Gary Thomas: But here’s the thing, I want my kids to know I cherish your mom. It’s not enough that we made it to 36 years of marriage, I want ’em to be able to say when I die, “He cherished her for 50 years, or 60 years.” Love is good, love is great. But love and cherish is even better.
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John Fuller: Well how does that sound to you? Uh, that’s Gary Thomas explaining how to take your marriage beyond the duty of love to the higher goal of actually cherishing your spouse. Thanks for joining us today, this is Focus on the Family with Focus president, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Yeah, we’ve had Gary Thomas on this broadcast several times. And I always appreciate how he, (laughs), inspires me to do better in my relationship with my wife, Jean. And that’s a great benefit of doing this job, right John?
John: It is. (laughs).
Jim: (laughs). We get to hear from the experts.
John: We do. And the challenge is going home and putting into place-
John: …. (laughs), everything we learned.
Jim: You know, so often Jean, I’ll get home and say, “Hey, we need to do this.” And she’ll go, “Who did you talk with today?”
Jim: Uh, but today we’re gonna share a prerecorded message from Gary. And it’s a great overview of his book called Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. And I’d like to encourage you to get a copy from us here at Focus on the Family, where the proceeds go right back into ministry. They’re not profits.
John: Right. And you can order your book, uh, Cherish by Gary Thomas, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And we’re gonna start this message after some opening remarks. Here now is Gary Thomas speaking at an event sponsored by Focus on the Family.
Gary: Wayne Williams grew up a Chicago Cubs fan, because that was his dad’s favorite team. It was his childhood. He and his father would listen to the games as they went throughout the car, driving around town, occasionally visit games, watch ’em on television. And if you know anything about major league baseball, you know that for years, being a Chicago Cubs fan was an exercise in frustration and futility. Been over 100 years since they’d been back to the World Series. But Wayne and his dad made a pledge, as good fans do, when, not if, when the Cubbies made it back to the World Series they would listen to the games together. Wayne wouldn’t have had it any other way, it was just a part of his childhood. He couldn’t imagine wanting to experience the World Series without his dad there. So when the Cubs finally made it back in 2016 it was a bittersweet moment for Wayne. It was sweet, ’cause the Cubbies are back in the big show, it was bitter because it was gonna be very difficult for Wayne to keep that pledge. He now lives in North Carolina; his dad was located all the way in Indiana. But Wayne grew up with the belief, if you make a promise you keep a promise. So he traveled all the way from North Carolina to Indiana, and another thing that made it a little more difficult is that Wayne’s dad had actually passed away some years before. But Wayne felt like that pledge still mattered. So he traveled to Indiana, set up his camp chair on his father’s grave, turned on his phone, and Wayne and his father listened to the Cubs win the World Series together.
Now, I don’t know if that story moves you as much as it moves me, but the thought that a guy would keep his promise in that sense, to me, ’cause it… “Well it’s just a sentimental promise from my childhood, and, and my dad’s not even still alive.” It, it doesn’t matter. But that he would still feel that his word mattered moves me.
And perhaps it moves me because God challenged me with the promise I had made to completely renew my marriage. I thought I’d already had a pretty good marriage. But God reminded me of a pledge I made to my wife over 36 years ago, a pledge probably most of you made if you used traditional vows and it’s this, “I promise to love and to cherish, until death do us part.” You know what? That’s probably the last time I ever thought of the word cherish. It never, (laughs), never entered my mind again.
Spoke a lot about love, wrote books talking about love and marriage, and when I would speak on seminars I would… And last session would be on love. And I really believed God saying that He was doing a new movement where He wanted me to understand what it means to cherish my wife, learn to put it into practice, and then as it works, begin to share it with others.
And as we did, even though I said, my wife and I felt like we already had a pretty good marriage, doing that, raising the bar from just love to love and cherish lifted us to an entirely new level of delight in our relationship. Now, love is still the foundation of marriage. It’s sacrifice, service, hanging in there, loyalty, commitment, every marriage needs that. But cherish, well, uh, so you could call love sort of the bread, the substance of the relationship. Cherish is the jam, (laughs). It’s what makes the bread delicious.
And here’s what I wanted… I thought that maybe what God was up to, that we don’t just define marriages by they made it to 50 years, or 60 years, or as Paul Harvey used to say, some of them even 70 years. But they would be qualitative years, not just measuring our marriages by their quantity, but as a Christian church, modeling to the world that we seek a particular quality, and cherish could be that platform, it could be that bar that we look, that we evaluate ourselves as we seek to raise our marriage.
And for me, the big difference is that love focuses me on my obligations. I need to sacrifice, I need to serve, I need to be faithful. Cherish focuses me on the beauty, the excellence, the worth, the wonder of my spouse. And so she doesn’t think I’m there just because I made a promise and I’m trying to hold to it, but instead I’m learning to train my mind and my heart to see the wonder of who she is, the wonder that made me want to marry her in the very first place.
I think that cherish is essential, not just if you want to give your wife or your husband a special experience, or if you wanna have a super marriage. I actually think pursuing cherish is essential to not slip back into contempt. And the reason is this, we don’t live in a neutral world. As fallen people in a fallen world, we live in a world that assaults our affections for each other on a daily basis. We can have an al star weekend, and then life happens.
Uh, shortly after my wife and I became empty nesters we got to spend a weekend with my youngest daughter, she was back up in Philly. So we traveled from Houston. And we knew it’d be a fun weekend. Kelsey’s our lastborn, she’s the classic extrovert, just a lot of fun to be around her, we knew we’d have a lot of fun. And we also knew it’d be a meaningful relational time. Those of you who are empty nesters know that when the kids go away you just, you just love the thought of getting to spend an entire weekend with them.
So, so it was a great weekend, it was firing on all cylinders. We had a, a fun time, the relational time, the romantic time. And I was just determined, since it’s one of those all-star weekends, I wanted to take that Philadelphia feeling and bring it back to Houston, right? Just kind of keep that glow. And the challenge was, the very next morning we had the first flight out of Philly back to Houston.
As a concession for my wife I had a full day of work ahead. And it’s not a problem for me to get up early, I- I’m, I’m sort of like a farm animal. That I, I get up so early, the first number is usually a four when I wake up. My wife is definitely not a morning person. So I’d been up for a couple hours, I’d already had my caffeine, and Lisa was getting up, and I, I wanted to make sure we made it to the plane on time, because I believe in boundaries, right? I believe you leave enough time so that if every light is red, and you get a flat tire, and the plane leaves on time, you’re still there, you left boundaries.
John: You’re listening to Gary Thomas on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And you can get Gary’s book, Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage, as well as a CD of this broadcast when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or donate and request those resources at our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Gary Thomas.
Gary: Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t believe in boundaries. My wife believes in divine intervention, right? As long as God knows she really intended to leave on time, she really tried hard, He’ll make every light green. He’ll hold the plane at the gate, He knows her good intentions. And I, I didn’t wanna to pressure her, ’cause, while I’m not clinically OCD, I live in a neighborhood right next door to it.
I, I know that can be obnoxious, and I didn’t wanna lose this Philadelphia feeling. So I, I was trying to be as gentle as I could. “Well honey, you think we could leave pretty soon?” And she said, “Uh, uh, taxis out front.” It’s like, “Whoa.” I mean, I, shocked out how’d she get up and order the taxi, that’s fantastic. So I just kind of chilled out with my phone, and emailed for five minutes, and she sits up the suitcase and says, “All right, you can take the suitcase. Did you call the taxi?”
I said, “No. You said the taxis are out front.” She goes, “No I didn’t.” I said, “Call the front desk, see if there’s a taxi out front. If there’s not, have ’em order one.” Now, between you and me I heard four syllables. “Taxis out front.” I’m a morning person, she’s not. I’d had caffeine, she hadn’t. I felt like in a court of law I would win this marital discussion. But I didn’t wanna win, I wanted to keep this Philadelphia feeling all the way to Houston.
And so we have this silly way of dealing with it that actually can work. We just put our arguments in the third person. So we’re walking toward the elevator and I go to my wife I said, “You know, honey, I, I don’t know what it’s like in your marriage. Um, b- but in my marriage, one thing that makes it difficult, if my wife wakes up early and hasn’t had her caffeine, I, I get four syllables and I’m supposed to get an encyclopedia of information out of it. And I, I wanna please her, but it’s just hard for me to do that.”
She says, “Yeah, that sounds like it would be difficult. But, you know, it’s not nearly as difficult as what I have in my marriage.” And I said, “Really?” She goes, “Yeah. Actually, I have a husband who doesn’t listen to me very carefully, but he thinks he does. And so I give him very clear directions and he doesn’t pick ’em up, and then it’s all my fault.” And I said, “Y- Yeah, that sounds like it would be more difficult.”
Which, guys, that’s how that exercise always ends. I’m just tipping you off at the start. But here’s the thing, if I were to ask you what makes your marriage difficult, nobody in here would have to say, “Give me 10 minutes so I can think of something.” You know immediately, because every marriage is difficult in its own way, some of you are hoping I will call on you and you can tell the entire room what’s difficult about being married to the person you’re here with, because that’s all, just the reality of marriage.
And so cherishing helps up push back against that difficulty to remember why we married our spouse, why we celebrate our spouse in the first place. And is it possible to get there? I truly believe it is because the perfect God who cherishes the imperfect us is more than capable of inspiring us, equipping us, and empowering us to cherish our imperfect spouse. And how do we get there?
First thing we have to do is to remember our promise. I said I would cherish her. Am I doing what I already committed to do? Wives you said you would cherish your husband, are you doing that? Husbands, wives want more than simply hearing, “I love you.” They wanna be cherished. They want Song of Songs 4:9, “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.” They wanna know, men, that they still have that hold on us, that there’s something about seeing ’em in a crowd that just makes us stop short.
And where I saw so convicted by the Lord is, I realized if I don’t learn to cherish my spouse and continue to practice cherishing my spouse she will never be a cherished wife. I’m the only one that can do that. And one thing that shocked me after I’d gone through this for a ways, I was working in my office for a couple hours, I heard Lisa waking up. And the best way to describe it is, my heart leapt.
I began to cherish Lisa because I believe God convicted me to do it. He said I’d made the promise, I wanted to be obedient. But like all of God’s commands, we’re blessed when we do ’em. And I realized it makes sense. When you learn to cherish your spouse, the fact that they’re awake and you get to interact with them, that makes you excited. (laughs). ‘Cause your favorite person in the world is now awake. It wasn’t like that the first 10 years of our marriage, it wasn’t like that the first 20 years of our marriage.
But you know what? Wives, your husbands wanna hear it too. Now, they’re gonna be suspicious of the word cherish. When I would interview guys while I was writing the book, it’s almost like, “Do I have to turn in my man card if I say I wanna be cherished?” But you know what? They want the concept. A pastor I know who was traveling with seven men, these were all leaders in his church, men that the whole church looked up to, families that the whole church would look up to.
He wanted to figure out what was going on with these marriages. He said, “Guys, how many of your wives love you?” All seven hands went up. Then he said this, “How many of your wives like you?” All seven hands went down. Every man felt loved, not one felt cherished. Their attitude was, “She’s a good Christian woman, she’ll be true to me, she’s not going to leave me, but at best I’m tolerated.” And what that does, women, it creates an entirely different dynamic in marriage.
After Cherish had just come out I was speaking at this large church. Something happened, doesn’t happen very often to be, I got as sick as I’ve ever been. By God’s grace, I rarely get sick, which is good when you try to set your schedule a year in advance. But I barely got through the event. And then I was in the hotel room with Lisa that night. And you know how when the fever breaks and you start to shiver, and you’re so cold?
So I’m just kind of shivering there in bed, and Lisa starts to pull me close. I said, “Honey, watch out. You’re gonna get sick. This is awful.” And she said, “Well, aren’t you cold?” I said, “Yeah.” She pulls me closer and says, “I gotta get you warm.” That sounds gross to the younger couples. But wives, let me ask you, or husbands, let me ask you, what will a wife do for a man that truly cherishes her? In a world where she’s probably taken for granted by her kids, judged by a lot of friends, just ignored by so much of the world as she goes out of whatever. But when she comes to home a man that she knows truly cherishes her, what will she do for that man?
In my experience, whatever she has to do for his welfare. And wives, what do you think a man will do for a wife that he knows truly cherishes him? In a world, a competitive world where he often doesn’t measure up, where he might get fired, he might be losing his mojo as he gets older, and his hair, and all the other stuff that goes on. And yet, he comes home and here is a woman that doesn’t tolerate him, she cherishes him. What will he do for her? Whatever he has to do for her welfare.
John: Gary Thomas on Focus on the Family. And this is a reminder that we have his book, Cherish, and a CD of this presentation available to you when you call 800-A-FAMILY, or request those at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Gary: So what are the one of steps… It’s just, (laughs), so difficult trying to challenge a, a book in, in 20 minutes, or encapsulate it. But here’s one thing that is so crucial, it begins with a new mindset. Romans 12:2 says this, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If I wanna begin to cherish my spouse I have to find a mental image that makes me maintain that right approach of thinking about my spouse.
And I wanna go back to the Garden of Eden. Just one I think is so powerful for a brief slice of time. Eve was literally the only woman in the world. There was no one Adam could compare her to. He couldn’t say, “Well, her hair is thick but she’s not as athletic as that one, or as funny as that one.” And, and the same thing was true, that Adam was literally the only man in the world. Eve couldn’t say, “Well, you know, he’s not very relationally involved. He’s got a good sense of humor but he’s not as athletic or as hard working as that one.”
Adam defined for Eve and Eve defined for Adam what a man is, and even more, what a man or a woman is supposed to be. And if I wanna cherish my spouse I have to have this attitude where I look at my wife as Eve, the only woman in the world. Comparisons stops. Comparison is the opposite of cherishing. Comparison leads to contempt, because what we do is, we compare our spouse’s weaknesses to another spouse’s strengths.
And I just ask, why do we do that? It never helps. I know you’ve done it. Have you ever negatively compared your spouse mentally for 10 or 15 minutes? And then do you ever end up saying, “I feel so happy right now?” (laughs). “I have so much more joy, I feel so much more…” No, but we, we still do it. I love to read the Christian classics. And one of the writers had a beautiful image of how everything in creation is just an imperfect shadow, because only God has everything in totality.
The example he used in nature would be, for example, a blackbird. Beautiful voice, not much to look at. A peacock, annoying voice, beautiful bird. In the same way you look at trees. One tree’ll give you great fruit. It’s good if you’re hungry. But you don’t build a house with a fruit tree. You go in the forest to get lumber. And so everything in creation shows you, there’s just nothing that’s complete. If we allow that to be true in marriage we recognize we can only find God to be fully, totally complete. So we stop comparing our spouse.
If we married a peacock we are so into peacocks. If we married a blackbird, we are thankful for blackbirds. We make this commitment to contentment. Song of Songs 6:9, guys. This is what every wife wants to experience. “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one.” Comparison is stopped. I cherish you. It’s to have this exclusive attitude.
I was speaking at a sacred marriage conference one time. It was at a big church, and we were running late. They came into the green room. They said, “Gary, we can’t open the church doors until you come out, uh, and do a mic check. We forgot to do it.” And I said, “Oh, okay.” So I’m rushing there. My wife’s setting up the table. She couldn’t be here tonight, I’ll get into that in just a moment, this morning. And, um, i- but if you had met her, she just looks freakishly young.
Uh, one time she was at the book table and somebody said, “You must be so proud of your daddy.” She said, “I am, but he didn’t write these books.” Right? So it kind of defends what this woman said. So this middle-aged woman saw, I went by Lisa, I didn’t have to time to stop because I’m in a hurry. So I just kind of pat her on the rear end and smile. Which she doesn’t mind. I wouldn’t do it if she did. Just acknowledging her.
And this woman got this nasty look on her face. She marches up to Lisa. “Is that Gary Thomas?” And Lisa’s just taken… “Um, yeah?” And she got even angrier. “Are you his wife?” And Lisa just felt like I was being insulted, like I would act that way. And she wouldn’t normally respond this way, but it just sort of came out, she said, “No, he, he was with his wife last weekend. This weekend it’s my turn.” I said, “Honey, you can’t say that.” She goes, “But your… It’s not you in a million years. That’s not…” I go, “She doesn’t know that, read the pape…” She did clear it up, by the way, if that is going around.
But it’s this… No. She went… And this woman said, “You only look at your wife that way, you only treat your wife that way.” I want to have that same expectation for me mentally that my dove, my perfect one, is the only one. And learn to even showcase her to myself so I can see her excellence. The challenge is, an- and this is just neurologically true, neuroscientists talk about a state called tolerance. If you don’t seek to remember the blessings of your spouse, which is why one year I created a journal, and every day I wrote down something I was thankful for Lisa. A character trait or something she had done.
And it became this Christmas present that I gave to her at the end of the year. Because I know if we don’t do that, what happens is, something great just becomes a status quo, the normal, you stop cherishing your spouse and you start comparing your spouse. And so when I gave her that journal, at first she was upset with me because she thought I was asking her to fill something out, and she goes, “That’s so not me.” And then she saw what it was, and she started to tear up. And my oldest daughter said, “Sheesh dad, that’s like something you see in a Hallmark movie that nobody ever actually does.” (laughs).
But here’s the thing, I want my kids to know I cherish your mom. It’s not enough that we made it to 36 years of marriage, I want ’em to be able to say when I die, “He cherished her for 50 years, or 60 years.” Love is good, love is great. But love and cherish is even better. Thank you. (Clapping)
John: Wow. What a powerful message and example of that principle of cherishing your spouse, uh, that we’ve been hearing today from author and speaker Gary Thomas.
Jim: Ah boy, John, as we said at the top of the program, Gary Thomas always makes me, (laughs), wanna do better as a husband and father. And he did that again today. Um, you know, over the years I’ve kept journals for each of my boys, writing notes to them as I traveled around the world for Focus on the Family. But it never occurred to me to keep a journal for Jean-
Jim: … writing down, uh, what I love about her, my thoughts during those trips about her. Uh, even, uh, just for one year. Uh, coulda done better in that area. Like Gary did for his wife Lisa. What a great gift.
John: Yeah, that really is something special. And if I could rewind the tape, um-
John: … I would do that. Maybe it’s not too late for us, Jim.
Jim: Confession time, right?
John: Maybe the coming year can help us do that.
Jim: Well, th- that’s just one of many great ideas found in Gary’s book. It’s called Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. And I’d love for you to get a copy from us here at Focus on the Family for a donation of any amount. And the proceeds will go right back into our efforts to strengthen and save marriages around the world. Um, here’s just one example of the impact we’re having on marriages every day. And we heard from a listener named Amanda who said this. “I’ve been listening to Focus on the Family since I was in high school, knowing that I would need marriage and parenting advice for the future.”
Jim: Wow, that’s really smart.
John: That’s proactive.
Jim: “Uh, now I can say that Focus made a huge impact on our 30-year marriage and helped us raise four children to adulthood. I don’t know why I’ve never donated, uh, now that I think about it, I was pretty selfish to benefit from the broadcasts but never financially support your efforts to get them on air. Please accept my donation and thank you for staying so biblical and relevant over the years.” That’s good.
John: I love, I love hearing from folks like that who have listened a long time and put these principles into practice. Uh, it really is great to think that even back in the high school years Focus was helping her prepare for the challenges ahead and giving her the tools she needed, one day, to succeed in her family.
Jim: That’s right. And, you know, the past year has been difficult for so many families, and many marriages are struggling under the stresses caused by the pandemic. But our research shows that over the last 12 months we, and I mean the bigger we, those that are helping us financially, and those of us, the hands and feet here at the ministry, we’ve helped over 100,000 couples across North America navigate and survive a major marital crisis. And almost 600,000 couples say Focus helped them build a stronger and more satisfying marriage. And that’s, again, just in the last year. A lot of people don’t know about the many resources we offer to support your marriage, in addition to this broadcast. We have a free online marriage assessment where you and your spouse can take a short quiz and then see the strengths of your relationship, and the areas that could use a bit of work. I think we’ve had over a million people take that, uh, assessment. We have the Focus on Marriage Podcast, hosted by Greg and Erin Smalley, uh, which provides marriage-focused advice and encouragement from a variety of guests. We have a team of counselors here that we often mention that are available to spend time with you on the phone if you have an issue in your marriage that you need to discuss. It’s a free service we provide thanks to the donors who underwrite that. And for marriages that need even more help we have a four-day intensive called Hope Restored, where couples who are experiencing really deep challenges can find healing. It has a success rate of over 80% when we talked to them and surveyed them two years later. All of these resources and more are available thanks to you, the donors, as I said. We rely on you to help us in our marriage strengthening efforts. And I’d like to ask you, would you please consider making a donation, um, maybe like Amanda? Now’s the time, we need to hear from you today.
John: Contact us and get your copy of Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage by calling 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Or you can donate online and request that book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Jim mentioned our marriage assessment, uh, be sure to check that out when you visit the website. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back, as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.