Your Marriage: From Disappointing to Delightful

Wood stoves do not render their comforting warmth without regular tending. Fires must be coaxed along with frequent ministrations, and I never give this much thought — unless my good husband is away, for he miraculously tends to this important detail, and our house stays cozy and warm.  Similarly, since the beginning of our marriage, he has changed the oil in our vehicles, paid our bills, balanced the checkbook, and locked the doors every night, leaving me with the delightful sense of being safe, cared for:  cherished.

Gary Thomas writes that this variety of practical love is reassuring to me because it demonstrates that our life together is a priority that is worthy of my good husband’s time and effort.  Now, with his one-word title, Cherish,  he challenges readers to go beyond merely loving our spouses and to live our way into a “marriage that feels more precious, more connected, and more satisfying.”

Many marriage vows include a promise to “cherish,” but do we understand what that looks like from the perspective of our spouse, the cherished one?  Gary unpacks the concept in terms of learned behaviors that can change everything in a marriage:

Cherishing means learning to hold someone dear.

The Message to the Cherished:  “You don’t have to be anyone other than who you are.”

When we allow our spouse to define “beauty” (or “handsome-ness”) in our minds, we have begun to rewind history to Eden when each was the “only one” in the world to the other.  Choosing anew every day the one you chose on your wedding day is the antidote to disappointment, discontentment, and critical comparing.

 Cherishing means learning to showcase your spouse.

The Message to the Cherished:  “How can I support you today?  How can I make your day better?”

For the believer, this includes enhancing one another’s ministry opportunities. We want our beloved to shine!  It is based upon the assumption that we have ended the love affair with ourselves.  Gary uses the vivid example of a male ballet dancer rejoicing in the standing ovation a ballerina receives because he has “supported, tossed, caught, turned, and showcased” her.  It’s all about helping your spouse to realize his/her potential in the world.

Cherishing means noticing and honoring each other.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will put your needs above everything else.”

Here’s the truth in a nutshell:  “You can honor someone without cherishing them, but you can’t cherish someone without honoring them.”  Wives will feel noticed if their words are taken seriously; husbands are looking for physical affection.  For either gender, we honor our spouses when we take an active interest in what interests them.

Cherishing is about protecting each other and killing contempt.

The Message to the Cherished:  “When I scan you, I will be looking for something to praise – not to criticize.”

Gary traces the tragic journey from newlywed infatuation through disappointment, frustration, and bitterness to contempt, which is the single biggest threat to a marriage’s survival and happiness.  Practicing fierce gratitude is the antidote to contempt.

Cherishing teaches us to indulge our spouses and, thus, to help heal their spiritual wounds.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I am committed to your healing and wholeness.”

When we nurture our spouse, we provide a picture of God’s cherishing heart.  We make our spouse’s needs a priority and work to discover what actions we can take to help them address their weaknesses and to breathe life into them every day.

Cherishing teaches us to carefully and deliberately use our ears and our words to express our affection.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will be deliberate and specific in verbal affirmation and mirror God’s acceptance and affirmation in my words and in my tone.”

This may not come naturally, but developing (and maintaining) a curiosity toward our spouse’s words and activities communicates value.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer sums this up beautifully:

“Just as love to God began with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.”

Even unintentional verbal slights can be devastating to a marriage.

Cherishing is about treating our spouse as a unique individual.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will help you complete your one-of-a-kind story.”

It’s time to cast aside generalizations and stereotypical assumptions about what “all men” or “all women” do.  Understanding bypasses judgment and empathizes while genuinely investing the effort to understand and to accept.

Cherishing means being patient with your spouse’s sins.

The Message to the Cherished:  “We both stumble in many ways.  I will thank God for you, and, together, we will grow in holiness.”

Gary offers six words that can save the day:  “This is how your spouse stumbles.”  Accepting that your spouse will never be perfect makes allowance for imperfection without diminishing our appreciation.  Apart from this, it is impossible to maintain “a cherishing attitude.”  Furthermore, it is counterproductive to think, “I could cherish them if only they wouldn’t do x, y, or z.”  “Half of holiness centers around being patient with other peoples’ sins.”

As he did in Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas has melded practical theology and behavioral principles to encourage believers along in a life that goes beyond the mere fulfillment of marriage vows.  Just as my wood stove responds to regular tending by yielding comfort and warmth to my home, a cherishing mindset that is deeply rooted in the Gospel truth that we are continually cherished by God will result in a marriage that radiates a lifetime of warmth and love.

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Gary Thomas has written a blog post that applies the principles set forth in Cherish.  Click here to read and learn more!

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The Label that Reveals

His drawing of a strawberry was lopsided, the printing was primitive, but the proud smile on my little guy’s face was as genuine as the ring of strawberry jam that circled his mouth.  He had made the jam and then had labored over the personalized labels that made each jar an announcement of his creative mastery of the jam-making process.

His jam.

His labels.

I still have one of them in his baby book to preserve the memory of making jam with him (and his three brothers that followed), because from the mashing of the berries to the last swipe of the red marker, I was helping my boys to build a shield of protection over their tender hearts with three strong words:

“I CAN DO”

Confidence based on competence is rugged and resilient, but, the truth is that the dents in that shield come early (and often) as we accept from the important people in our lives statements which do not line up with the true words that God says over us.

Slapping on a label may save me some time when I’m searching for jam in my pantry, but a label on a person means I never bother to see what’s inside.  I fail to ponder the life ingredients, the unique qualities that have come together to create this particular soul — which sets me to wondering:

What hasty words have I affixed to the real live people who populate my days?

Are you also prone to affix a label to a soul — rather than taking the time to enter into the life that comes with it?

Capture

We’re pondering the topic of “labels” this month over at SheLoves Magazine.  Consider this your invitation to join me there for the rest of my story — and also to read widely and often from the selection of good thoughts that you will find in that friendly and supportive place.

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Photo credit

Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place for lots more September fun with the “What I’m Into” community.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.