To Love and to Cherish

Love is the muscle of marriage. Cherish is the heart of marriage. — Gary Thomas

“To love and to cherish… till death do us part.”

How many of us said these vows on the day we were married? Whether we spoke with a nervous, shaky voice or a confident, exuberant promise, most of us — if not all of us — said something to this effect on that special day at the altar. Since then, we might have read marriage books, gone through couples studies or couples counseling, and perhaps had numerous conversations about what it means to love one another. But rarely do we talk about what it means to cherish one another.

To cherish something means to protect it, respect it, notice it, honor it, show gratitude for it, and hold it dear. Think about this for a moment. If you had a Tiffany engagement ring, would you put it in a shoebox? If you had a painting by Rembrandt, would you place it in a Popsicle stick frame? If you had an autographed document from George Washington, would you use it as a coaster? (If you would do these things… well, that’s for a different study.)

When we cherish something, we put energy into showcasing it and protecting it. The same is true of marriage. When we cherish our spouses — as opposed to just loving our spouses — we strengthen, enrich, and deepen our relationships. We take our marriages to the “upstairs level” of living — the level where we are the truest versions of ourselves, feel most comfortable to see and be seen, and are our most authentic, honest, and real.

Of all the metaphors that could be used to describe cherishing in marriage, perhaps the best is what happens in a ballet. In the pas de deux of ballet — the couples’ dancing — the male dancer showcases the beauty, grace, strength, and coordination of his partner, the female dancer. It’s the dance behind the dance. It’s the intentional, meaningful, and purposeful choice of the male dancer to showcase the female. In doing so, the male supports and stabilizes the female as she lifts and turns, allowing her to perform feats she could never do alone.

In this first session, we will examine how marriage really takes off when we get some of our highest pleasure from seeing others honor, appreciate, and admire our spouse. This is one step above even selflessness. We’re not merely serving; we’re show- casing. That changes our heart toward our spouse and makes him or her feel even more cherished. And cherished spouses tend to thrive more than those who believe they are a colossal disappointment or embarrassment to the other person.

Let’s get started.

Opening Questions

• How did you meet your spouse?
• What stands out to you from your wedding day?
• What are you hoping to get out of this time together as an individual, as a couple, and as a group?

Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.

Video – Session 1: To Love and To Cherish

Notes

Love is the athletics of marriage, but cherish is the ballet — the wonder, the art, the mesmerizing aspect of romance. Cherish provides the artistry in marriage.

Ballet is woman, and all my life I have dedicated my art to her. — George Balanchine

Some of the differences we find in the Bible between love and cherish:

Wives want to be more than loved by their husbands if you define love as commitment or “hanging in there.” Husbands may be uncomfortable with the word cherish, but they certainly want the concept of what this means. Cherishing will motivate you to pursue each other.

Rather than having our love diminished by each other’s imperfections, we can cherish each other’s gifts and showcase our spouse’s abilities. As George Balanchine said, “The beautiful becomes yet more beautiful.”

Marriages will change for the better when we start to focus on showcasing and supporting the other person.

I believe cherish to be a higher plan within the context of love, something like the upstairs level in a home. —Jan Karon

God uses stories of couples who struggle, persevere, and come out on the other side. But we also need in the church today stories of couples who cherish each other — who find the sweet happy spot of marriage.

We don’t want marriages where we just grit our teeth and vow to tolerate each other because the Bible says we don’t qualify for a divorce. The good news is that we can learn to cherish one another, even if we’ve stopped doing this in the past.

Cherishing is not based on infatuation but authenticity — on knowing someone, preferring someone, and choosing someone above all others. This is why cherish can take your marriage to a new place.

Cherish looks at the idealized form of marriage — how we can have the type of marriages that inspire others.

Discussion Questions

  1. Before everyone shares in the large group, turn to one or two people next to you and finish this sentence: “After watching the video, one question I now have is…”
  2. What stands out to you from the video teaching: a story, a quote, a thought, an idea? Explain.
  3. Other than your spouse, whom or what do you cherish? How would your spouse answer that question for you?
  4. Read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud, several volunteers taking turns reading a few verses each. According to this passage, what does it look and feel like to be loved?
  5. Now read Song of Songs 1 aloud, choosing three volunteer readers for the various “speakers” in the dialogue. According to this passage, what does it look and feel like to be cherished?
  6. When was a moment in your life when you remember being cherished by your spouse, a family member, or a friend? How have you felt cherished by God?
  7. Read Psalm 139:1-18 aloud, again using volunteer readers. What does this passage say about the way God loves us and cherishes us?
  8. What is one action step you could take with your spouse as a result of this session?

Group Activity

For this activity, each participant will need a piece of paper and a pen to record ideas.

Part of understanding and exploring what it means to cherish one another is verbalizing what it means to be cherished. This may seem simple for some, but for others, it will require thought and maybe a few examples. So, take a few minutes as a couple to talk about what makes you feel the most cherished by people in your life. Is it a phone call or a message from a friend during the week? Is it sharing pieces of your story as you relate to another person? Is it spending time together outside of group time or sharing a meal together? When everyone is finished, share your best idea as a couple with the group.

Closing Prayer

Take a few moments to pray together in some of the following directions:

• Ask God to show you ways that he’s loved and cherished you as individuals and as couples.

• Ask God to allow this message of how to cherish to sink deep into your hearts and minds as you seek to deepen your love for your spouse.

    • Ask God to show you what it really looks like to cherish your spouse.
    • Ask God to open yourselves up to authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability as you spend time together as a group.
    • Thank God for his presence in your lives, for the people in your group, and for the opportunity to cherish your spouse in new ways as a result.

* * *

Your Turn

Come share your thoughts and comments on our blog. We want to hear from you!




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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