the Murphys’ marriage, Aug. 28, 2010, but it also references Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Unlike some romance stories that degrade and debase those who read them, the Murphys inspire others and point them to God.

For those looking for a true picture of love and marriage, Eight Twenty Eight bests 50 Shades in every way—in its godly content and its beautiful writing. Ian and Larissa’s friends tell them they ought to write a new book called Fifty Shades of Grace.

Listen to Emily Whitten’s full review of the book Eight Twenty Eight on The World and Everything in It.

Emily Whitten

Emily is a book critic and writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Mississippi graduate, previously worked at Peachtree Publishers, and developed a mother's heart for good stories over a decade of homeschooling. Emily resides with her family in Nashville, Tenn. Follow her on Twitter @emilyawhitten.

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