December 9, 2016

It’s Not Enough to Not Abuse: We Have to Cherish

Gary Thomas — 

We have to cherish

My last post “Enough is Enough” crashed our website several times. We’ve had to upgrade our website platform and pay for the frantic efforts to keep the blog up in the midst of the overload. We’re so sorry for the frustration you’ve had and the ensuing issues that followed (like earlier blog posts not being immediately available).

It’s at least a hopeful sign that many Christians are apparently resonating with the thought, “It’s time to stop the abuse.”

But stopping the abuse is just the first step. Now it’s time to address the second. Christians shouldn’t be known for merely avoiding evil. We’ve got to celebrate the excellent, the good, and pursue the high call of a truly biblical love.

In other words, it’s not enough that a wife not feel threatened. A Christian wife (and a Christian husband) should be cherished. (I trust it’s obvious that this is not a word for those wives who need to escape an abusing husband.)

 Reading the testimonies of so many women from the blog made me want to redouble my efforts to treat Lisa in a special manner. I don’t want her to just feel “safe.” That should be a given. I want her to feel really and truly cherished.

“Cherish” is, after all, what the vast majority of us promised on our wedding day. We promised to “love and to cherish until death do us part.” It’s what we said we would do in front of a lot of human witnesses and, even more importantly, in front of God.

To say, “I didn’t really mean it” or “Hey, that’s just what the pastor told me to say,” isn’t good enough. If we’ve let this promise slip, we need now more than ever to pick it back up and pursue a cherishing marriage. Besides, we’d be eager to practice cherishing each other if we truly understood the benefits of doing so.

If your heart was broken over the stories of pain so many spouses face, one of the things you can do in response is to raise the bar for what is considered acceptable behavior. Your marriage—how you treat your spouse, talk about your spouse, cherish your spouse—can actually change the climate of many other homes. You can bless other husbands and wives. You can make life so much more pleasant and feel so much more secure for so many children (other than your own).

How?

Personal witness and transformation is the Christian model for societal change. Paul says “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He told Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely and to persevere in them so that everyone could see his progress—and so that others could be saved (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

High ideals need fleshly models. Gregory the Great wrote “Almighty God [gives us] examples, so that we may more easily hope for everything we believe to be impossible, the more that we hear that others have already accomplished it.”

Is a cherishing marriage possible? You can show others that it is. And when you do, others will take notice and perhaps be convicted. When a husband cherishes his wife he raises the bar for other men who are entrenched in their selfishness and apathy. Christian husbands who treat their wives like Eve, the only woman in the world, challenge men to see that simply not lusting at other women isn’t enough; on the contrary, in a cherishing marriage we look at our wives in a cherishing way, truly seeing them (they are never invisible to us) and searching them out, celebrating their beauty. Such a wife feels pursued, adored, valued, and affirmed.

When wives cherish their husbands other wives will see that laughter gained at a husband’s expense costs too much. Such a wife can challenge other women with the rare satisfaction that she enjoys in her marriage (because cherishing leads to increased satisfaction). She can raise the bar for how a woman looks at, touches, treats and talks about her husband.

I’ve had so many goals in life: wanting to publish a book, finish a marathon, and many others. One that I am now determined to chase is that my wife will know, in the bottom of her heart, that I cherish her. Perhaps our marriage could kick-start other marriages that have grown a little cold or tired or selfish.

Will you and your spouse make a commitment to pursue a cherishing marriage? Some of you may have to start unilaterally—your spouse may not “awaken” toward you until you start cherishing them on your own. It may take some time. But you can part of those who seek to raise the bar of what is possible in marriage. Not only will you be blessed by doing so (because a cherishing marriage is much more pleasant to be part of), but you can inspire other couples around you. You can set a higher bar for your own children.

You see, I believe a cherishing marriage can be learned and chosen. A person might “fall in love” but they have to choose to cherish. There are attitudes we can adopt and habits we can practice that groom our minds and hearts to cherish our spouse. It’s something God wants for us and if we will just look to Him and His wisdom, He’ll empower us and guide us and help us to get there.

Let’s not stop at “I don’t abuse my spouse.” Let’s pursue, “I want to cherish my spouse.”

My book on cherishing your spouse will be released in just a few weeks now. You can pre-order it here, and get a lot of free stuff thrown in as well (including the first three chapters, immediately):Cherish

http://www.garythomas.com/cherish/

Imagine if men ordered this book for themselves and their wives and said, “I want to build a cherishing marriage in 2017. I want you to feel even more cherished by the time 2018 rolls around.” Husbands, how do you think that would make your wives feel?

What if women decided to study together how to cherish husbands who stumble in so many ways? What if they said, “Being negative and complaining hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Let’s see what happens when we choose to follow through on our promise to cherish our husbands”?

Early reviewers have told me that they believe this book delivers on its promise. I hope you will give it a chance.

And just to cut off potential criticism before it gets to the comments: I have a chapter in this book that says spectacular advice for some can be spectacularly bad advice for others. I am not calling wives who are married to husbands they should separate from to cherish their abusers. If, however, you are convinced God wants you to stay in a difficult marriage—as should be true for the vast majority of us—cherishing is a tool and an effective strategy to make whatever marriage we have even better.

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17 responses to It’s Not Enough to Not Abuse: We Have to Cherish

  1. Thank you Gary for this post. When I was married I was told by members of the church we belonged to and this included the pastor, my husband wouldn’t have to cheat on me or discipline me if I was a better Christian wife. It was my fault for the way he treated me. I was pregnant and in shock that they could say this, not only because of my relationship with Jesus was real I was doing my best to be the wife God wanted me to be, and definitely did my wifely duties even as the world judges. Up every morning making his breakfast and coffee and packing his lunch. Dinner ready when he came home while raising his daughter from his first marriage. For my entire pregnancy I made at least two trips a month to the ER and after our daughter was born it was only two weeks before I was back in the ER transported by ambulance because he had hit me so hard in my stomach that had staples I flew back into a wall and collapsed. I was filled with so much shame even while a doctor was examining me I was embarrassed.Later I was sitting n the floor in front of him and I said something he didn’t like and he tried to snap my neck, an injury that to this day has caused me great pain (unfortunately my father had hit me in the back of the head when I was a teenager, so today I live with a reverse curve to my cervical column and adult onset scoliosis and a compressed ulnar nerve. Blaming the victim or acting like it is no big deal does not stop the abuse. What is sad it is not just women and children who are abused I have known men who had abusive wives. They have no one to turn to because they are men people don’t believe that they can be abused. Jesus is our defender and if He is in us then we should defend those He loves which is everyone. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am at today in spite of those that blamed me for the abuse I have lived through and I hate to say it that was not the only church others have treated me in similar way. I have been asked more times than I can count by other Christians, ‘What did you do to make them do that to you?’ and each time it still hurts. It amazes me at times things Christians willingly protest and condemn, while turning blind eyes to sins in their own body. It took me a while not to blame God for their treatment and to even let go of the resentment I had. I can talk about this now without the venom of unforgiveness and hate. To discuss the abuse and the rejection as simple fact that yes still hurts but forgive those who hurt me. It is never right to hurt anyone or to enable one to hurt another. Jesus has called us to love and His love is not blind. His love see everything, the good and the ugly but loves us and as we receive His love it transforms us and makes us new. Thank you so much for shedding light on this. God bless you and your family. Forgive me for going on so long and if I got off track this post is deeply moving.

  2. I appreciate your example Gary. Your humility is great to watch. I am striving to be a better and better husband and it’s so good to read about folks here that are striving for something beautiful in marriage as well. Thanks for your work!

  3. Thank you for this post and your previous one, Gary. It is so good to have men in leadership recognize and confront what has been hidden under the church rug for so long. Thanks for being courageous and faithful to the Lord and caring about your sisters. We are grateful.

  4. Looking forward to your new book Gary. I have learned so much from your previous publishings and have transformed my way of seeing my wife. After 2 failed marriages in which I put my selfish desires before any attempt to Cherish my wife, I can look back and see the paths of failure that I don’t want to go down again. The real vision that God designed for a Marraige combines both Love and Cherishing for the spouses, but am any times we see it as a selfish inclination toward personal satisfaction, when in reality it is modeled by Jesus and His unselfish, unyielding Love for the church. I have seen the difference in the beauty of a giving marriage as compared to a self centered marriage, and thank God for my new eyesight into the ultimate need for Cherishing if I want the Ultimate God-honoring Marriage!
    Marraiges all have issues that arise that cloud our focus toward our spouses, but I vow to above all cherish my wife through the promise that I made before her and God, and fight through the evil that tends to cloud my vision. For the Ultimate Goal is to Honor God in everything we do, and God blessed me with this wonderful woman to be my wife, so I must treat every day with her as a Blessing to be Thankful for!

  5. Thank you for your prayers, heartfelt ministry, and compassion. You have been a kind and assertive voice on an issue of importance. I again see what you are imploring as preventive measures if people will heed. Keeping Faith for God’s plan and will for a future cherishing husband and, me, his cherishing wife. Believing.

  6. I am very grateful for your previous post and for this one. It is wonderful to hear a Christian man standing against abuse (including hidden abuse) and encouraging Christian marriages to become what God intended all along. I am also grateful for your disclaimer: “I am not calling wives who are married to husbands they should separate from to cherish their abusers.” It is important for women to know that some men are abusive by nature and don’t want to change. No amount of cherishing them will improve the situation. If a person (man or woman) needs help in discerning whether their partner is abusive or not, and the church is not helping, there are numerous Christian resources available. Thank you again for speaking out on this topic.

    • Gail,
      I want to say something about one of your thoughts – that women must know that some men are “abusive by nature and don’t want to change”. If “by nature” you mean the way God created them, it’s
      not right: God created us perfect, “at His image”. “By nature” should be “by human evil, perverse intervention” – abusive education, lack of love, evil examples. And the fact that they don’t want to
      change is because they lost connection with God, no matter if they call themselves Christians. The heart must belong to Christ, not the title. Here I see the Christ-like woman – sacrificial in face of evil, as Jesus was. First she must try to truly understand the roots of his behavior in order to be able to help him change. He by himself can’t. They are totally immersed in darkness, unable to see their evil behavior, so unable to be willing to change! She must try to understand, not simply rebuke him and desert him. Remember, “Those who deserve love at least need it most.” Christ was able to understand even those who put Him on the cross. My appeal is, try to understand where this evil comes from, the roots of it. Understanding brings forgiveness and love in spite of all. Christ-like love will unable you to look for help FOR HIM. Do everything possible to help him before you look for sympathy and help for yourself. It is how I understand our wedding promises before God.

      • PS. Gayle,
        Myself I live in emotionally abusive atmosphere. Sometimes it’s a living hell. I know the suffering, I know the pain. In it you may often answer in an untempered and abusive way as well. I know what is to feel ruined. But I also know why he is what he is and how he thinks and feel. I suffer undeservedly, but I have great compassion on him. And believe me, he started to understand more and more about himself, and is now able to restrain, not always but more and more, his destructive emotions. It’s encouraging me to have patience. It is why I’d still say, we must try our best to help them, who cause our suffering. If we don’t try helping them, who else would do? I have the assurance that we must look for Christian psychological help, Christian therapy and counseling, improve our knowledge in these domains in order to have beneficial behavior and avoid wrong behavior ourselves, look for psychological support ourselves, constantly praying and fasting, trusting God. Thus we share Jesus’ suffering for the cause of saving the undeserving sinners we all are. And then, if after all sincere efforts nothing changes and our health declines and our children are exposed, we may say enough is enough, at least taking safe distance and leave it in God’s hands, continuing to pray God for the abuser.

      • I’m not sure I agree w you biblically. We are all born sinners. “I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. ” psalm 51
        “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” romans 3
        I think better to say ” but for the grace of God go I”
        We are all born sinful and selfish. Look at any toddler. They need to be taught goodness etc. so those who aren’t taught well as children seem to grow up to be more abusive it seems. I think your points about sacrificialoy trying to help an abusive spouse are commendable. I think most truly Christian spouses do try! But there is a point as stated when nothing is working and maybe staying is actually being disobedient to God. May God give us wisdom to proceed well for his glory and our family’s protection. And may the church leaders step up to the plate to really help! Amen!

    • What resources? I’m confused still on the line between a difficult marriage and abuse. Thx 🙂

  7. As formally abused by my current spouse, a thing of the past, I agree, but the act of forgiveness has to take place first for so many, if not all. It has taken me over 3 years to come to the threshhold of forgiveness. True forgiveness. But some are still waiting. Its a hard hurt to carry and not know when its going to end. What advice do you give for those waiting for the air to clear, so to speak?

    • Brenda, do you mean how to forgive? Tony Evans has a wonderful chapter on forgiveness in his new book, Kingdom Marriage. I also have a chapter on forgiveness in Sacred Marriage.

      Trying to forgive is sort of like living at the beach and watching the tide. It keeps coming back and then retreats. It comes back, and then retreats. It’s different from everyone, but it’s almost never a “forgive and forget” tied-up-in-a-bow one-time event.

  8. Your heart for your wife, and for women in general, is a beautiful thing. Christ is shining through. May more men (and women) follow your example. May Christian marriage be what God intends it to be. Thank you for speaking out!

    • We need LOTS of examples! (Thus the book.) And I have learned more from what NOT to do (my own mistakes) in marriage than what I’ve done right; Lisa has been very patient with me. It does help a little to be three decades in, but Lisa now makes it rather easy for me, in all honesty. Like so many couples, we could testify that the empty nest years ROCK. We still miss–deeply–being active parents and not seeing our children very often, but boy, it’s a sweet season of marriage.

      • I am not sure how to take it a step further than being an example but it is a great step! For me, an example was not enough. I believed for a long time that abuse was in every home. I thought others like myself simply covered bruises when possible and stayed home when they could be covered. I thought it was just a taboo topic like sex. But that was 30 years ago. I have been blessed to be married to a Christ centered man who has cherished me for over 24 years now.
        Thank you for taking abuse on and loving families enough to do so!!!

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