21 Years Later. Marriage = Work.

 

I used to get nervous (on behalf of the author) when several books on the same theme released around the same time, as if the publishers didn’t know this was going to happen. As if the other network broke the news first and one reporter would receive an award while the other might lose her job. Now, I realize that this is a sign of the Divine. It’s a good thing. We should take notice. God is trying to get our attention. When several authors start writing about similar things and publishers start publishing, we should wake up because the Spirit is moving. He’s moving in and through his people the way he used to do with his prophets. And are artists not prophets? Is it not the role of artists to protest and warn, correct and critique, exhort and instruct? To make visible the invisible. To make meaning of all the pieces? When writers start writing about similar things, the Spirit of God is trying to make visible the invisible. He’s using the voices of his author-artists to make meaning for us.

So in the last few months, as 3 Christian women have released books about marriage, I’ve paid attention. I’ve read them all. And I’ve tried to discern what the Spirit might be saying, particularly considering how different they are in theology, practice, and voice. I’ve read them as a married person and a friend of married persons and the wife of a marriage counselor. I’ve considered who I might give which book to and why and what God had for me in each one and why.

My big conclusion is that the Spirit is reaffirming the covenant of marriage while also affirming how difficult the relationship is. Yeah, it’s hard, but stick with it because it’s the way I intend to bring you healing, bless your community, make you more like me, and you get the picture. Don’t trivialize this commitment. Don’t be so quick to throw in the towel. Don’t settle for less than what it could really be, but be willing to work (hard) to get there.

Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Littell Greco is written by a writer, photographer, mother of 3 young adult men, and wife of 25 years. Greco’s writing is a mix of personal anecdote, stories from a diverse set of marriages, and instruction on how to allow marriage to change you so that your marriage will become more beautiful. Because she’s a friend, let me share her words: “Making Marriage Beautiful is truly unlike many other marriage books. First, it’s written by a woman to both men and women. This is almost unheard of. Adding Christopher’s words and the eight other husbands ensures that men are well represented. Second, the book contains very vulnerable, real-life stories. Most authors who write about marriage tend not to be as honest as Christopher and I chose to be. I think readers will easily engage and trust me because I’m choosing to trust them. Finally, I refuse to depend upon cliches or formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation is a process and my goal in writing this book is to help men and women navigate that process well. For the long haul.”

Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey is a memoir of marriage written by a minister, mother of two young kids, and wife of 14 years. Pershey’s writing is witty and wise, crafted with authentic reflection which opens the curtain on her marriage. She does not shy away from tough reality (like her attraction to another man), but invites us in to her relationship through humor and story, so that we might embrace the hard of our own covenant. I've already passed it along to a girlfriend.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is also a memoir of marriage written by a controversial figure who not only announced her separation and subsequent divorce to her husband just as the book released, but has since announced her relationship to professional soccer player, Abby Wambach. One of the things that is so difficult about the announcements is that the book is essentially about walking through her pain (and Craig walking through his) to discover how to be better individuals and better spouses. It concludes with a recommitment to one another, celebrating the covenant of marriage while affirming its challenges. Admittedly, it’s a quick devour as her writing style is captivating and the way she tackles each of their responses to pain is beautiful. But, what is the Spirit saying to us through her book? Why did he move in her to write about covenant and pain, but then leave us all feeling like the message is disingenuous? I’m not sure what to do with this one. For now, it remains on the shelf. I’m reluctant to pass it on.

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If my therapist husband were to ask which one of these he should hand to a couple, I would suggest Making Marriage Beautiful. Besides resting in her orthodox view of the marriage covenant, I have confidence men and women can both read it and relate to Dorothy’s voice and instruction. Not only does she include the male voice, but she includes voices from a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The reader can tell she speaks not only from personal lived experience, but also from 20 years of counseling couples through similar transformative growth.

The Spirit is making meaning of marriage in these days of trivializing this covenantal bond. For those of us committed to a spouse for the long haul, maybe pick up Dorothy’s book this year and invest in change for the sake of beautiful.