When couples say their wedding vows, they are often caught up in the moment and can’t remember the words that are shared. As the years go by and hardships ensue, couples are often faced with decision of whether they are not they are going to uphold their vows and commitment to marriage. Gary Thomas is challenging couples to focus on cherishing their spouse rather than just love them.
Thomas is the author of 18 books that have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated into a dozen languages. His most notable work is bestseller Sacred Marriage, which has sold over 700,000 copies, is releasing his newest book, Cherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage. He and his wife Lisa have been married for 30 years. Unlike other marriage books that focus only on love, in Cherish, Thomas explores what happens when spouses truly keep their wedding vows of “to love and to cherish.”
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Thomas explains the difference between cherish and love.
“Most marriages survive by gritting teeth and holding on. But marriages can not only survive but thrive when husbands and wives learn to cherish one another. To cherish something is to hold it dear and to find great pleasure in it. Millions of couples have pledged ‘to love and to cherish, till death do us part.’ Most of us understand the love part – but what does it mean to cherish our spouses? Why do we say it once and then rarely mention it again? Love and cherish never compete—they complement each other and even complete each other…Learning to cherish actually creates joy, fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction. It’s one of those spiritual realities that may not make logical sense, but when you take it by faith and put it into practice, it works.”
Using personal stories and analogies, each chapter of the book focuses on a particular attribute of what it means to cherish one’s spouse. The hope is to help couples move from simply going through the motions of a relationship to finding joy by cherishing one another with proven, loving and everyday actions and words.
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Thomas challenges readers to consider their role within marriage as one to “make the beautiful more beautiful” by supporting, stabilizing, lifting and turning our spouses to the “best sides” of their strengths and personalities to help them become more and do more than they ever could on their own. The end of each chapter of the book includes a “Cherishing Cherish” recap for readers as well as questions for discussion and reflection to help empower couples to begin immediately strengthening their marriage through the melding of “to love and to cherish.”
“‘Showcasing’—making the deliberate mental shift to cherish our spouses by highlighting their beauty to others in the same way a dancer focuses on supporting his partner—is an essential part of learning how to cherish our spouses. If two dancers are each trying their hardest to be noticed above or even by each other, the performance is going to be a colossal, ugly failure,” writes Thomas. “Very few marriages would approach divorce if each spouse would make one of their first daily comments to each other be this; ‘How can I support you today? How can I make your day better?’”
Reflect on love. Take time this week to reflect on 1 Corinthians 13. Write down what you learn. Think about how you treat your spouse, your family and your friends and how can you improve. Think about people in your life that embody those characteristics. Let them know this week that you are thankful for them.
Ask for forgiveness. No one is perfect. We have each hurt someone that we love. Whether it is a spouse, friend or family member, our words or actions can hurt someone. Rather than let division build up, be willing to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness from the other person. Pray and ask God to give you the words. If it is too hard to have a conversation, consider writing it down first.
Cherish one another. Rather than focus on someone’s flaws or short-comings, take time this week to write down five things you appreciate about your spouse, children or a friend. When you feel the urge to complain or criticize, instead think of the things that you appreciate and cherish about them. Allow your words to bring life. Couple your correction or hard conversation with things that you appreciate about the person.