“All right,” the event organizer told me, “here’s your ride. His name is Terry.”
You’ll have to forgive me for catching my breath, as Terry rolled up in a wheelchair.
It was winter in Winnipeg, below freezing, and dark. And my driver, as I already said, was shaking my hand while sitting in a wheelchair.
It turned out to be a wonderful ride, a providential meeting from God that continues to inspire me to this day. Terry’s testimony helped me understand the powerful biblical truth unleashed when we treat our spouse like royalty.
The challenge of cherishing a real spouse is that spouses don’t always act in a way that deserves to be cherished. But one way to maintain a cherishing attitude for our spouse is to honor them for their position.
Prince George gets a lot of press though we all know he hasn’t actually accomplished anything. Yet as the son of William and Kate, he is filled with royal blood and therefore gets lots of attention.
Spiritually speaking, you married a royal spouse. Traditional Eastern Orthodox weddings celebrate a practice called “crowning.” The bride and groom literally wear connecting crowns (they are joined by a ribbon) as part of the festivities. In days long past, an Eastern Orthodox bride and groom wore those crowns for eight days following the ceremony. Far more typical today, the crowns are removed at the end of the ceremony.
A Christian marriage places us in succession of a long order of “royal couples,” descending from Adam and Eve (the first ones told to “rule over…every living creature that moves on the ground” Gen. 1:28), Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, David and Bathsheba, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary. It’s a recognition that Christian marriage is about more than happiness and children—it’s about testifying to God’s long-term plan to bring humanity back from the Fall to reclaim God’s world through the Messiah. We are royal representatives through whom God spreads his reign and builds his kingdom.
Rev. 22:5 tells us that God’s followers “will reign for ever and ever.”
After talking about God’s long-term plan of redemption, 1 Peter proclaims, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, so that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (2:9). This is the context that precedes what Peter says to wives (3:1ff) and husbands (3:7ff). It’s a clear statement that we are to treat each other in light of our spiritual royalty. Our marriages are about more than each other; they are about testifying to God’s Kingdom, and that is served in part by recognizing the royal place each partner has in that Kingdom.
When a princess misbehaves, she is still a princess and entitled to a certain respect. When a prince has a bad day, he doesn’t lose his royal blood.
That’s the secret learned by Terry, my driver from Winnipeg. He has had two loves and two heartbreaks: both of his wives died of illness. His first wife died after 21 years of marriage; his second wife Sharon died after 17 years of marriage.
His life of two marriages offers a “test case” for what it means to cherish a spouse. The main difference in Terry’s second marriage from his first, in his own words, is that Terry called Sharon “princess” and then treated her like one.
Terry’s first wife died from Ovarian cancer. The disease unleashed a terrible five-year battle, and the last eight months required around-the-clock care. Terry got used to doing everything and getting almost nothing in return. This was new for him, but what else can you do when your wife is slowly dying of a horrible disease?
Terry remarried four years after his first wife died. Because the last years of his marriage had required him to do most daily chores, and then his four years of singleness required him to do everything on his own, he kept up the same attitude with his second marriage. Sharon was single for 44 years before she married Terry, and having a man serve her like Terry did when she was used to being on her own made her feel like the luckiest woman in the world.
Terry says his second marriage was much closer and in many ways much richer than his first marriage not because one woman was more excellent than the other but because his attitude about marriage was so dramatically different. He treated his second wife like she was royalty. How would you treat a queen? That’s how Terry treated Sharon.
Cherishing Sharon this way gave Terry a heart that made him cherish Sharon all the more. The more he served her and the more he protected her, the more he cherished her. That’s why he called her princess up until she died.
I pressed Terry on this just to make sure I understood him correctly. He had two marriages, one much closer than the other. But the difference wasn’t the excellence of one wife over another (which is what we usually think generates marital happiness). The difference was his attitude toward one wife over another. He was committed to and loved his first wife, but he cherished his second wife.
Terry’s story of two different marriages shows how much of an impact a commitment to cherishing can make. It’s not about the excellence of our spouse but the excellence of our attitude that often determines whether we have an intimate, successful and happy marriage.
That’s the power unleashed in marriage when we make a commitment to cherish.
TODAY is the official release date of Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. It’s available in stores and online through these outlets: