Gary Thomas is a bestselling author who’s written more than 15 books. Thomas is a regular teaching pastor and writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. A Gold Medallion Award winner, Thomas’s most famous work, “Sacred Marriage,” has sold over a half million copies. Thomas has spoken at conferences, retreats and colleges in 49 states and eight countries. Thomas has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 35 years. Together, they have three children.
What’s the difference between loving and cherishing?
In his latest book, “Cherish,” Thomas shares a subtle, yet significant distinction between loving and cherishing your spouse.
“Love focuses me on my obligations to serve, persevere and hang in there,” Thomas said. “Cherish focuses me on the excellence of my spouse. It turns my eyes from what I’m supposed to do to who my spouse is. Marriage needs both, but without cherishing, I’ve found it becomes more a discipline instead of a delight.”
The word “cherishing” is captured in Song of Songs, while love is famously celebrated in 1 Corinthians 13.
“Rather than focusing on, ‘I’m going to love you and stay with you because I promised to,’ it’s more affirming to my wife to delight in her,” Thomas added.
What are some practical ways to cherish your spouse?
While every spouse feels cherished in their own ways, Thomas says there are a few markers to live by.
Listen: “When your spouse is talking to you, it’s not about what they’re talking about, but about who is talking to you,” Thomas said. “When my wife presents me five different shades of white to paint the bedroom, I can’t possibly care, but it matters to my wife how our bedroom looks and how I engage with her. I would say to guys, if they cherish their car, they probably don’t enjoy waxing it, getting an oil change or filling the tires. But part of cherishing something, or more importantly, someone, is taking care of it or them.”
Protect: In social settings, don’t throw your spouse under the bus.
“You protect their reputation and what others think of them,” Thomas added.
Journal: A couple times per week, appreciate your spouse for who they are by writing about them in a journal. Thomas said to train your brain to be thankful, rather than taking them for granted.
What is “showcasing” your spouse?
“If you cherish something, you want to show it off,” Thomas said. “A woman gets engaged and wants everyone to see her new ring, or a man shows off his new car. It’s only natural that if we cherish our spouse we will want to showcase them. It’s like ballet, where the male dancer recognizes it isn’t to show his strength, but that people go to see the beauty, grace and athleticism of the ballerina. It’s his job to help others see her excellence.”
How was Adam and Eve’s marriage unique?
The first marriage in history came with one less challenge from which couples can glean wisdom.
“Before the fall, one of the reasons Adam and Eve could have such an extraordinary relationship is that they were literally the only two people on the planet,” Thomas said. “There wasn’t anyone Adam could compare Eve to, saying, ‘Well, she’s not as beautiful, smart or funny as this one.’ Eve couldn’t say, ‘Adam’s not as strong, good of a conversationalist, thoughtful or romantic as that guy.’ They both defined what a man and woman is and should be, so they could receive and appreciate each other.”
Thomas said negative comparison leads to contempt, while cherishing achieves contentment.
“None of us are the whole package,” he added. “There was this ancient writer who talked about how God created certain things. For example, the peacock is beautiful, but has a raspy voice. The blackbird is nothing to look at, but has a beautiful voice. Every one of God’s creations has strengths, but that precludes it from having other strengths, so it has certain weaknesses.”
How can someone demotivate their spouse?
Thomas gives us a few habits that discourage our spouses from desiring to cherish.
Selfishness: Making your marriage primarily about you, accommodating your schedule and believing you should be loved “like I want to be loved.”
Addictions: They soak up our time, thoughts and energy.
Abusive words: It is true that words hurt. Conversations can either strengthen or tear down a marriage. Words that are used to manipulate, put down or diminish others are like dynamite to a marriage.