I'd like to introduce you all to Dorothy Greco, a writer who has just released a book on marriage: Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy and Intimacy Start with You. I would buy this book on its title alone! I wanted to give you all a taste of Dorothy's book, and her wisdom, her honesty which is so rare in marriage books!. (Just read the first line. You'll be hooked!) There's one sentence in particular among these words that slays me and helps me onward in my 39 year old marriage. I think you'll see it as you go. Many thanks to Dorothy for sharing her wisdom with us today as well as her gorgeous photos. (Dorothy is also a professional photographer.)
There have been seasons in my 25 year marriage when I have not liked my husband. Seasons when our differences became like sandpaper that rubbed holes in my facade, allowing my limitations and flaws to seep out.
One such memorable season happened at the ten-year mark. Due to the onset of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, I was floundering in my efforts to homeschool our three young sons and work a few hours a week. My husband Christopher was on staff as a pastor in a growing, urban church. We gave each other crumbs.
But the fault line actually ran much deeper than the circumstances of our life. I entered marriage with unrealistic expectations and as a result, battled chronic disappointment. Growing up, I dreamed of being both romanced and idolized by a man. Christopher equated romance with sappy sentimentality and thankfully, had no intention of idolizing anyone. Because I clung so tenaciously to my wish list, I was unable to see all that was good and godly in him.
One night as we were on the way to see a movie, we clashed again over my frustrations regarding his lack of romance. He responded defensively and I remember feeling so angry that I contemplated getting out of the car when we stopped at a red light. After the film, which was about a highly creative man (not unlike like my husband) who was serially unfaithful (totally unlike my husband), Christopher communicated that we needed a new script. He too was a writer and has his own idea of what he wanted his role to be.
Thus began an exceedingly painful season in our marriage. As the weeks turned into months, stubbornness, anger, and pride encased our hearts in ice. Though we shared the same bed, we were on different sides of the Continental Divide. We functioned like a business partnership, avoiding incidental touch and any semblance of tenderness.
We knew better. We had walked with dozen of couples who were teetering on the brink of divorce. Couples for whom infidelity or addiction or bitterness had ripped a gaping hole in the fabric of their covenant. We were well aware that only a few bad choices separated us from a similar fate.
In the midst of this deep freeze, I had a conversation with a friend who struggled to forgive her husband for his ongoing harshness. One morning as she vented to God about the pain he caused her, she sensed the Holy Spirit ask, “Can you forgive him for my sake? Maybe he doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, but can you do it out of love for me?” That question broke through her resistance and allowed her to move toward her husband again.
My friend’s admonition was like a blow-torch to the ice that surrounded my heart. By God’s grace, I discovered a willingness to let go of my anger and disappointment—not because circumstances had changed but because I loved Jesus.
It took months of hard conversations, forgiving, and extending grace before all the ice finally melted. I began leaning in toward my husband and then started the hard work of creating reality based expectations which ultimately freed me to appreciate his strengths rather than focus on his weaknesses.
Spring seemed particularly glorious that year. Every flower, every tree reminded me of God’s faithful promise to make all things beautiful—including our marriages.
Dorothy Greco writes on how following Jesus changes everything. Her new book, Making Marriage Beautiful, is available wherever books are sold. You can find more of her work by following her on Twitter (@dorothygreco), Facebook, or by visiting her website (www.dorothygreco.com).