What differentiates a loving, joyful, intimate marriage from a disappointing, frustrating one is the willingness and commitment to be changed, to say yes to God’s transforming work, and to become increasingly holy with each passing year. Transformation is a lifelong process that’s equal parts hard work, faithful waiting, and supernatural intervention. Though miracles do abound, we never become saints—in the truest sense of the word—overnight. If our experience is at all typical, transformation happens at a glacial pace. Becoming holy is slow and arduous because we’re stubborn sinners but also because being transformed into the image of Christ is meant to change every aspect of our lives.

God’s love is not theoretical; it’s a crown of thorns pressed into Jesus’s brow, nails driven through sinew and bones, and ultimately, his brutal death. First John 3:16 reads, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” Few of us will literally die for our spouses. Instead, we will be asked to lay down our agendas, our preferences, and sometimes even our dreams.

God offers us opportunities to tangibly and sacrificially love our spouses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We love when we apologize for our harshness rather than pretend it didn’t happen. We love when we push past our fatigue and serve each other at the end of an exhausting week. We love as we extend grace, perhaps particularly when they have done nothing to deserve it. Such acts of love are fragrant offerings, much like when Mary poured nard on Jesus’s feet (Luke 7:36–38).

Jesus Christ is the ultimate reference point for what it means to love sacrificially. His obedience cost him everything: his reputation, his well-being, his comfort, his life, and—when he gave up his spirit—even his connection to God the Father (Matt. 27:46). Sacrificial love is never cheap, nor does it happen coincidentally. It’s a countercultural choice that we have to willingly and repeatedly make.

Dorothy Littell Greco is the author of Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You. She is a writer, speaker, and photographer. © 2017 Dorothy Greco. Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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