As we look forward to Honoring Marriage in February, I asked Greg Smalley, who heads up our marriage efforts, to guest blog on a sometimes-overlooked aspect of honoring marriage: cherishing your spouse. I hope the content Greg shares below will bless your marriage. -J.D.
I have been to many weddings in my lifetime, and I have heard couples declare their love for each other in ways that brought tears to my eyes. I have listened to words that caused me to laugh out loud, and sadly, I’ve heard couples say things that made me shake my head in disbelief. But one of the most powerful phrases I’ve heard couples use in their ceremony goes something like this: “I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
Maybe you had this same line in your wedding vows. If so, you unleashed a powerful word that can help you build a thriving marriage.
What is the word? It’s not what most people guess — it’s not the word love. Although love is important, it’s the other word I want to focus on. I want to show you the amazing power of the word honor.
Webster’s dictionary defines honor as “having high respect; to confer distinction on; show high value.” I define it as “a decision to see your spouse as a priceless treasure — recognizing his or her incredible worth and value.”
Building honor into your marriage
Building honor in your marriage begins with a straightforward directive from the apostle Paul: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29). In this verse, Paul explains that since we “nourish” and “cherish” our own body, we should do that for our spouse.
To cherish is a mindset, a mentality, an attitude. It means that you recognize your spouse’s incredible value. The great news is that even when we forget how valuable our spouse is, the Lord never does:
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
- You shall be my treasured possession. (Exodus 19:5)
- You are His glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1:18)
- You are precious and honored in my eyes. (Isaiah 43:4)
These verses are dripping with worth and value — they reflect the epitome of honor. God desires for you to grasp your spouse’s value as well. However, there are times that this can be a challenge for anyone in any relationship. Marriage seems to provide many opportunities to love and to honor — but also to dishonor. It’s all in how we choose to see it.
When we cherish our spouse, it makes him or her feel “warm.” The Greek word for cherish is thalpó which means “to warm.” Think of a sunflower field. What’s amazing about sunflowers is that the petals close at night but open during the daylight when the sun is shining bright. Watch any time-lapsed video of sunflowers and they will track the sun all day long. They turn toward the sun for the warmth. This is the power of cherishing in marriage — your spouse is warmed when you recognize his or her value.
The Cherish List
I watched the power of cherishing someone during one particular Thanksgiving gathering. My family spent the holiday weekend at my parents’ home in Branson, Missouri, and at one point in time, my parents got into a huge argument. They were so frustrated with each other that they both ran off to different parts of the house. Of course, all the women in the family chased after my mother to provide emotional comfort and support. Since I was the only guy present, I figured I’d better chase after my father who had gone into his home office.
I let the situation calm down for a few minutes before I knocked on his door.
“Come in,” he reluctantly replied.
As I walked into his office I found my dad sitting behind his computer. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I assumed he was online reading the news or looking at the weather. But when I walked up behind him, I was surprised at what he was looking at.
Instead of finding him perusing his favorite websites, I found him reading a document entitled “Why Norma is so Valuable.” (My mom’s name is Norma, just in case you were wondering).
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Well,” my dad began, “a number of years ago I started a list of why your mom is so valuable. So when I’m upset with her or when we’ve had a fight, I’ve learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am at your mother, I make myself read through this list.”
As I reviewed the document, it literally contained hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom’s value. It was amazing.
“When I first start to read through the list and I’m still upset,” explained my dad, “I usually get to the first three or four items and I think, What was I thinking? or This one is no longer valid! or I’m definitely going to erase that one. But the further down I read, the faster I realize that I have an amazing wife.”
This is the best idea I’ve ever heard of for cherishing your spouse. Luke 12:34 explains why this is so powerful: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In other words, your heart will be open to whatever you value. But recognizing someone’s value also warms him or her to you and your spouse’s heart will open as well (think of the sunflower).
Cherishing your spouse
You can create your own cherish list just in time for Valentine’s Day! Think about why your spouse is so valuable to you and simply begin to write. For example, you might list character traits, gender differences, spiritual gifts, personal values, individual morals, parenting skills, personality characteristics, physical traits, the roles your husband or wife plays that you appreciate, honorable ways in which your spouse treats you, and so on. Focus on the Family has created a “Cherishing Your Spouse” card that you can download at HonoringMarriage2017 and give to your spouse.
Be sure to keep this list nearby so you can periodically add to it and revise it when you need to remember your spouse’s value. Also, don’t keep this amazing list to yourself — share it with your husband or wife. This Valentine’s Day, let your spouse know that you recognize his or her great value!
The content in this blog post was adapted from two of Greg Smalley’s recent books, “Ready to Wed” and “Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage.” You can purchase these books from our online bookstore.