What Does It Mean to Cherish?
About the Guest
Best-selling author Gary Thomas explains that when you show off the beauty of your spouse and showcase them instead of yourself, you are cherishing them. Conversely, demoralizing or discouraging your spouse is a characteristic of contempt, and the opposite of this high value.
Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Best-selling author Gary Thomas explains that when you show off the beauty of your spouse and showcase them instead of yourself, you are cherishing them.
What Does It Mean to Cherish?
Bob: There’s a difference between being loved and being cherished. Here’s Gary Thomas.
Gary: A friend of mine—he is pastor of a huge church—he’s with a bunch of men. He asked them, “How many of your wives love you?” There are seven guys—every hand went up. He said, “How many of your wives like you?”—every hand went down. Every one of those men felt loved / none of them felt cherished. What I’m trying to suggest is we need to add the cherish. The husbands knew: “Yes, my wife is committed to me. My wife isn’t going to walk out on me. My wife will sacrifice for m”; but they didn’t know: “She delights in me. She takes great joy in being around me and loving me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So, what does cherishing your spouse look like? How can we do a better job at cherishing one another, even if we’ve been married a long time?
We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, while we are kind of taking time this year to acknowledge that this is our 25th year of doing what we’re doing with FamilyLife Today—25 years of creating this program—I thought we ought to just do a little reminiscing about the guest we have today.
Dennis: He has a long history with us.
Bob: He does. I—
Dennis: It’s amazing he’s come back! [Laughter]
Bob: I dug into the archives, and it turns out that the first time that Gary Thomas was with us was in the spring of 2001. You prophesied—did you know you prophesied over him?
Dennis: I didn’t.
Bob: So here’s how you introduced him, back when we had him on in 2001.
Dennis: Actually, welcome to the broadcast, Gary.
Gary: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: That’s quite an introduction.
I have to say to those listeners, who have not read any of Gary’s works, you are going to hear about him, not only for the next couple of days on the broadcast, but I believe you’re going to hear about him, as a writer, in the future. He has a sharp pen. Just a few moments ago, off microphone, we were talking. Gary, you mentioned that writing, for you, is like a worshipful experience.
Gary: Well, one of my favorite movies has always been Chariots of Fire. There’s that—what has become a cliché now—when Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Sounds a little funny saying that; but in many ways, I say, “When I write, I feel His pleasure.” I just see that sense of, “This is what God has called me to do and what He’s made me to be.”
Dennis: Eric Liddell never stopped running, and Gary Thomas hasn’t stopped writing—he’s written 18 books. His latest one is Cherish. In case you don’t know Gary, he is one of the teaching pastors at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. He and his wife Lisa have been married for 30 years; and that was kind of fun, listening back— huh, Gary?
Gary: Hard to believe. I sound very young.
Dennis: You do have a sharp pen.
Bob: And is writing still worshipful for you?
Bob: You haven’t fatigued of it?
Dennis: Well, this book, Cherish, is, I think, a needed book today; because I think we toss it around, especially in a marriage relationship, but we don’t understand a lot about it. You begin your book in a most unusual way—in a trash heap.
Gary: Yes; there was a young woman in 2015 that was crowned the Thai beauty queen. When she returned home, she was still wearing her formal dress / she had on her tiara. And the first thing she did was to seek out her mom. Her mom, literally, collects trash for a living—she goes through the trash / gets out what can be recycled or used for something else. She found her mother in front of these dumpsters—her mother’s wearing plastic shoes—and she knelt down, in that dress, to show honor to her mom.
When they captured that picture, it went viral. Everybody in Thailand suddenly realized who she was and who her mom was. She defended her mom, saying it wasn’t a dishonorable profession at all / it was so honorable: “She kept us from starvation. She served us.” It was just this picture of this beautiful young woman, who now was famous, who was now lifted up into a different class—that people could look up to her. She had all of these lucrative contracts that were awaiting her—on her knees, on the dirty ground, in her fancy clothes, showing honor to a trash collector, wearing plastic shoes.
Bob: So you saw that picture, and what did that communicate to you?
Gary: You want to know the story behind it. What it communicated is: “Why is she showing this woman such honor?” It was the juxtaposition of this young, successful, beautiful woman—right?—who was showing such honor and deference to a woman, who didn’t seem beautiful, who didn’t seem young, who wasn’t well-dressed.
It just was arresting when you see it. That’s why the picture got so much attention on the Internet.
Bob: And that juxtaposition, as you apply it to a marriage relationship—
Gary: She showed us how to cherish someone / how to honor someone. The key is that that woman, her mother, became famous. Before she won the pageant, nobody had heard of her mom / nobody would have known her. Even if she had won and then just forgot about her parents, nobody would have heard about her mom; but suddenly, this mom became literally one of the most photographed women in the world in 2015, because her daughter cherished her.
Dennis: Unpack that word, though, “cherish,”—I mean, we understand in
Ephesians 5 how Paul commanded husbands to nourish and cherish their wife / it’s a husband’s responsibility; but you’re saying that all of us need to understand the concept of cherishing another person.
Gary: We all pledge to—almost all of us, in our marriage vows, pledge to “love and to cherish until death do us part.” It just hit me: “We’ve talked so much about love, and most marriage books focus on love. What does this cherish word mean? How does it redefine love? How does it help us understand love in a new way?”
I look at this: “Love will always be the foundation of marriage. When you think of love, you think of sacrifice, you think of commitment, you think of service, you think of hanging in there; but cherish is sort of the spice of marriage. If you put it in the context of a ballet performance: a ballerina needs to have athleticism, she needs to have strength, and she needs to have balance. But those are the same things that actually an NFL linebacker needs as well. She also needs the grace, and the beauty, and the poetry—that’s what cherish brings to marriage.
You want the strength, you want the athleticism, you want the commitment; but when marriage really takes off is when you have the poetry, the grace, and the beauty—and that’s what cherish represents.
Dennis: We’re kind of gleaning the end result of 30 years from your relationship with Lisa. I want you to take us back to the first year of your marriage. See if you can remember: “How did you attempt to cherish Lisa in those first 12 months of marriage?”
Bob: And by the way, while you’re thinking about that, just know that I’m going to ask him the same question about his relationship with Barbara when you’re done. [Laughter]
Dennis: Thanks for the warning, Bob. [Laughter] And just so you know—I’m going to ask you.
Bob: Yes; I got you.
Dennis: What goes around comes around.
Bob: I got you.
Gary: The problem was—in my first year of marriage, I cherished me more than I cherished my wife—I did. I was 22 years old. I was as selfish and self-absorbed as they come, and that caused a lot issues in our marriage. We had a very difficult first year of marriage, in large part, as I look back, because I was having a love affair with myself.
You have to get out of that love affair before you can learn to cherish someone else. It didn’t just take me months / it didn’t just take me years—it took a couple decades for me to understand the power of what it means to cherish a wife.
Dennis: I would say it’s taken me over four decades to get rid of myself—I’m still working on it, Gary! [Laughter] No doubt about myself.
How I would answer the question is—and Barbara and I were reliving this recently, because we went to a dinner party. Barbara reminded me—early in our marriage—that we would go to a party; and I would just tear off into the party, enjoying everybody and exercising my own personality, and kind of leaving her to fend for herself. After doing that a couple of times—and riding back in the car, together in silence—finally, I asked the question—I said, “You know, you really didn’t say a whole lot at the party.”
This was in our first year of marriage, now. She said: “Well, you really didn’t give me a chance. You talked all the time.” It was kind of one of those, “Ouch!”—it’s back to selfishness again—you nailed it.
But what I attempted to do, at that point, Gary, was to realize my wife needed me to run at the same pace that she could run. That meant dialing back my personality. I’d like to say that I did it perfectly from then on—I didn’t. It was a lot of lessons learned from Year One in our marriage. But it is a way of cherishing your spouse—to realize how far / how fast, your spouse can run—and how you can support them in that process.
Bob: The first book you and Barbara ever wrote was a book called Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem. Really, a big part of what you were saying in that book is a lot of what Gary’s saying in this book—
—it’s about the need to recognize what our spouse needs, and to be an agent / be God’s agent to help fill in the spiritual gaps that exist in their life and the emotional gaps that exist there as well.
Dennis: Exactly. So, what about you in the first year of your marriage? You thought you were going to get away with it.
Bob: I thought, if I deferred; yes. I pretty much did it perfectly. You guys just sound like you were messing it up, right and left; but I just—
Dennis: Do we need to call Mary Ann? [Laughter] There you have it—another great illustration ruined by an eyewitness.
Bob: She would not feel cherished if you called her, trust me. [Laughter] Here’s what I do think / here was the mistake I was making in my first year—my first year—and this was not just the first year, but it went on for several years—I thought, if I was doing things that would make Mary Ann happy, that I was cherishing her. I realized that, in some cases, all I was doing was enabling her in patterns that weren’t healthy in her own life or that weren’t really what she wanted, at the core—it’s what she thought she wanted in the moment.
I was not leading well—I was just trying to make somebody happy.
There’s a difference between really cherishing and valuing another person and just trying to please them; isn’t there?
Gary: Absolutely. What I love about cherishing is that it requires us to focus on the particular. You really have to understand who your spouse is—who God created your spouse to be is even a better way of putting it—and help that beauty to be released. One of the images that really stuck with me, when I was working on this, was the whole notion of the ballet.
George Balanchine, one of the most famous choreographers—he’s Russian-born / worked a lot in the U.S.—had this phrase, where he liked to say, “The ballet is woman.” What he meant by that is—in couple’s dancing / pas de deux, the best male dancers understand that their job is to showcase the ballerina. They don’t want to get in front of her / they don’t want to try to flex their own muscles—their job is to support, and turn and help the ballerina do more because she’s with him than she could possibly do on her own.
That’s a great picture of marriage: “How am I supporting my wife / encouraging my wife? Can I help everybody to see her excellence and the beauty that God has given her?” The real picture would be a male dancer, that has supported that ballerina through the entire dance, and then he throws her into the spotlight at the finish—it’s the climax of the whole dance. The crowd gets up and this thunderous standing ovation, and everybody is screaming. He’s breathing hard; and he just steps back, in the shadows, because his job is done. She’s shining—she’s the star—they see her beauty in a way they couldn’t have seen without him supporting her. That’s the image I want for a cherishing marriage—to do that for my wife.
Bob: I think it’s really interesting how you’ve juxtaposed loving and cherishing, as not separate things, but really different facets of the marriage jewel that we’re looking at.
I was sitting here, thinking, “If a marriage has love without cherishing, it’s going to look one way. If a marriage has cherishing, but there’s not a foundation of bedrock love and commitment to it, that’s going to look a little different.” I mean, I’m kind of thinking like cherishing is the—is it the icing on the cake? Is it the thing that brings sweetness to substance?
Gary: Cherishing without love is infatuation, but it goes away. We all know it passes, because there’s no substance to hold it. Once the feelings are gone, the cherishing ends. Cherishing can be chosen. What I love about—we talk about falling in love; but after infatuation is over, you have to choose to cherish. There are habits, and there are actions, and there are attitudes that you can unleash that build a cherishing heart. The way I put it before is that: “The more I cherish my wife, the more I cherish my wife,”—
—it sets the stage, and it builds on it.
The difference you mentioned about love and cherish—I think it’s best seen—a friend of mine—he is very successful in his life / pastor of a huge church—he was an NFL quarterback. When he played baseball, he was the shortstop. When he played basketball, he was the point guard; then the quarterback—he was even in a rock—he succeeded his entire life. He’s with a bunch of men. He asks them, “How many of your wives love you?” There are seven guys—every hand went up. He said, “How many of your wives like you?”—every hand went down. Every one of those men felt loved / none of them felt cherished.
What I’m trying to suggest is—we need to add the cherish. The husbands knew: “Yes; my wife is committed to me. My wife isn’t going to walk out on me. My wife will sacrifice for me”; but they didn’t know: “She delights in me. She takes great joy in being around me and loving me.” That’s what we pledged, most of us—to make our spouse feel / that’s what we pledged, most of us—
—to do for our spouse. I’m saying: “Let’s up the game. Let’s say it’s time to unleash the power of cherishing in our marriages.”
Dennis: Gary, correct me if I’m wrong; but I think one of the words or the descriptions that you used in your book, Cherish, was the idea of cherish being showing off the beauty of the other person. It’s a little bit of the picture of, again, the beauty queen in the trash heap, kneeling at the feet of her mother, showing her off / showing her beauty off to her nation after she’d won her crown. Isn’t that what we’re really called to do as we cherish our spouse in marriage?
Gary: Exactly! It goes back to the ballet analogy, or I think of this—when a young woman gets engaged and she’s showing off the ring—she wants everybody to see it / she wants everybody to enjoy it. Here’s how foolish it is when we don’t do that—she never says: “No; don’t look at the ring. Look at my knuckle.” I mean, that would be bizarre, because she cherishes the ring. She wants others to cherish the ring.
In marriage, when we’re selfish, instead of wanting others to admire the beauty of our spouse, we’re saying: “Look at me. Look at the knuckle.” It’s that bizarre when you put it in that context—that I want others to appreciate the beauty and the excellence of my wife. And here’s the thing—when others do that—when you showcase your spouse, it makes you appreciate them all the more, which is how cherishing builds more cherishing because your opinion is validated. So you cherish her all the more, which releases more beauty, which increases your own sense of satisfaction.
Dennis: What’s the opposite of cherishing? I mean, sometimes it helps to give a negative definition of what it isn’t to better understand what it is.
Gary: Contempt—totally contempt. I was with a couple one time—the husband is a quiet guy, the kind who feels more at home in the world of science fiction than in a public dinner. It’s a long table—he hadn’t been involved in the conversation at all. I thought I’d try to bring him in—
—I knew what he did. I said, “Well, don’t chefs usually think such and such?” His wife jumped in: “He’s not a chef! He’s a cook!” The husband said, “He can call me a chef.” “No he can’t! Chefs prepare things—you just heat things up! It’s not the same.”
The reality is—he worked in a rest home. He had about 200 residents he cooked three meals for every day. It is tough—you know, tight budgets / they make budget cuts. Sometimes, he has to figure out how to feed them. So some meals, yes, are heated up.
But it just struck me how she seemed so afraid that I might accidentally give her husband more respect than he was due. I’m looking at it, as an objective observer, saying: “Why couldn’t she see that as a noble challenge?”—a man, who relies on a limited budget, trying to feed 200 senior citizens and then nourish them—but also make it a tasty experience. She was undercutting it—she said, “They don’t care what it tastes like anyway.” Now, he seemed aggrieved for the residents: “Yes;” he said, “they really do.”
You could see the hurt. She goes: “Well, you’re not a chef. You’re a cook.”
I thought: “Frankly, what was the point of that?” Is he going to go home and give her an extra hug?—“Didn’t we have a wonderful time tonight? Maybe I could rub your feet before I go to bed.” Or is he just going to be soft and quiet and not want to raise anything? She’s going, “Yes; my husband’s really boring,”—she very likely would think that. What she didn’t realize is that she had reinforced that. Somebody was trying to respect her husband, and she would have none of it. That’s not the climate, where he’s going to change / that’s not the climate to release his excellence—it’s the climate to push him down.
The sooner we realize that most of our spouses sort of limped into marriage—I mean, some of us marry superstars—but most of us—we were beat up; we were discouraged / we were challenged—and we come into marriage with all these scars.
We can either say: “My marriage is going to be a healing place, where you beauty and excellence is released in a way it never has been before,” or we’re going to reinforce those messages from childhood: “You know what your coach said about you? He was right!” “You know how your dad said you were a loser? He was right.” We’re going to either validate those childhood fears and make them worse; or we’re going to say, “Safe in my love—me, supporting you—you’re going to begin to live for maybe the very first time in your life.”
Dennis: It seems to me that, in order to truly cherish one another in the marriage relationship, you have to turn that commitment Bob was talking about—love—into becoming a student of your spouse, and what really communicates value, what communicates beauty, what communicates honor/appreciation. It’s not the same on every day. I mean, we go through different seasons in our lives / we go through different times every day.
I mean, I remember when we were raising a bunch of rug-rats, six kids in ten years. I mean, Barbara had kids hanging off of her legs, like ornaments off of a Christmas tree. I’d come home and she just needed me to say: “Thank you, Sweetheart, for investing in the next generation, our children. Thank you for working here and shaping the conscience, and the spiritual life, and the intellect of these children to help them become all that God made them to be.” At those moments I did that, I think I was as close to your plumb line of what cherishing is all about of any time in our marriage, just trying to meet her at her point of need and speak her love language.
Bob: Well, and it matters / it makes a difference. It is a part of what keeps a marriage vibrant and thriving—is for us, as husband and wife, to be expressing to one another how valuable we see the other person being.
There are ways we can do that.
In fact, you have a book full of them here, Gary—you’ve got a book called Cherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; you can also call to request a copy of Gary Thomas’s book, Cherish. Our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, we’ve talked about the fact that this whole idea of cherishing is really a biblical concept. It’s found in Ephesians, Chapter 5, that husbands are to nourish and cherish—to express value to one another / to encourage one another.
The Bible is full of commands like this that explain for us what our marriage relationship is supposed to be like / what it’s supposed to look like.
Here, at FamilyLife, we understand that the power for a marriage to thrive is not something we can find in ourselves. It comes from outside of us—it comes from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ and our understanding of how He loves and cherishes us. First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us,”—that’s foundational in a marriage relationship.
I want to take just a minute here, Dennis, and say, “Thank you,” to the folks who understand the spiritual priority of marriage and who stand with us in wanting to see this message be disseminated as broadly as possible. Every year, since we began FamilyLife Today, back 25 years ago, we have seen the audience for this program continue to grow. There have been new ways that people have been accessing this program, not only on this local radio station, but through our podcast; folks are streaming FamilyLife Today off our website.
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We hope you can be back with us tomorrow. Gary Thomas will be here as well. We’re going to talk about how important it is for a husband or a wife to be both physically and emotionally safe in one another’s presence. That’s coming up tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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