Lisa thought she had met a near-perfect man sitting next to her on an airplane, until he talked himself into the gutter. She figures he was a doctor, given what he looked at on his computer, and the paper he was writing. What really got her excited, however, was the food he brought onto the plane. “He was super healthy,” Lisa recounted to me afterwards with enthusiasm. “He drank a green smoothie, had a bottle of seltzer water, ate a quinoa and black bean salad, a bag of carrots, and a chunk of cheddar cheese for dessert.”
If you knew my wife, you would know this is as attractive as it gets. If “you are what you eat,” Lisa loves someone who eats healthy.
Lisa’s husband (that would be me), on that same flight (we booked late and couldn’t get two seats together), ate a yogurt parfait (“Do you realize how much sugar is in that kind of yogurt?” Lisa asked me), a bag of nuts, and some dark chocolate raisins (the “dark” part matters to Lisa—a marital compromise between the two of us).
How could I compete for esteem with a guy who chooses a green smoothie when his wife isn’t even with him, who actually purchases a quinoa and black bean salad and considers a chunk of cheddar cheese “dessert”?
After we landed, Lisa heard the doctor take a phone call and her opinion about him completely changed. In clipped tones, he was cruelly short with his wife; there was no “warm up,” no endearing “hello, sweetie,” just a hard utilitarianism: “Yeah. Okay, well, I’m still on the plane…. Whatever.” After several phrases like this, his voice suddenly changed: “Hiiiiii Alex, how are yoooouuuu?” Then it changed back again, for the worse: “Okay. That’s fine.”
“I already said we can go as soon as I get home.”
The absence of any “It’s good to hear your voice,” “I love you,” or enthusiasm (like he showed for his child) made it a pretty cold call. He cherished his kid with his voice, but not his wife.
This doctor, given his research, understands far more about the human body than I could ever hope to learn. He may treat diseases with the best of them. But did he realize the damage that simple phone call did to his marriage? Did he realize the climate he was creating for his soon-to-be marital reunion?
“What was the matter with what I said?” he might argue.
But that’s the wrong question, if you seek to cherish. Cherish is something positive, not the lack of negative. To cherish, you have to ask, “What was right, affirming, loving about that conversation?”
Every conversation—every one!—takes you closer to or further away from a cherishing marriage. “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov. 18:21). I love the way Barbara and Dennis Rainey describe this: “We can create life in our mates with our positive words, or we can inflict destruction with our negative or neglectful words.”
This is just one example of why I think it’s essential to pursue a “cherishing” marriage. “Commitment Love” teaches me not to harm my wife and to avoid being mean to my wife. The call to cherish my wife turns me toward accomplishing something positive rather than to avoid something negative. Cherishing reminds me to speak encouraging words, to remain interested, and to build her up. It’s not enough to simply avoid doing harm; it’s about my wife leaving every conversation knowing that she matters to me, that I’m interested in her above all others, and that I can never get enough of her.
If you haven’t taken up the call to cherish your spouse like this yet, now’s a good time to start.
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com
You can check out Gary’s book, Cherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage here: