Three times in my life, I have sat and read a book cover to cover in a 24 hour time span. This is one of those books. It was just that good….and I recognize today as I review some of my own highlights, that it will be one that needs more than one reading. The message is so basic, yet so profound – so contrary to culture.
This year, my husband and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary. As most couples, we have had our share of highs and lows. We stumbled through the years of raising littles (four in six and a half years). We’ve been through financial pressures, career changes, and seasons where discouragement and depression took a painful toll on our relationship. With our oldest married now, and the ability to leave others home and go out whenever we want, we face a new challenge: taking each other for granted. Truth is, we still don’t go out very often. We struggle to prioritize our relationship. We don’t depend on each other to survive like we did when the kids were younger. We are comfortable. …Comfortable knowing that a fight will be resolved, and it will all be okay. ..comfortable knowing that even if one of us has a bad day, we are secure with each other…comfortable knowing that when the world crumbles around us, we have a good survival rate. Honestly, it’s pretty nice. But speaking for myself, I know a missing element is in the one word title of Gary Thomas’ new book: Cherish.
Our comfortable and secure relationship is missing the element of Cherish.
Do you remember when you first met your spouse, and you thought everything about them was so cute? Then at some point along the road, those “really cute” things became irritating? Then maybe through a “come to Jesus” moment you decided to accept them for the way they were? Me too!…and there is value in that. But accepting who they are falls short of cherishing their uniqueness. Ouch!
Do you remember when you first met and you couldn’t think or talk about anything else? You wanted everyone to know how they were and would defend them to the death..and then life. Now it’s tempting to join in the jokes others make, rather than showcasing our spouse’s gifts for the world to see.
If you’re naturally sarcastic or snide, you’ll have to fight back your default mode of making a joke at your spouse’s expense or demeaning them and instead choose to think the best of them. To do this, learn a simple trick: Don’t listen to yourself; talk to yourself. Take control of your mind, reject the negative, and choose the positive (171).
Perhaps my favorite part of the book is simply the recognition that it takes an understanding of the gospel to live in a way that cherishes. Without focusing on the gospel, we are prone to focus on our own acts of righteousness. We grow accustomed to measuring our behavior and measuring the behavior of others. We forget what Christ has done for us, and we forget to extend his mercy to others. We forget that we are cherished by God. “When you feel cherished by God, it follows that you want to cherish others” (219).
Once the gospel is accepted and is being lived out, Titus 3 tells us what life looks like. This is marriage at its highest and best. It is a marriage that shines and sparkles – one where cherishing and being cherished are showcased.
So in a Christian marriage that seeks to cherish, husband and wife are ready for every good work. They are looking for ways to bless each other. No one speaks evil of anyone else, and since they are ready to do every good work, there is no quarreling. That’s because they are gentle with each other and show courtesy to each other (Titus 3:2).
“But how is it possible?”
Not just be deciding you really, really want to do it, but by choosing every day to preach the gospel to yourself and then to remind yourself, “This is our standard. Not just by avoiding being mean or harsh or not speaking ill of each other, but by daily reminding ourselves of how kind and good God has been to us, spending time with God to be daily renewed by the Holy Spirit so we can supernaturally forgive each other, treat each other gently, and actively look for good works to do to bless each other” (219-220).
Gary is one of those authors that writes humbly and shares his own failures. He writes from a heart level – knowing that we have to have a firm grasp on the gospel if we are going to live out God’s heart in our marriages. We cannot simply correct behaviors and hope to improve our marriage. We have to accept our identity as beloved of God, let that transform us, and then pass that on to our spouse.