It is easy to love someone. I know not everyone is loveable, but the practice of loving someone isn’t that tough. If you believe Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, then treating someone with basic human dignity as a fellow image-bearer of God communicates love. You can show patience and kindness, refrain from envy or holding grudges, not be arrogant or prideful, and live out all the various characteristics of love that Paul lists.
However, it is infinitely more difficult to cherish someone. Cherishing someone is the direct result of being in an intimate relationship with that person. The more intimate the relationship, the more you should cherish the person. But, the more intimate the relationship, the more you are aware of the other person’s faults and flaws, peculiarities and struggles. So, paradoxically, the more intimate you are with a person, the harder it is to cherish that person for the very reason that you are so intimate with him or her.
Communicating that you cherish your mate is a consistent discipline. I don’t think my wife has ever felt unloved, but there are many times I’ve put work and other obligations on the front burner and left Lisa on the back burner. I knew how to love her, but to my regret I was missing the mark on knowing (or at least expressing) how to cherish her.
If your spouse never feels cherished, over time he/she will become jaded and eventually shut you out. It’s not uncommon to hear couples when they split say something to the effect, “I still love him/her, but we just can’t be together anymore.” That is the result of not being cherished. And, there is a direct correlation between the amount of time your mate goes without feeling cherished and how long it will take for him/her to again feel intimacy toward you.
So what’s the answer? The first step is always to ask. Ask your spouse if he/she feels cherished (understanding this is a very different question than asking if he/she feels loved). Figure out immediate ways to visibly demonstrate that you cherish your mate. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate or expensive gift-giving endeavor. Taking a few seconds out of your busy day to call your mate (or not rushing or ignoring his/her call when you’re busy), a note in the lunch box or taped to the steering wheel, a small gift or a back rub for no reason and with no further expectations, re-watching your wedding video and talking about what you felt for each other on that day; whatever you decide to do, just be intentional, be consistent, and do something to communicate a unique specialness to your spouse. When you cherish your spouse, you open the door to a deeper intimacy with each other and with God.
Because marriage is supposed to be the most intimate earthly relationship, a person should cherish his/her spouse beyond all else. The way you cherish your spouse should be a direct reflection of the way you cherish God. Being loved is good, but being cherished is far better.
What is God calling you to in your marriage?
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