The Art of Cherishing Your Spouse

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Crafting a Cherishing Mindset

You can pay $25,000 for a watch that will never disappoint you. It will tell time with mathematical precision. If you look at it fifteen times a day, it will serve you each time — and never get tired doing so.

And it will never complain if you look at it a sixteenth time.

You can take it off in the evening and put it on in the morning, and that watch won’t whine that it has been ignored all night long, that you are just using it. It won’t ask you for a birthday or anniversary present; it won’t make any demands on you. It will just tell you what you need to know, look attractive on your wrist, and exist solely to meet your specific needs.

But who wants to be married to a watch?
More people than you might think.
Husbands and wives often treat each other according to whatever roles they expect from each other. “Just do what you’re supposed to do and try to look reasonably attractive while you’re doing it, and everything will be fine.”

The problem with this kind of thinking is that husbands and wives are souls who want to be married to someone who will cherish the whole person, not just a particular role a person may fulfill.

Because life is so busy and there are so many demands on us, we have to intentionally build a cherishing mind-set or risk valuing our spouses not for who they are but for what they do. Someone valued only for what they do feels like an employee, not a cherished spouse.

Neuroplasticity

Jesus said that Christian fruit comes from those who

hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. — Luke 8:15 NRSV

Jesus’ words about bearing fruit with “patient endurance” (steadily, over the long haul) predate neurological science by almost two millennia, but since He designed the brain, it shouldn’t surprise us that, scientifically speaking, He was thousands of years ahead of His time in understanding human nature. Neurologists (those who study the brain) now describe how our brains are literally and physiologically shaped by our experience over time. We fashion grooves in our brains that often direct our actions. Repeated actions impact our brain so powerfully that whatever that action is becomes our default mode of response.

This explains how you learn to play an instrument. At first, you have to think about where to put your fingers when you see an A# on the musical score. After a while, you see the A# and your fingers just go there. Even later, you don’t even need the musical score; you just play the A# because you know — without even thinking about it — it’s the note that comes next.

Think about a baseball player. When we were very young, if someone hit a ground ball at us, our natural instinct would be to move out of the way. With time and practice, our coaches taught us to move toward the ball in order to field it. What was once an unconscious decision to move away from the ball, after repetitive, intentional practice, becomes an unconscious reaction to move toward the ball. It would feel weird and unnatural for Bryce Harper to move away from a hard grounder or duck when a fly ball is coming his way.

That’s neuroplasticity in action.

The same principle applies when learning to cherish, post-infatuation. We selfish, immature people have to think about how to cherish. We have to cultivate thankfulness and gratitude over bitterness and accusation. We have to be intentional rather than distracted. We have to remind ourselves to think about our spouses with delight.

It’s not a choice; it’s a hundred choices, a thousand choices, and then a hundred thousand choices.

If we keep doing that, it’s like we’re planting a seed and then watering the ground, fertilizing around it, and weeding it. First we see the shoot, then the leaf, and finally the flower.

In other words, we can grow cherish. In the language of neurology, cherish is (forgive the 1970s pun) “groovy.” We create the grooves by what we do, what we think about, and how we respond until it becomes our default mode of relating.

Watch the Cherish video

Excerpted with permission from Cherish by Gary Thomas, copyright Gary Thomas.

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Your Turn

What is your default mode of relating with your spouse? Jesus created our brains to be trainable! What do you want to “groove” your mind to be like in your marriage? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotional Daily

Gary L. Thomas

Gary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of over a dozen books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Pure Pleasure, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith.

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