February 20, 2019

Your Day’s Not Done Until…

Gary Thomas — 

The way Lisa treats me might make some young women nauseous, because she serves me like we’re living in a 1950s sitcom. Just one example: because she cares so much about health and because she knows my taste buds on their own might lead me in a very different direction, Lisa tries to prepare every meal she can. I walked into the church the other day with a smoothie Lisa had made. A coworker asked, “Hey, what’s in that?”

“I have no idea,” I responded. “Lisa told me it was best if I just didn’t know. ‘You’ll eat it,’ she said. ‘You have before.”

As an empty nester who wakes up when the first number is usually a 4, I can crunch 12-hour days but that means I’m pretty tired when I get home, so Lisa takes over and does much of the work in the evenings. I don’t do that much at home. I try to do my own laundry but sometimes Lisa gets ahead of me even there.

Someone watching us would say, “Man, she really serves him.”

If they watched a little more closely, they’d see my goal to get the newspaper on the days it comes so Lisa doesn’t have to go outside. They’d see me lifting all the blinds because Lisa doesn’t like to do that. They’d watch me stop at the bank on Friday to get Lisa’s cash for the farmer’s market Saturday morning, and they’d hear about what Lisa calls her “magic gas gauge” because I try to make sure her gas tank gets filled.

And perhaps they would have heard what I told Lisa when we became official empty-nesters: “Anything you want to do now, let’s have you do it. If you want to go back to school; if you want to start a business; if you want to get more involved at church; if you want to just hang out, you can do whatever you want to do. I’ll support you in anything.”

Lisa is all-in with serving me and I’m all-in with serving her in part because serving someone you cherish brings so much joy. When Lisa was on a trip last summer visiting some family while I stayed in Houston to preach, the day wasn’t complete for me unless I had done something to make her life sweeter when she returned: topping off the gas tank, getting a task done she normally would have done, getting some dirty boots shined (which she laughed about when she got back because they were “mud” boots and she didn’t care about them not being shined; how am I supposed to know what “mud boots” look like? I guess the mud should have been my first clue).

Wanting to cherish the person you cherish becomes part of what you want to do. In fact, the day’s not complete until you do it. Cherish may begin as a commitment, but it soon morphs into a pleasure.

I love being in an “all in” marriage. Looked at from one angle, some might say, “Does she consider herself his servant?” And then looked at from the other, it might be, “Does he think he exists just to make her happy?”

It’s easier for us because our kids aren’t home; this kind of devotion to each other’s needs is a little more complicated when you both have jobs and young children who need nurturing (and driven around town, bathed, picked up after, etc.). But for any married person at any stage of life, I’d urge them to develop the cherishing mindset that your day isn’t complete until you’ve done something concrete to bless your spouse and make their life just a tiny bit happier. Just because you can’t do everything you wish you could do for each other doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything.

Just try it, for a week: Find something your spouse hates to do and start doing it for them. Find something your spouse enjoys and start giving it. It may take less than a minute (how long do you think it takes me to lift the blinds?), but even that little bit builds and maintains the cherishing mindset.

This attitude spreads into all aspects of marriage. Sex becomes particularly enjoyable when both spouses cherish each other so much they wouldn’t even think of being “done” until the other person is done. And preferably a little worn out.

The mindset this engenders can be so helpful, because when I’m regularly thinking about what I should do today to bless Lisa, I’m not thinking about what she’s not doing for me (it would take me a good while these days to think of something). I’m not a neuroscientist, but I swear there’s a little dopamine rush when you take the initiative and serve your spouse. You start to get more joy out of giving than getting (didn’t a famous person once say something about that?).

As Lisa and I age—well, as I age and Lisa keeps looking about the same—there may be plenty of guys with more hair than I have, a better body, more money, and far greater charm. But I don’t think Lisa is going to find a guy who takes more joy in serving her, who is so devoted to her well-being, and who doesn’t think a day is complete until he has been involved in doing something to bless her. And anybody who chooses to cherish their spouse can become exactly that kind of spouse.

This is just one of the gifts the cherishing mindset has given us. It has taken our marriage to the next level. You might already be on a higher level than us, but you can go even higher when you remember you didn’t promise just to love your spouse, but to cherish your spouse.

A postscript for those in selfish marriages: I’m not suggesting that if you do this with a selfish spouse they’ll start serving you. However, there can still be a certain joy when you know you’re fulfilling your promise and pleasing your God by serving your spouse. This blog post isn’t a promise or even a strategy; it’s a personal discovery of the truth behind Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive.” Being married to a selfish person can be so discouraging, but don’t let your spouse’s selfishness rob you of experiencing God’s generosity by doing what you know is right and what pleases Him. God sees (Gen. 16:13) and God rewards (Heb. 11:6). You may have to wait a little longer to enjoy the fruits of your cherishing love, but God’s promise never fails (Heb. 10:23).

And, of course, part of being “all in” for your spouse is doing what’s best for them from God’s perspective, which in the case of addiction or abuse isn’t enabling; it’s confronting, holding them accountable, and allowing consequences to follow. Your spouse may not be pleased by these actions or feel served, but from God’s perspective you are being the best kind of servant you could be.

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13 responses to Your Day’s Not Done Until…

  1. A lot of the comments on here are people who have been married for over a decade. Reading this a 24 year old who is not married yet but in a very serious relationship, it is very eye opening. I absolutely love doing things for my boyfriend just as your wife does for you. Meals, laundry, cleaning up the house etc. I don’t feel at all like a ‘servant’ but more as a “oh this will make his day at work easier.” He is self-employed and works from home and I work with him as well. My job is not nearly as demanding as his part in the company so the things I do around the house make it easier. He is constantly giving me affirmation on how much he appreciates the things I do and even tries to help me out from time to time.

    Thank you for the great words. These are the things we are trying to doing now to make a great marriage in the future.

  2. This was a really cool post to read! Thank you! My husband and I have been married for 16 months now, but we’re both older (I’m just past 40). Since he has his own business, I moved to his town. I suddenly didn’t have a job and didn’t have to get one right away. I was free to work on combining our two households and turning our home into a couple’s home. Without actually planning it or thinking about it too much, we really just turned into the 1950’s couple in a lot of ways – mostly because of circumstances and CHERISHING!
    I love to cook, and he can’t/doesn’t (so that was easy), but he is more than happy to eat out if I want to. As long as he lives, I will never have to try to decide if an auto repair shop is about to rip me off with unnecessary repairs since he does most of them himself, and he will probably never have to do laundry again.(He referred to this as the clothing drawers being like the widow’s oil and flour jars – always full).

    The first week, as I watched him get up to go to work, it just seemed horrible for me to stay in bed or sit around and drink coffee, so I offered to iron his clothes. He never asked me to do this (and we both do our own on Sundays and any days we have to both leave in the morning), but it has become part of our routine. I’m a musician and have lugged my own violin case around for over 30 years, but he insists on carrying it when we’re together (which is nice when it starts getting heavy).
    There are lots of other things, but the idea is that at some point, I noticed how we were serving each other. We were both single for 20+ years, so we could both take care of ourselves. But if you are going to marry someone, it is so much more joyful and intimate to serve each other rather than just coordinating your lives or even just doing tasks together. Coordinating is important and necessary, and working together is great (just wait until we have kids…), but serving, even when it is something they could do for themselves, really helps you bond.

  3. Pray for us, the ones in an abusive marriage for decades and now alone and longing for a loving and cherishing partner. 😭

  4. So many women think they’re husband or ex is a narcissist! I highly doubt that. It seems to be the current fad to call the other person a narcissist when you don’t get along or you don’t like them.

  5. well said, well said.

  6. Love This. Not much more I can say about it

  7. Worth reading post!

  8. Wonderful post. And I always so appreciate the differentiation you make between a healthy marriages hand an unhealthy one. I am blessed with the world’s greatest husband. But I grew up with a step-father who was not. Your post today (and always) is helpful, balanced, and empathetic. Thank you for helping to heal things in me as well as helping me to be a better wife to my wonderful husband.

  9. Thanks Gary for another great reminder that to love is to serve. As empty nesters as well let me pass on two things we learned from our millennial son and daughter in law. One, we try to ‘out serve the other’, this is similar to you blog, but by desiring to out serve, knowing I am competitive 🙂 helps me as the thick headed male focus on serving! Two, we started having date nights once a week. We chose weekdays as happy hours offer better prices ;). Each week we alternate who owns making the plans and how much of our restaurant budget they will spend on the night. So dates are $30 others might be $150, but it is something to look forward to weekly!

    • Thanks, Bruce. I like the competitive idea; I’m kind of that way too. And besides, Romans 12:10 says to “outdo one another in showing honor” so you’ve even got the Bible on your side there.

  10. Thank you so much for your postscript. I was married for 17 years to a narcissist. Your words are healing.

    • Ditto to Teri in VA. Thank you for adding that this prescription is GOLDEN in an emotionally healthy marriage but could be TOXIC in an abusive one.

      I thank God every day for moving me out of abusive marriage and into a cherishing one!!!!

  11. Yohanna Yusuph Garba February 20, 2019 at 5:50 am

    Gary thanks for today’s post. I really agree with you that a lasting marriage starts and ends with commitment to each other. Thinking about my wife’s welfare is the best to get her closer to me. My thoughts about thinking of what to do to bless her daily will automatically get her closer to me. May the Lord bless you Gary.