Dorothy Greco is a friend of mine—and a wise and thoughtful woman. This is why I was interested in reading her book Making Marriage Beautiful. I thought it would be a different kind of Christian marriage book, one that stands out from the host of less thoughtful, unoriginal books that make me wonder whether the authors don’t respect marriage, don’t understand their spouses, or simply don’t live in the real world. Dorothy did not disappoint me. Her book is fresh and real, and she has good things to say to all people who are married or aspire to marriage.
A truly Christian view of marriage has become hard to find in today’s world, and many couples are tying the knot without really understanding what it means to be a representation of God through their relationship. It’s typical for people to enter marriage with faulty expectations—of complete happiness and fulfillment, of an easy unity they won’t find—and without the kind of preparation that will see them through the bumps of disappointment, frustration, and conflict.
We need more leaders to speak of Christian marriage in a way that’s both inspiring and realistic. That’s part of what makes this book important.
Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You by Dorothy Littell Greco
(Published by David C. Cook, 2017)
What this book offers
Addressing the subject of marriage, it’s tempting to rely on stereotypes, old aphorisms, or pragmatic compromises. This book does none of these things. Greco acknowledges the difficulties of marriage and the disappointments that unavoidably happen in any relationship. At the same time, she is hopeful and helpful in pointing us toward truly beautiful marriage, based in what God wants for all of us. “About halfway through, I realized I was not simply crafting a book,” she writes. “I was also creating a prayer” (p. 19).
Throughout the book, Greco is unflinching in her acknowledgment of the disappointment and frustration that come when our spouses do not meet our expectations—and when we ourselves fail to live up to ideals. She challenges us to see beyond gender stereotypes and consider how we can best navigate the marriage relationship with the ingredients we have—who we and our spouses are as individual, unique people. She advocates for Christian virtues like forgiveness, joy, and patience through suffering, and she shows how these choices can transform our relationships.
In addition to her own stories and experiences, Greco shares viewpoints from eight other couples of diverse backgrounds, often in their own words. The book is full of examples and illustrations, and while the focus is often theological, it is equally practical in its message. Each chapter ends with “Going Deeper” questions for discussion or reflection. And it’s not just about building a good marriage. An important message of this book is the dual idea that marriage transforms us as individuals, and we must be transformed people in order to build beautiful marriages. Ultimately, that change comes from God’s work in us, and we can choose to welcome that work.
What I liked about this book
One thing I appreciate about this book is that it’s written by a woman, although Greco does incorporate insights from her husband throughout. Most Christian marriage books I’m aware of are written by men, and a female perspective is both underrepresented and equally important.
At the same time, Greco is not a stereotypical Christian woman, and her book is not based in stereotypes about men and women or restrictive gender roles. There is freedom and space for individuality, and she presents a picture of what it means for a marriage to build its own personality and character, informed by God’s creative and transformational work.
I also appreciate that Greco has drawn not only her own experience, but the experiences of other couples. She also has decades of experience in ministry to married couples, so her understanding is broader and deeper than the view her own marriage would allow.
In this book, she allows plenty of room for imperfection, and even demonstrates how the challenges that come with our imperfections can make us, and our marriages, more beautiful. She does not lift up an idealized view of marriage to which we must aspire; instead she teaches us how to walk, step by step, through life together and toward transformation. The starting point for this kind of marriage is wherever you are right now: “By staying connected to the Father, we not only receive His love but also discern how He is at work in our beloved’s life. He gives us the capacity to see beyond our spouses’ present limitations and preexisting wounds so that we can affirm God’s call even when the clouds of doubt obscure their vision. After speaking words of hope over our spouses, we then walk shoulder to shoulder, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in abundance, to help them realize that call” (pp. 229-230).
What I would change about this book
I understand the contributions from Dorothy’s husband, Christopher, are valuable and complement her own. It doesn’t hurt to have a male perspective represented in the book. However, it’s unnecessary. The book easily stands on its own without them, and they function as interruptions to the author’s voice. Given the larger context of books on this subject dominated by male authors—typically not incorporating a female voice—I would have liked to see this book stand unapologetically as a feminine contribution.
Who should read it
I recommend this book to any Christian who is married or wants to get married. It will encourage you, challenge you, and deepen your perspective on what marriage means and what it can be.
© 2017 Amy Simpson.