“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …”
(Isaiah 49:15, 16)
Couples who cherish each other recognize that each spouse is created in God’s image and is, therefore, of infinite worth and value. They understand that God created everyone different, and as a result they treasure the unique characteristics in their spouse. Thriving couples work to keep an attitude of respect and appreciation for each other (Philippians 2:3). They remember what they value about their marriage, keep reminders of good memories, and celebrate milestones together.
Worth. Value. Treasure. Love. Tenderness. These are just a few of the words that might be used to characterize the act of cherishing. However you describe it, that act is integral to family harmony and stability. This is especially true in marriage. It’s important to add that this kind of worth isn’t something that must be earned by your spouse. It’s a gift you give unconditionally.
When you got married, your wedding vows probably included a promise to “love, honor, and cherish” each other. Do you think you’ve been successful at living up to those vows? If not, here are a few things you can do to start beefing up the cherishing aspect of your relationship.
The apostle Paul tells us that a Christian is like an old clay pot. On the outside the pot seems dull and unremarkable. But inside is an indescribable treasure – the treasure of Christ’s eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Whether you realize it or not, you are living every day of your life in the presence of a precious hidden treasure. It sits with you at the table and sleeps beside you in bed at night. It’s so close that you can reach out and touch it any time you like. It’s the treasure that lies concealed within the person you chose to marry.
Unfortunately, time has a way of tarnishing the glitter and making the treasure appear plain and mundane. When this happens, husbands and wives lose sight of the hidden mystery that drew them together in the first place. And that’s tragic, because treasure is all about mystery. Treasure is the word we use to describe things that are not merely valuable in monetary terms but iconic, archetypal, and significant in some profoundly primal sense – things like the Holy Grail or the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
Marriage partners need to put out an effort to keep this sense of significance alive at the heart of their relationship. They need to learn how to treasure and cherish each other by intentionally lifting their old feelings of attraction and romance out of the realm of mere emotion and transforming them into a steady, consistent attitude.
Exactly how is this “treasuring” accomplished? The answer is simple: by remembering. When life becomes comfortable, familiar, and routine, most of us get complacent. We forget the blessings we’ve received. That’s why God so often had to remind the people of Israel of the many wonders He had performed on their behalf (Isaiah 46:9). That’s why Jesus established the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His redeeming work on the cross (Luke 22:19).
If you and your spouse have lost sight of the sparkle that led you to the altar, it’s time you reached back into your shared past and made an attempt to reclaim it. Once it’s within your grasp, it would also be a good idea to follow it forward from that point in time and try to remember all the little incidents along the pathway of marriage that have made you precious to each other. Memory is a powerful tool. If you want a strong marriage, you have to know how to make the most of it.
Keeping a record
Dr. Greg Smalley describes how he once walked in on his father, marriage expert and counselor Dr. Gary Smalley, and found him staring intently at his computer screen.
“What are you looking at?” asked Greg.
“Well,” his 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, I make myself read through this list.”
Gary Smalley had laid hold of a vital truth. Thriving couples intentionally treasure and honor each other, and they do it by keeping a conscious account of the things they value about their relationship. As in the life of God’s people, who often set up “stones of remembrance” to commemorate the Lord’s mighty works, this is most effectively achieved by preserving precious memories and embodying reminders of ongoing blessings in a tangible, physical form – for example, by keeping a journal or writing down a list of the qualities you love and admire most in your spouse (and sharing it with him or her as opportunities arise). It’s also important to take time out to celebrate anniversaries and other significant marital milestones. These occasions can be enhanced by the giving of special gifts—for example, a ring or a pendant—intended to commemorate special events in a couple’s life.
If cherishing is to be pushed to an even higher level in a couple’s marital experience, it will happen because they find ways not only to keep in touch with the past, but to project the past into the future.
There’s an important spiritual principle embodied in this thought. Like God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12), our relationship with the Lord is a living, active, and powerful thing. The wonders He performed yesterday mean nothing unless we can make them into a paradigm for what we’re doing today and where we’re going tomorrow.
It’s the same in marriage. The cherishing at the heart of the marital union needs to be preserved as a living thing. Sometimes when a couple’s relationship begins to falter they try to fix it by making an attempt to recapture the feelings they had for each other back in the “good old days.” That’s fine, but it isn’t enough to propel their marriage forward into the next phase. If you want to grow in your ability to love and honor each other, you have to turn yesterday’s good times into a springboard to the great things God has in store up ahead. The key is to find some way to link the whole thing together in a single unbroken thread.
Questions for Discussion
- How can we be more intentional in the future about unearthing, cherishing, and celebrating the hidden and mysterious treasures we recognize in each other? What can we do to prevent the routine of life from creating an attitude of boredom about the life we share together?
- How can we keep the thread of God’s plan for our lives unbroken as we move together from the past into the future?
- What is one way I can let you know that I cherish you over the coming week?