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August 27, 2015

The Only Woman in the World

Gary Thomas — 

The Only Woman in the World

Men, if you would like to have superlative satisfaction in your marriage, if you would enjoy a love for your wife that has no comparison, go back with me to the beginning of time—when Adam walked the earth by himself with God. Adam watched little animals and bigger animals, he discovered a wide variety of plants, and he talked to a God who was beyond imagining.

But there was no one like him.

No one.

He lived like that for a while. How long was that “day?” We don’t know.

But then Adam was put into a deep sleep. When he woke up, he could hardly believe his eyes. Before him stood Eve, like him in the most important ways but also so unlike him in even more important ways.

There she stood with eyes that seemed curiously soft, legs that were like his but somehow gloriously different, soft lips, and breasts!

And she was his, as he was hers.

What made this moment especially powerful, momentous, and even enthralling?

There was no Holly, Shanice, or Sofia.

There was just Eve.

Adam couldn’t compare Eve’s shoulders to Camille’s or Eve’s back to Emma’s. He couldn’t say “Eve is kinder than Janet,” or “Eve isn’t as sensitive as Claire,” because there was only Eve, in all her glory, the woman who defined “woman” to the first man. He couldn’t imagine any other woman, because there wasn’t one. He couldn’t wonder what it would be like if she were taller, heavier, slimmer, darker, or lighter.

She just was.

The only woman in the world.

And Adam couldn’t have been happier.

If you want to be fully satisfied in your marriage, treat your wife like Eve. Let her be, in your mind, the only woman in the world.

Pray a prayer that I talk about in Sacred Marriage, one that I prayed early on in my own marriage: “Let my wife define beautiful to me. Let her be the standard for what I find most attractive.”

Do you think that’s a prayer that God will have to think about answering? “Hmmm, not sure I want to do that.”

Not a chance.

It is stunning to me that yesterday, after 31 years of marriage, my wife was standing in front of me feeling all stressed out, talking about how tired she felt, and how frustrating certain aspects of her day had been. While trying to respond with empathy on the outside, inside I was thinking, “She is gorgeous. Still gorgeous.”

I don’t compare my wife’s occasional frustrations with another woman’s peace just as I won’t compare my wife’s face to another woman’s eyes. If I want supreme satisfaction in Lisa, she must become to me like Eve and be the only woman in the world. The only one I will ever look at in that way.

I defy any man to honestly say he has derived any lasting, godly satisfaction from looking at another woman the way he should look only at his wife; after the short moment of excitement, there will be a much longer season of frustration and discontent. Has looking at another woman or comparing your wife to another woman ever led you to more joy, a happier marriage, or more peace with God?  Of course not.

No man’s marital happiness has ever been served by comparing his wife’s weaknesses to another woman’s strengths. That’s how you create discontentment, assault any attitude of cherishing your wife, and how you ruin your own happiness.

It’s a choice, men—it’s a choice. I have a choice to look at my wife like Adam looked at Eve, the only woman who matters. I have a choice to fill up my eyes and be so taken with her that there is no Juliet, Jada, or Anna.

Just Lisa.

Have you ever lived that way husbands? Do you think you could pray this week, “God, let me start looking at my wife like Adam looked at Eve—as the only woman in the world?”

It’s a prayer first, then a choice, then a recommitment. You will stumble. You will have to go back and pray again. You will have to choose again.

But if you keep doing it, eventually, it happens.

Your wife is cherished.

Your wife isn’t just your first choice, but your only choice.

You become happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.

Because your wife defines beauty for you, your picture of the most beautiful woman in the world ages with your wife. You won’t be a sixty-year-old man pining after a 25-year-old centerfold. Who wants to be that guy, anyway?

You’ll eventually be a sixty-year-old husband who is enthralled with his sixty-year-old wife and still finds his heart skipping a beat when she smiles in her own particular way, or she stands in front of you in that dress and the sun hits her just right and you forget about everything else, including time.

You want this men. Trust me. You do. It is one of the supreme blessings of marriage that is often overlooked.

It takes vigilance.

It takes intention.Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

It takes practice.

But when it arrives—when your wife is Eve and there is no other—you will feel like the most blessed husband alive.

Your wife will feel cherished, because your adoration will be as genuine as the beginning of time. Your heavenly Father will experience joy because He delights when his daughter is richly cherished. Your kids will feel secure because their home is protected.

Everybody wins. Everybody.

But Adam wins the most.

Would you like to be particularly happy in your marriage?

Do you want the security of knowing that no matter what happens the two of you will face the future together, and that nothing will tear you apart?

Do you want the feeling of being truly and finally married—no doubts, no re-evaluations, no “what-ifs,” just daily growing closer together?

It’s possible.

It will require both of you to adopt a new mindset, to in fact go back to the very beginning of time and recapture that special intimacy experienced by Adam and Eve.

Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve were initially so happy in their marriage? What was unique about their experience so that they could know perfect paradise while being together?

Of course, there was no sin yet, but there was something even more specific than that which led to Adam and Eve’s sense of satisfaction.

It wasn’t just about being naked and unashamed.

It wasn’t about being free from children (most of us don’t want to be free from our children.)

It wasn’t even about the fact that they lived in a rich, lush garden.

It was the fact that when Adam was first introduced to Eve, there was literally no other woman in the world to whom he could compare her. When Eve first saw Adam, she didn’t know what a man was “supposed” to be like or how he was supposed to act.

Eve defined woman to Adam, as Adam defined man to Eve.

When you’re with the only woman in the world, you don’t expect her to be more intelligent, less sarcastic, lighter or darker, thinner or curvier, she just is—Eve, the only woman in the world. The person who defines woman to you.

That led to quite the happy union, and it’s a mindset we can cultivate today.

Comparison Kills

Have you ever visited a friend’s house who just had their kitchen remodeled? New appliances. A new floor. Marble counter-tops. A brand new island with pot fillers!

After a lovely dinner you return home and turn on the lights and see your same-old kitchen, with the slightly worn cupboards, the out-of-date refrigerator, the floor that makes you wonder why you ever chose that tile in the first place…

It’s the same kitchen that four hours prior you didn’t think twice about. Now it looks so bad that it even makes you sad.

What happened?


You saw what a kitchen could be and yours feels so awful in comparison.

Too many spouses do that with their mates.

Adopting an “Adam/Eve” “Only man/only woman in the world” mindset recognizes this spiritual and psychological reality and chooses to let your spouse define what a man or woman is supposed to be. Comparison loses all of its negative force.

When cherishing becomes the new standard of marriage, exclusivity reigns. My wife becomes the only one I will let myself think about sexually. She’s the only personality I’ll care to make my best friend. I will figure out how to make this marriage work with her because she is my only option, the only woman in the world.

The foundation of a cherishing marriage is something I wish every husband could say and every wife could hear:

“My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9).

Daily Walking Down the Aisle

It used to be that, when the wedding march began playing, every eye in the church looked back to see the bride walking up the aisle, but more recently I’ve noticed how this has changed. Because of some Internet memes, more and more people want to catch the face of the groom. Is he smiling? Crying? Looking nervous?

Men, try to remember that moment when your bride walked down the aisle and you lost your breath seeing her in all her glory. No one else existed for you at that moment. No other woman came to mind.

This doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It can be a daily reality.

To cherish our wives this way, we have to mentally choose to not look at any other woman that way. If you compare a two-carat diamond to a three-carat diamond, it will look small in comparison even though it’s bigger and more expensive than 99% of the wedding ring diamonds out there.

I prayed early on in my own marriage: “Lord, let my wife define beautiful to me. Let her be the standard for what I find most attractive.”

God has answered that prayer, and it’s so affirming to my wife. However she is, is what I am most attracted to. She is the “plumb line” of beauty for me, a plumb line that ages with her.

Cherishing goes far beyond physical appearance. I don’t compare my wife’s occasional frustrations with another woman’s peace, just as I won’t compare my wife’s skillset to another woman’s gifts. If I want supreme satisfaction in Lisa, if I want to truly cherish her, she must become to me like Eve, the only woman in the world. The only one I will ever look at in that way.

No man has ever derived any lasting, godly satisfaction from looking at another woman the way he should look only at his wife; after the short moment of excitement, there will be a much longer season of frustration and discontent, followed by anger and marital distance. Fantasizing about another woman is the highway to discontentment and marital separation. It never leads you to your wife; it carries you away from her at seventy miles an hour. That’s how you create discontentment, assault any attitude of cherishing your wife, and how you ruin your own happiness.

Adam was so blessed—and so happy, accordingly—because there was literally no one else to compare Eve to. And while the world is now populated with billions of other women, we men can still make the choice to look at our wives as Adam looked at Eve, the only woman who matters in that way.

To fill up our eyes with only her.

To be so taken with her that there is no Juliet, no Jada, and no Anna.

Just Eve.

It’s a prayer first, “Lord, let me look at my wife as the only woman in the world.”

Then it’s a choice.

Then we guard our hearts and keep our focus.

It requires a recommitment when we stumble. We will have to go back and pray again. We will have to choose again.

But if we keep holding her dear, mentally reserving our focus exclusively for her, eventually, it happens: our wife is cherished. Our wife isn’t just our first choice, but our only choice.

We become happy, satisfied, fulfilled.

You’ve taught yourself to cherish her and it’s worked. You’ve become enthralled with her, as you are with no other woman.

You want this, men. Trust me. You do. It is one of the supreme blessings of marriage that is often overlooked. When it arrives—when your wife is Eve and there is no other—you will feel like the most blessed husband alive.

Your wife will feel cherished, because your adoration will be as genuine as the beginning of time. Your heavenly Father will experience joy because he delights when his daughter is richly cherished. Your kids will feel secure because they spiritually feed off their parents’ affection.

Everybody wins. Everybody.

But Adam wins the most.

The Only Man in the World

Women can take the same journey. Divorce statistics reflect that women tend to be more dissatisfied in their marriages than men. Wives may have to fight more fiercely against the onslaught of disappointment lest they be tugged toward frustration, collapse into bitterness, and find themselves captive to contempt.

How can you fight contempt? How can you learn to cherish your husband as if he were the only man on earth?

Here’s the spiritual choice you have to make: when any woman gets married, she agrees (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” She forever resets the boundaries for what makes her content. She doesn’t get to compare her husband to other husbands because to her, he must become the only man in the world. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

You’ve already made your choice, in your ideal world you have no intention of ever starting over with someone else, so why not put your energy into and your focus on building on the strengths of that choice, and making yourself ever more grateful that you made that choice? Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. All she could possibly think was, “This is what a man is like. This is what my man is like.”

No man can be everything. A successful long-distance cyclist can’t be a body builder. A handyman may be able to fix a lot of things, but he may view exercise or long talks as chores rather than something he relishes. Though there are exceptions, dedicating one’s time to becoming exceptional at one thing usually means not being exceptional at a whole lot of other things.

Since no one man can be everything, one of the best gifts a woman can give a man is to tell him with her eyes, attention, words, and acceptance, “You don’t have to be anything other than what you are. You are my Adam, the only man in the world. I cherish you.

With such an attitude, anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so you don’t expect that and there’s no point in fretting over that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You cherish him for what and who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

At some point, if you want marital happiness, if you want to learn how to cherish a real man instead of longing for an imaginary composite, some “Frankenstein” husband who somehow has it all, then you have to own your choice and even learn to cherish your choice. “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself” (Song of Songs 8:12).

It’ll take biblical understanding to do this, then prayerful supplication to God (“God, help me do this”), then an intellectual consent (“I want to do this”), and finally a determined act of the will (“I’m going to do this”) to fully go through this process, resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and then you’ll have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time, it will just become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode.

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You’ll experience the joy of your heavenly Father, who delights in seeing his sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman in their circle who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

June 29, 2018

The Worth of a Woman

Gary Thomas — 


If you’ve been a longtime reader of this blog, you know I don’t typically speak out on topical issues, news items, or politics. There are plenty of places you can go to for that kind of information, written by people much more in the know and more capable of immediately writing about late breaking events, scandals or controversies.

The way my brain works (slow, slower still, and then come back and rewrite), I shoot for what could be called “timeless truths.” Blog posts should hold up and be true regardless of who is in the White House or what pastor did what thing in what church, or what denomination invited what speaker to what convention.

One timeless issue we have been facing is the way women are viewed and treated, especially by men in the church. Just as important is how women are viewed and treated by other women in the church. A woman fully alive to who she is called to be in Christ makes for the best wife, the best friend, the best sister, and the best servant of Christ.

So this week I’m going to excerpt a bit from Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. While trying to set women up to have the most influence they can have in their marriage and on their husband, I stress the need to first ground themselves in their identity in Christ—that we matter not because someone chose to marry us, but because God adopted us. That we have security not because someone else contributes to the family income but because God has promised to meet all of our needs in Christ Jesus. That we have worth not because our spouse is still attracted to us and interested in us, but because God calls us “chosen and dearly loved.” Once we know who we are in God, we are better able to handle the inevitable hurts and pains of being married to an imperfect spouse in an imperfect world.

What I set out to show in Loving Him Well is how the Bible affirms women in a way that was quite radical for the time in which it was written. Because some passages seem to suggest husband and wives share different roles in marriage, there are those who see the Bible as an accessory to the oppression of women, when in fact, even the Old Testament became an agent of radical change in a world that viewed women as children or property.

For example, the Old Testament stepped outside its cultural milieu to insist that women mirror God’s own character and image just as fully as do their male counterparts: “So God created man in his own image, he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27). Right from the start, we learn that women and men together mirror the image of God. Since God is above gender, males alone (or females alone) fail to adequately represent his character and image.

Just as tellingly, the admonition to shape this world and even to rule over this world is given to women just as much as it is to men: “God blessed them [the man and the woman] and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28, emphasis added).

Women are not told to sit passively on the sidelines and cheer for their husbands as the men run the show. On the contrary, from the very beginning, women share God’s command for humans to rule, subdue, and manage this earth. They are co-regents.

This strong, affirming view of women continues into the first book of the New Testament, with the inclusion of women in the genealogy of the Messiah (a literary act that breaks with the tradition of the first century). Yes, there is Abraham and David and Joseph — but there is also Rahab, Ruth, Mary, and Bathsheba. Who would expect such a thing from a very patriarchal and even misogynistic culture? It took both men and women to set up the human events that led to the birth of the Messiah. God chose women of diverse personality and status to build the human line that ushered in the Savior of the world.

Rahab, of course, was a prostitute. Bathsheba may well have been raped (when the king calls for you, consent isn’t an option). Ruth was a Moabite, a tribe whose genesis came from a grotesque act of incest, and it was her taking action (“Let me go to the fields” she pleaded with Naomi) and bold proposal that set up not just the birth of King David, but the human ancestry of Jesus as well.

Including each one of these women in the hallowed ancestry of Jesus is God’s way of saying that even if you’ve been sexually abused or come from a horrific background, God still has a plan to use you mightily.

Jesus came into this world through a woman; not a single male had anything to do with the immediate conception or birth of our Lord. Mary, a woman, is the only human who contributed to Jesus’ DNA.

Jesus also elevated women in his teaching. In Mark 10:11, Jesus astonishes his disciples when he tells them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” Why was this astonishing? According to rabbinic law, a man could commit adultery against another married man by sleeping with that man’s wife, and a wife could commit adultery against her husband by sleeping with another man; but no provision stipulated how a husband could commit adultery against his wife. Jesus was telling those first-century men, “Your wife has equal value in God’s sight. It is possible for you to sin against her every bit as much as it is possible for her to sin against you.”

And let’s look at Jesus’ death. While one male disciple betrayed our Lord and the others cowered behind locked doors, some very courageous women dared to watch Jesus’ final minutes on this earth. Mark goes out of his way to emphasize the scene at the foot of the cross: “There were also women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women followed him and took care of him. Many other women had come up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40 – 41). In Jesus’ most trying moments, he was supported by many women. Modern readers might read right over this narrative fact — but in the first century, this was a startling truth and a challenge to any false view of male superiority.

But perhaps the boldest statement came after Jesus died and was raised from the dead. According to ancient Pharisaic law, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in a tribunal as too untrustworthy. Only men could give witness. So when Jesus rose from the dead — the most important event that has ever occurred or ever will occur — who was present to give witness and testimony? Women! Jesus pointedly uses women, whose testimony could not then be heard in contemporary courts of law, to proclaim his glorious resurrection.

This elevation of women at all points in theological pronouncements, historical accounts, and practical teaching should astonish us, given the male-oriented culture in which the Bible took shape. It should form the way we respect our wives as women and teach our children to honor their moms with the respect given them by God.

We don’t have to tear down the Bible or men to lift up women; the story of God’s redemption took millennia to unfold and is even yet unfolding. What matters most is that women understand who they are in Christ, and that their husbands and fathers and sons also let their thinking be shaped by Scripture’s arc.

As much as the above Scriptures challenge me however, I still have to confess that few things have motivated me as a man more than having God reiterate to me that Lisa is his daughter and I’m to treat her accordingly. As a father with three children, including two women, this image shapes, corrects, inspires and challenges my every interaction and thought in marriage. The more I respect my wife in particular, the more I respect other women in general. I don’t want any other man sexualizing my wife, making her feel uncomfortable, or putting her in the miserable position of spending nine hours a day in a creepy environment or find some other place to work—so I’m going to go out of my way to not do that to someone else’s wife.

It would break my heart if a son-in-law was harsh or abusive to a daughter; that motivates me to be encouraging and gentle with Lisa.

It comes down to this: if we would look at people as God looks at them, and treat men and women the way God calls us to, all these news items would be resolved. They’d never happen to begin with.

I have great respect and appreciation for those who push necessary conversations, who bring abuse to the surface, and who have the fortitude and demeanor to enact change. The world needs activists and prophets, and I thank God for them. We need servants who cry out, “This is wrong.” We also need some, and I hope this blog can be such a place, to cry out, “This is right.”

Treating all women, but especially our wives, with respect and dignity, is right.


September 1, 2015

The Only Man in the World

Gary Thomas — 

The Only Man in the World

Women, the door to true happiness in marriage—the key to becoming the most pleased and happiest of wives—is to begin viewing your husband as Adam, the only man in the world.

When you get married, you agree (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” You forever reset the boundaries for what makes you content. You don’t get to compare your husband to other husbands (that’s what girlfriends should do with boyfriends, but not what wives should do with husbands) because to you, he is the only man in the world.

Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. She couldn’t think, “His arms look below average, but at least he doesn’t have a unibrow.” All she could possibly think was, “This is what men are like.”

The “new boundaries” of your new commitment to contentment once you get married means that anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so don’t expect that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours. If you marry a guy who thinks exercise is picking up the game controller, you don’t think about what it would be like to marry a guy who does triathlons.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You love him for who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

This might sound extreme to some of you but tell me, what have you ever gained by comparing your husband’s weaknesses to another husband’s strengths? Has it ever made you happier, more content in your marriage, or a more loving wife? Has it ever made you feel closer to your husband or given you more joy?

Of course not.

If you want to be married to a man who reads books then marry a man who reads books. Marrying a man who doesn’t read books and then faulting him for not reading is your problem not his. You made a choice and now you are second-guessing it. The problem isn’t with your husband—the problem is that you made a poor choice establishing your boundaries of contentment.

When you can finally see and agree that the problem you have with contentment is thus yours, not his, everything about your marriage will change. Everything.

I promise you, you will be so much happier in your marriage. You will become a much better wife if you simply pray through the creation account in Genesis and begin thinking of your husband as Adam—the man who defines all other men for you—and then start treating him that way. It’ll take biblical understanding to do this then prayerful supplication to God, then an intellectual consent, and finally a determined act of the will to fully go through this process resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and you will have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time it will become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode of thinking and relating.Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You will experience the joy of your heavenly Father who delights in seeing His sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children, boys, and girls.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness, and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

March 18, 2014

The Ballet is Woman

Gary Thomas — 

photo: Kryziz Bonny, Creative Commons

There’s a saying that “the ballet is woman.” Male dancers recognize that their role is all about showcasing the female dancer’s beauty. In the words of Sarah Jessica Parker (who recently put together a documentary on the New York City Ballet), “When a male dancer is paired with a ballerina he can support, stabilize, lift and turn her, allowing the partner to perform feats she could never do alone.” (You can see a clip on the partnering aspect of ballet here:

Isn’t this a marvelous description of marriage? Together, we can be more than we could on our own.

What if we husbands took the attitude of male dancers, seeking to showcase our wives’ beauty? It may be the beauty of wisdom, and in social settings we do our best to see that she is heard. It may be the beauty of leadership, and we support her life so that her gifts can be performed. It may be the beauty of hospitality, and we buy the things she needs and open up our homes (when we might prefer to be left alone with our sporting events) so that her beauty can be on full display. A biblical husband “praises [his wife]. ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’” (Prov. 31:28-29)

What if wives adopted the same attitude, helping their husbands perform feats they could never do on their own? What if a husband knew—in the deepest part of his soul—that his wife was his strongest support, his most encouraging partner? What would that do to him? What if he was willing to risk failure out in the world because he knew in his wife’s eyes he would always be the courageous champion? She supports him, she stabilizes him, she binds up his wounds—spiritual and emotional—and she turns him so his strongest side is always showing. Instead of ridiculing his social awkwardness, she finds a way to help him fit in. Everyone starts to think more of this guy when they look at him through his wife’s eyes.

Marriages turn on one axis: am I trying to showcase my spouse, or am I fixated on how my spouse is not showcasing me? You can’t control the latter; you can only control the former.

One thing I like about this is that it forces me to meditate on my wife’s beauty, identify her strengths, and then plot how I can help those strengths be showcased. How many times do we do the opposite? We obsess over our spouse’s weaknesses and then meet with others to gossip about them.

I want to sit with God and ask, “How do I showcase my wife’s beauty?”

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).


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

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.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

Britney is in her early thirties and has mostly married friends. As a single, Britney told me she sees marriage from the perspective of what you gain, but almost all her married friends see marriage from the perspective of what they have lost. They seem frustrated with what their marriage isn’t, while Britney sees so much of what their marriage is and provides.

“When I get married,” Britney told me, “I hope I can remember that it’s such a blessing just to have someone who is there for you. He might not parent your child the way you want him to, but at least he’s having a child with you. He might not help clean the house as much as you hoped he would, but he’s there to get it dirty! He might like to occasionally go out with his friends, but he comes home to you at night. When you’re single, you’re all alone all the time. I hope I can remember what this feels like, that it would be such a blessing to have someone who wants to do life with me.”

It’s so helpful for me to talk to people like Britney because I’ve never really been single. I got married when I was twenty-two so I never had an independent “adult” life without a spouse. If Britney had been my friend back then, she’d probably have seen in me what she sees in her friends now—someone who takes the benefits of marriage for granted while complaining about the biggest frustrations and losses to my single friends.  

The personal benefits of marriage are enormous. For me, I’ve seen how marriage has helped me in three particular areas: personal healing, happiness, and growth in holiness.

The Healing Power of Acceptance

The spiritual art of “accepting” each other is one of the best and most healing aspects of marriage; it’s also a biblical command: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).

Lisa and I met two friends for dinner after work. I arrived first, and then the couple; Lisa came last since she was traveling from home. When my wife slid into the restaurant booth, she snuggled up right next to me, giving a little exclamation of delight.

“Are you cold?” asked the young woman.

“No,” Lisa said. “It’s just that he’s been gone all day. I haven’t seen him yet. I miss him.”

Her comment, thirty years into our marriage, made me feel like a king. She missed me.

One of the most healing aspects of marriage for me has been the fact that I live with a woman who knows me better than anyone else ever has or ever will and yet she still likes me. She even respects me. Even with all my particularities, bad habits, and weaknesses, she truly wants to be with me.

That brings a lot of healing to a basically insecure man (and says some even more marvelous things about the graciousness of my wife). When Lisa married me, I was the player who was second or third-string on every team he played on until he started running cross country. The only job I had was part-time and my prized possession was a ten-year old Ford Maverick Grabber. I had a college degree in English Literature which meant my first job offer after four years of study was as a busboy–not even a waiter, a busboy!

But Lisa chose me and continues to choose me. I’m in a world where everything I do gets evaluated; every sermon, every book, every blog post. But no matter how poor the sermon, how misguided the blog post, or how boring the book, Lisa’s going home with me.

Shannon had a “colorful” background as a single woman before she became a Christian, which was about a year and a half before she met Jason. Jason had been a committed believer his entire life, was raised in a homeschool, and his regular prayer since the time he was twelve years old was that God would provide a “godly virgin” for him to marry.

As they got to know each other, Jason told Shannon about his early prayer, not knowing anything about her past. Shannon wondered if she should end any romantic hopes right there. But the rest of the relationship seemed so good that eventually she took a deep breath and told Jason that before she became a Christian, she had been with…several…men.

Jason smiled—he smiled!—and said, “Of course you were. But none of those men will love you like I will.” Jason’s acceptance of her past told Shannon, “You’re not damaged goods. You’re the woman I want to spend my life with.” Shannon found great healing from past shame, proving the sweetness of that Scripture we have already quoted, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).


Many funny articles have been written about how awful family vacations can be and the hazards just waiting for a married couple that dares to get on the road with their kids, but a long trip with her entire family helped Alison see just how happy marriage has made her.

“I realized this summer what I love most (about being married),” Alison told me. “I have gone on a few trips to visit family with just my kids. Greg has stayed behind to work. After a few days I was ready to go home. I missed being home. This summer our family of five took an almost two-week road trip and there wasn’t one second I wanted to go home. I looked at Greg one evening and told him he was my home. Wherever he is, I am home. Thinking about what home represents summarizes marriage to me–so much security, love, family time, rest, quiet times with Jesus, safety in storms of life; that is my husband and my favorite part of marriage.”

Ever notice how if someone is laughing alone, you kind of wonder if they have a mental illness, but when two people laugh together, you wish you were in on the joke?  That demonstrates the “happy-making potential” of marriage.  Michelle, a mom of five, told me, “Eric makes me laugh. That might not seem like much, but when you have a pile of laundry that grows faster than you can wash it, five children who get hungry before the last meal’s dishes are washed, and too few hours of sleep with which to face the next day, a good laugh in the morning and the evening can do wonders for your soul. Eric can mimic our kids like a professional comedian, and just when I’m about to explode at them with frustration, he can make me laugh so hard I want to hug my kids instead of throttling them. Never underestimate the power of a good sense of humor to keep a marriage going.”


If you’ve read any of my books, especially Sacred Marriage, you knew I’d end up here. When Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and Peter tells us to make “every effort” to add to our faith by growing spiritually (2 Peter 1:5-15), and the writer of Hebrews tells us to “make every effort” to be holy (Hebrews 12:14), it stands to reason that the fundamental human relationship—husband and wife—is tailor made by God to help us grow in holiness.

I found marriage to be a giant mirror helping me see character flaws and weaknesses I was blind to as a single man. I’m not the only one. Alexi is a woman of great passion. She told Brett she was going to marry him on their third date. In hindsight, she feels terrible about the friendships she allowed to grow distant as she wanted to spend every waking moment in the company of her new love.

Alexi and Brett got married, probably too soon, and then got pregnant within months. Instead of post-partum depression, Alexi experienced post-partum infatuation with her infant. Brett became an intrusion on her time with her baby girl.

I’m summarizing a story too long to tell here, but the near-breakup of her marriage and licensed counseling convinced Alexi that she had spent her entire life being ruled by her current passion. Instead of choosing where to invest her time, she followed whatever she felt. It took months of therapy for her to understand what was going on, and her marriage provided the mirror to show her what she was. She used to take pride in her ability to feel things so passionately, but now realizes that sometimes her response to that passion was downright sinful (and nearly destroyed her marriage).

If we are healthy believers who value growing in holiness, then we’ll learn to appreciate these revealing moments of marriage rather than resenting them. It could have been disastrous if Alexi had tried to force Rob to visit a counselor to overcome his “jealousy” of their child instead of honestly working through why he was feeling jealous.

Every marriage has a different story. Maybe you need to learn to stand up for yourself. Maybe you need to learn to listen. Maybe you need to show more empathy or maybe you need to stop expecting your spouse to overlook irresponsible behavior. Marriage gives us opportunities every day to take off our selfishness and to put on service; to get rid of being harsh and learn to put on gentleness; to stop expecting perfection from an imperfect person and learn the art of patience. The more I accept Scripture’s call to take spiritual growth seriously, the more I appreciate my marriage.

Getting Better All the Time

When Lisa had to undergo an operation to remove a fast growing tumor on her lung, she had two requests—that I be there to pray over her and kiss her as they wheeled her away, and that my hand be holding hers when she woke up.

For many young, healthy, and vibrant couples, their view of marriage is about being young together, filled with energy, experiencing excitement, and moving from passion to passion. Those are all wonderful things but as Lisa and I go through the years, we’ve learned that some of the best parts of marriage are growing old together, remembering the past, grieving disappointments, and facing new, unforeseen challenges side by side.

The wonder of marriage is that it reveals new benefits every decade you stay married. Some former benefits fade into the background. Holding hands after a serious surgery may not sound “sexy” to a young couple, but it can knit the heart of the middle-aged or older couple. What aging takes away from us, long-term marriage replaces with previously unforeseen marital benefits. In fact, the longer you are married, the more you can appreciate the wonder of this union.

I don’t believe marriage is an easy relationship, but even so, because of these benefits (and many more left unspoken), if I had a hundred lives to live, I’d want to be married in every one.

On Valentine’s Day, perhaps millions of men will get to see their wives wearing something they’ve never worn before and the husbands will be thrilled. Not too many men can pull off the same effect. I’ve never seen anything marketed to men in this regard that doesn’t seem cheesy and that doesn’t make me want to laugh out loud.

But there’s something very spiritual that both men and women can wear that is other-worldly beautiful and ultimately will create the most satisfying Valentine’s Day night you could imagine.

But let me set it up first.

Read More

Our friends started speaking even before we sat down at the restaurant. We hadn’t seen them for a number of months, and the wife had obviously been saving this up: “We know exactly what your next book needs to be!”

I hear this statement all the time, but their exuberance made me curious, so I asked, “Okay, what?”

“You need to write a book on how absolutely awful and horrible it is to raise adult children. Nobody warned us it would be this painful.”

We all laughed but they were only half joking. Unfortunately for them, they caught us in a very sentimental time (the birth of our first grandchild) that made it difficult to relate. One of the most meaningful moments of my life was watching my son sing “Amazing Grace” over my eight-week-old granddaughter as he put her to sleep. The layers of love—your son and your granddaughter and your God in one glorious, intimate moment—blew my emotional radar all the way out of my heart.

But later an older woman at my church pulled me aside to bring me out of my sentimental reverie. “Just enjoy those grandchildren when they’re babies,” she said, almost as a warning.

“Why do you put it that way?” I asked.

“They become teenagers.”

I get the pain most parents of adult children feel. I’ve seen young adult children raised by godly parents resent the faith-filled example they were given. I’ve seen parents who sacrificed on many levels watch those children as adults sabotage every privilege, seemingly determined to create misery for themselves, perhaps not even realizing the grief this brought their parents.

I also know a very dear couple who lost their only child in college, and now must endure the graduation, marriages, and child-bearing of all his friends, no doubt forever wondering what would have happened if their son had not died, reminded on a daily basis of the deepest loss they have ever known. They’re facing this challenge so bravely it makes me want to cry. They haven’t withdrawn from young people—they’ve moved forward, and their faith challenges me daily.

There are few couples who haven’t experienced a mix of the above—some of the richest feelings and intimacy they’ve ever known (when you lay your cheek against your grandchild’s head and know there is nowhere else on earth you’d rather be) accompanied by heartbreak they couldn’t even imagine (“Given the way we raised them, how could they do this to us?” “Why would God allow them to die at such a young age?”).

Maybe we’re too polite to talk about how much we are hurting to each other. Some time ago, I blatantly lied to someone’s face, a person I hadn’t seen in years. They were in a rush and asked how things were in a particular area as they were moving out the door and of course I said “great,” but it was one of the worst mornings I had had in that regard in a long time. I could have said, “It’s polite of you to ask and I know you’re in a rush, so let’s just pretend everything is fine and we’ll catch up another time” but other people were there and I reacted on instinct.

Maybe we’re not honest with each other because we want to protect our children’s reputations. I get that, though I hope every parent and every adult child has a few safe, redemptive places where they can process their grief.

Whatever is behind our reluctance to admit that those end-of-year Christmas letters listing all the wonderful things we’ve experienced in the past twelve months have more omissions than a Ponzi scheme account book, Christian parenting reminds us that the best things in life come in packages of joy and grief. It’s a two-part deal. In this good but fallen world, we can’t have one without the other. Accomplishments, by definition, require sacrifice to achieve. Eternal salvation requires earthly death. Adorable puppies become old, arthritic dogs before they break our hearts by dying all too soon. And the kids who exploded our hearts with such joy and tenderness find new and creative ways to usher us into dark valleys of fear and anguish we wish we had never known.

That’s life in a good and fallen world. God created this world and called it “good.” Capitalizing on the weakness of women and men, Satan perverted this good world and is going to make us pay for living in it and enjoying it.

Sometimes it’s pain that leads to our greatest joy rather than the reverse. I spoke at a church recently where two different moms told me astonishingly similar stories: they had both been praying for their young adult sons for years only to have their worst fears realized when both sons were arrested and sent to prison. Yet in both cases, one son radically renewed his faith while he was in prison and the other son found faith in prison. Both moms said the same thing: “What I thought was the worst thing that could happen became the best thing that could happen.”

Where does this leave us as parents? Hold on to every good moment. Worship God for each one. Savor every second. But don’t be greedy. Because the world is broken, we can’t have a little “good” without a little “fallen.”

What makes a delicious meal taste especially good? Being hungry. This is a curious world where the highest satisfaction sometimes requires a little pain. Pain and satisfaction are a package deal. Don’t let the pain pull you from God; let it help you find satisfaction in God. Faithful believers are those who embrace and endure the pain and thank God for the satisfaction rather than resent the pain and take the satisfaction for granted.

In other words, let’s not be toward God like adult children can sometimes be toward us! 

There is very little reasoned, biblical perspective when it comes to evaluating physical attraction in dating and marriage. Debra Fileta does a wonderful job of pointing out our culture’s weaknesses in this regard and helping us find the “more excellent way” of Scripture. If you’re single, you need this perspective to help you make a wise marital choice. If you’re married, this perspective will help you maintain your loving affection for the spouse you’ve given your life to. Thanks, Debra, for this insightful contribution to our blog.

When I was single, I would often imagine what my future relationship was going to be like. I wondered about the kind of guy I’d end up dating and marrying. I’d try to picture who he would be and how he would look. I wondered if when I eventually had a picture of him, would I be proud to show it to my friends, or would I find myself with someone with an amazing heart whom I struggled to find attractive? I know I’m not alone in that worry because I hear from many people who express the same fears and concerns.

Finding someone to whom you are physically attracted is an important part of the equation of a healthy relationship. But it’s not the only part of the equation of attraction. It’s important for us to understand that attraction is multi-faceted. While attraction may start as physical, it’s fueled by other aspects of connection: emotional, mental, and spiritual.

 I am thankful that I am married to a man that I find attractive. But I was surprised by my growing attraction to him because he was not my so-called “type.” Physical attraction is a legitimate need in a relationship, but it must be kept in proper perspective, because just because you’re physically attracted to someone, doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Sometimes we’re physically attracted to people because something unhealthy in us, connects with something unhealthy in them. That’s why that initial physical attraction has to be kept in proper perspective. Sometimes it’s skewed by our own internal struggles, and other times, it’s skewed by what the world has led us to believe is “attractive”.  


As you are looking at your relationship, it is important to make sure that physical attraction is part of the equation, but more importantly, that you are coming to the table with appropriate expectations. It’s important to remember that expectations of physical perfection or the fulfillment of selfish fantasy are not realistic. Real people have real bodies, and our expectations must be real as well. This is not about finding a supermodel wife or waiting to marry Mr. Universe.

That might sound like a no-brainer to you, but we live in a culture in which the concepts of sexual chemistry and physical attraction have become totally, completely, and irreversibly skewed. The entertainment industry and the pornography culture have completely ravaged our understanding of beauty, and namely, the beauty of a real woman. And this distorted mentality is starting to seep into the church in a truly concerning way. I know, because I hear from Millenials all the time who are battling unrealistic expectations of physical attraction. A young man afraid to marry an incredible woman because her arms were too big. A young woman hesitating to commit to a godly man because he’s shorter than she had hoped. Before we start judging, let’s consider the ways we all come to the table with an unrealistic perspective.

Our concept of beauty and sex appeal has been completely hijacked over the years to the point where our expectations are unrealistic. We won’t even consider seeing someone as attractive if they don’t measure up to the standard that Hollywood has laid out for us, or to the filters that Instagram has convinced us are real life. But we’ve got to open our eyes to the fact that the standard we’ve been fed is so far from reality.

Beauty is fluid. And our desires, as well as the people we will find attractive, are morphed and changed based on the things we allow ourselves to be exposed to. In that regard, we actually have some sort of control over the things we define as attractive and beautiful.

In a culture that is infiltrated with pornography, airbrushed billboards and magazines, plastic surgery, and Instagram filters, our standard of “beauty” has moved so far from the truth that it is causing some major damage to our relational expectations—for both men and women. The more unrealistic images we take in, the more skewed our concept of beauty will be. Single or married, you can expose yourself to so much “fantasy” that real women and real men begin to lose their luster.


The only way to get our expectations moving back to reality is to realize that we need a reset. The reason we say “no” to distorted expectations of attraction is that skin-deep beauty can only last so long. Fast-forward 50, 30, or even 10 years, and your body as well as that of your spouse will have changed, sagged, and likely stretched out beyond recognition. After a few babies, a surgery or two along the way, and the unrelenting process of aging, I can guarantee you one thing: Neither of you will look the same. That is why it is so important to make sure your expectations of physical attraction are kept in check because it is only one part of the equation of lasting attraction.

In marriage, you will see your spouse at their absolute worst. You’ll see them in their most natural state—before the hair, before the makeup, before the accessories. You’ll see them through the lens of real life, which does not hide morning breath, cellulite, or other imperfections. You will be with your spouse through the days of sickness and exhaustion. What will ultimately define your marriage—and ultimately, your very life—is not the “supermodel status” of your husband or wife, but rather, their character.

Your spouse is the person who will have the greatest influence on your happiness, your confidence, and your security. Your spouse is the person who will walk with you through the highs and lows of life, help raise your children, and influence your family in every single way. According to Proverbs, a wife [or husband] of character is a treasure (Proverbs 31:10). And he who finds that finds a great thing, something worth holding onto no matter what. I know so many marriages that started with “amazing physical chemistry” and fizzled into nothing within a few short years. I also know of so many marriages that started on the foundation of good character and godliness—and continued to grow in intimacy, in respect, and in love.

It is time for us to rise above the noise of this culture and set our relationship expectations and standards on things that really matter. It is time to reset our standard of beauty by shutting off the influence of the unrealistic junk and filling our minds and hearts with the truth.

  • Beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30).
  • Charm is deceptive (Proverbs 31:30).
  • Real beauty runs deep (1 Peter 3:3).
  • Real attraction is multifaceted.
  • Inner beauty cannot be fabricated or replicated.
  • Character is what actually defines a person.
  • Spiritual health trumps everything (1 Timothy 4:8).

It is time for us to say “no” to the unrealistic standards this world is throwing our way. That starts with taking inventory of what we allow our minds to think about and our hearts to lust upon. Maybe that means making the commitment to stay away from porn. Maybe that means turning off Netflix for a while. Maybe it means stepping away from Facebook or TV or magazines. Maybe that means putting limits on how much we mindlessly scroll Instagram. Maybe it means guarding our conversations and how we allow ourselves to talk about the opposite sex.

Ultimately, it means saying no to lies that skew our perception of physical attraction—in exchange for truth. It’s time to reset our understanding of the role of physical attraction in our romantic relationships and remember that attraction has just as much to do with character as it does with chemistry.

This article is an excerpt from Debra’s new book, Love In Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship, and is used with permission. To find out how each season (spring, summer, fall, and winter) can make or break your relationship ORDER LOVE IN EVERY SEASON TODAY.

DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates, and Love In Every Season. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog,, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter or book a session with her today!