It’s hard to believe, but we’re near the end of 2017. It’s been a good year.
2016, on the other hand, was not my favorite. I put on a lot of weight, didn’t watch what I ate, and didn’t exercise on a consistent basis. I swept some unresolved conflict with my boss under the rug and pretended it didn’t exist. For the first time in years, I panicked when I taught or made announcements at church. And, after a role change on our staff, I struggled with my value, worth, and identity.
At the end of the year, I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. As I addressed my health issues, unresolved conflict, speaking anxiety, and identity in Christ, I also knew it was time to work on my marriage.
As a marriage pastor in the church, I had a good marriage. Kristen and I got along well, pursued Christ together, and led our family as a united couple. But, I knew I could improve my marriage, specifically in the ways I served my wife and our family. Too often, I couldn’t say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
In 2017, I wanted to grow our marriage from good to great. There are many areas we were doing well, but we know we could always improve.
In January, I read Gary’s book, Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything For Your Marriage. This was the right book, at the right time, for me and for my marriage. I knew I could do a better job of cherishing Kristen in the small ways by paying more attention to her, giving her hugs, encouraging her as a mom, and by being more patient with her in the areas where she could grow.
But, I also took note of the ways I could cherish her in big ways. In particular, I landed on four ways I could do a better job of cherishing my wife in 2017.
1) I’m dealing with my selfishness.
I’m the most selfish person I know, and selfishness has no place in a Christian marriage. James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
If you’ve been married for more than one minute, you know selfishness is a problem in marriage. It’s easy to spot in our spouse, but much harder to see in our own life. Here are a few ways selfishness might play out in your marriage.
- You struggle with food and overeating or alcohol and drinking too much. The selfish spouse makes the decision to satisfy their fleshly desires instead of honoring God and their spouse.
- You hear your baby crying, but you act like you’re asleep. Don’t Do It.
- Maybe you shop and spend too much money on clothes when you know finances are tight.
- You choose to satisfy your desires with porn instead of by pursuing your spouse.
The Solution: Act like Christ. Read Philippians 2:5-11 and take note of the ways Christ selflessly served us. Read James 4:8 and draw near to God. The closer we draw to God, the more we can deal with our selfishness.
2) I’m living with my wife in an understanding way.
I love my wife, but we are definitely two VERY different creatures. She likes to save things, I like to throw it all away. Her inbox holds thousands of emails, while mine is in the single digits. She likes things clean, while I like them neat. Sometimes those differences can be a source of attraction, but other times we drive each other crazy. We’ve got to learn to be a student of each other and live with each other in an understanding way.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
He challenges us to be a student of our spouse. In the Greek, the phrase understanding way means to know them “according to knowledge.” If we don’t become knowledgeable, then our spiritual life will suffer and our prayers might be hindered. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the help I can get when it comes to spiritual intimacy.
The Solution: Talk to one another. Ask questions. Put down your phone and turn the television off. If we’re going to live with each other in an understanding way, then we need to take practical steps so we can know them “according to knowledge.” One of the reasons marriage can be so challenging is because two sinners come together, each with their own personality, wiring, and gifting. We’ve got to be intentional to understand and cherish each other.
3) I’m making our marriage our message.
Our marriages communicate a message to the world. When others look at your marriage, what do they see?
- Do you have fun or are you a bored, married couple?
- Do you argue all the time or do you withdraw from challenging situations?
- Is your marriage filled with passion or do you just co-exist?
- Do you date and pursue each other with intention? Or do you go through the motions, car pool, and bills?
When single men and women look at your marriage, would it make them want to get married? What message does your marriage communicate to a watching world?
A marriage lacking “cherish” looks like every other dead, co-existing, boring marriage our there. But a marriage filled with and marked by cherish communicates the beauty of the Gospel and the richness of intimacy with Jesus.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
The Solution: Remember as followers of Christ our marriage communicates a message to a watching world. Will your marriage be like everyone else’s, or will it be set apart, as holy, like a city on the hill that cannot, and should not, be hidden? What are some small steps you can take to cherish your spouse and make it like one you do not want to keep hidden?
4) I’m playing good offense and defense in our marriage.
One of my Bible heroes is Nehemiah. To make a long story short, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king in Persia and asked for permission from the king to come back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall that had been destroyed.
He faced opposition from every side. God’s enemies mocked him for trying to rebuild the wall. His own people lacked the passion needed to do something great for the Lord and for His people.
In spite of internal and external opposition, Nehemiah and his team press on to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah 4:16-17 says, “From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.”
In other words, some people worked to defend the wall from the opposition. They help spears, shields, and bows and played defense. Others, however, built the wall. These were the ones playing offense—they took the bricks and the mortar and built up the wall.
However, there was one group who carried burdens who played both offense and defense. With one hand they built the wall and with the other they held a weapon.
When I read this passage, it challenged me to be like who carried a burden in marriage. I want to be someone who plays offense with one hand and defense with the other. In other words, I want to be proactive to improve our marriage. I want to take my wife on dates, pray together, laugh, and steward our finances well. But I know we don’t live in a bubble and we face attacks from the enemy. We pray in the midst of challenges and crises. When we fall short, we confess, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. We need to play good offense and defense in our marriage.
The Solution: Initiate and be proactive to grow your marriage and respond with humility and confession when you fall short. Like a basketball player who consistently switches between playing offense and defense, I want to be a husband who plays both good offense and defense in our marriage.
We still have lots of work to do, but I’m thankful for the ways Cherish challenged me to grow in my marriage.
What is it for you? What are the areas where you can grow in the way you love and cherish your spouse? Think back to the day you promised in your wedding vows to cherish one another. Your areas of growth will be different than mine, but I hope you’ll take this challenge to grow your marriage and better cherish your spouse. When applied in the right way, cherishing your spouse can make all the difference in your marriage.
Scott Kedersha serves as the Director of Marriage Ministry at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX. Since 2006, Scott has helped prepare nearlyweds, establish newlyweds, and enrich and restore all marriages. He’s working on his first book (Ready Or Knot? Baker Books, February, 2019), and writes at ScottKedersha.com. Scott and Kristen have been married since September of 2001 and are the parents of four boys named Duncan, Drew, Carson & Lincoln. You can download a free date night guide through Scott’s website (124 Killer Date Night Ideas).