Cherish as Protection
About the Guest
Cherishing, begins with the desire to protect your spouse emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Gary Thomas, a husband to Lisa for 30 years, tells a story shared by Dr. Greg Bledsoe, now surgeon general of Arkansas, who learned a powerful lesson in cherishing as he watched an elderly man care for his invalid wife.
Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Cherishing, begins with the desire to protect your spouse emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Cherish as Protection
Bob: Just how valuable is your spouse to you? Gary Thomas says one way you can tell is how well you protect each other in your marriage.
Gary: The more you protect someone, it builds a cherishing heart. If you have an original autograph from George Washington, you don’t use it as a coaster. It you have a Rembrandt painting, you don’t put a popsicle stick frame around it—you protect it, you show it off, you put an alarm by it, and you insure it. The same thing as in your marriage, when you’re protecting your spouse, that creates a heart that values your spouse.
This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday March 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. How safe does your spouse feel around you, not just physically safe, but emotionally safe? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us, talking this week about the whole idea of cherishing one another in marriage. “Cherish is a word I use to describe all the feelings that I have hiding here for you inside. You don’t know how many”—oh, I’m sorry. I was off on a song from The Association of the 1960s that came to mind.
Dennis: I am astounded at some of the things you remember. [Laughter] How many—I’m sure many of our listeners knew right away.
Bob: [Singing] “You don’t know how many times I wish that I could hold you,”—right? They were right there with me. [Laughter]
Dennis: And I had a great place to go with this introduction of Gary Thomas, and I just lost it. Gary, welcome to the broadcast. [Laughter]
Gary: Thank you. [Laughter]
Dennis: How do you recover from that, Gary?
Gary: It’s a great song! It really is.
Bob: [Laughing] It is a great song; isn’t it?
Dennis: Yes; it, it really is a great song. [Laughter] I still don’t remember what I was going to do.
Gary Thomas has written a book called Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage.
I now remember what it was! Gary has written 18 books and is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas—married to Lisa for more than 30 years.
I don’t think I’ve ever asked this question of you. All of a sudden, I thought, “I want to know his answer to this,”—it may or may not have anything to do with the title of your book, Cherish. “What is the most courageous thing you have ever done in all your life, Gary?” And courage is doing your duty in the face of fear. Have I asked you before?
Gary: I don’t know if you have. I think, for me, I grew up in a family where my dad worked at the same company, virtually, his entire his life / both of my brothers worked for that same company—you got a job and you stayed there. So when I went off to be a self-employed writer and speaker, it just wasn’t done in my family: “Is this secure? Is this okay?” I am so grateful and I cherish my wife for supporting it—saying: “Gary, you need to do it. I think you can do it.”
I am so thankful for that; because I can’t imagine life turning out better than it has, in all honesty. Becoming self-employed, without that secure employer—I’d say that’s the most courageous thing.
Dennis: There’s a lot of men, when I ask them that question—it’s not 25 percent, but it’s a good percentage / it may be as much as 20 [percent]—mention something about breaking away, in a respectful way, but doing something they feel called, or feel gifted, or sense they need to do and be their own man. I affirm your choice, as well, and let you know you are in good company with a lot of other courageous young men as well.
Gary: If I could have half the character of my father, I’d be a much better man. I was breaking from his example, but certainly not from his character/faith.
Dennis: I want to get on with the topic we are talking about today—cherishing.
I want to talk about a side of cherishing I don’t ever remember anybody actually speaking into, and that’s the idea that, when you cherish another person, you protect them.
Dennis: Let’s talk about that. How have you seen cherishing being worked out in a marriage relationship to protect their spouse?
Gary: Here’s a real life case with a couple I worked with, trying to help them adopt a cherishing marriage. They came in and they were late—they were about eight minutes late. The husband said: “Just so you know—I was here five minutes early. Rosa was late.” And Rosa said, “Thanks for throwing me under the bus.”
I had been with them enough—I said: “You know what? Let’s deal with that.” I said to the husband: “You know, five years from now, you might not even remember my name. Tonight, you go home with Rosa; and I go home to my wife. We’re not going to think about each other; but right there, at that moment, you were worried that I might think less of you, assuming that I was going to be thinking about you after this session is over.” I go: “That’s an opportunity where you could have taken the bullet, so to speak: ‘Look, Gary, I’m sorry we were late.’ Rosa would have heard that and said: ‘Hey! He protected me.’
“Now, she feels, in her words, like you threw her under the bus.”
Now, Rosa was loving this; but then I had to turn to her and said: “Rosa, here is how you didn’t cherish your husband. He can’t help hate being late. The way his dad raised him—it is painful for him to be late / it’s a mark of disrespect. He’ll never stop hating being late. When you decide you can get one more task done / you could do whatever you have to do, you can get this done and not give yourself time to arrive on time, it’s going to hurt him. He can’t [help] not be hurt. So the way you cherish himis say: ‘I know it’s important to him. I don’t want him to face that pain; so I’m going to make sure I get there on time.’”
What was going on in their situation—they weren’t cherishing each other.He wasn’t cherishing her to protect her. She wasn’t protecting him—his reputation / the pain he feels.
When I look at the greatest examples that I’ve heard of a woman cherishing her husband, it goes back all the way to President Reagan. Some of us remember when an assassin tried to take President Reagan’s life. He shot a devastator bullet, which is designed to explode upon impact.
It hit Reagan’s left side. They pushed him in; and at first, they didn’t realize he was hit. Then they realize, some hours later, just how serious it was—he came very close to dying.
The day after, Nancy Reagan was just beside herself. Everybody knew they had a close marriage. She had—Billy Graham was there, Frank Sinatra and his wife was there, and then her pastor from her church in California was there. She kept telling them how guilty she felt. “What do you mean?” She said: “I’m almost always with Ronny; and when I’m with him, I’m at his left side. If I was there, he wouldn’t have been hit.” There’s this silence in the room, as they realized, “I wish I would’ve been there, because then the bullet would have hit me and not my husband.” That’s cherishing your spouse / that is wanting to protect your spouse. When you’re cherishing your spouse, you want to take that bullet, whether it’s in a social situation or whether it’s in a real-live situation, like that.
Bob: You know, what you’re describing / what rings in my head is Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 3 and 4. I’ve said to couples, for years: “If we could learn how to apply these two verses of Scripture in marriage, it would fix 90 percent of the marriage issues that I hear about.” The verses say: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility regard one another as more important than yourself. Don’t merely look at for your own interest but also for the interest of others.” Cherishing another person is to say: “I’m going to look out for your interests as more important than my own. I’ll die to self in order to honor you.”
Gary: When we do that, it increases our love for our spouse. I remember, one time, Lisa and I were in a town in California. Lisa likes to research all the funky restaurants whenever we are going into a town.
We’d been at lunch for a while—she goes, “Let’s take a little walk.” We were about a block-and-a-half away from the restaurant, and there was the loudest crash I’d ever heard in my life. I just immediately went over Lisa, had her in front of me—I just kind of covered her, and we just waited because: “Is this an explosion? Is this a terrorist attack?”—you know, all the things you think of. It was just a construction accident about a block away—a bunch of metal had fallen down.
Lisa kind of looked up—she goes, “Aw; you saved my life.” I didn’t save anything! There was absolutely no danger at all. But here’s the thing—I didn’t have time to think / it’s that split-second reaction. I heard something; and it was like: “How do I get Lisa out of here? How do I protect her?” What it did—the rest of the day, I just felt softer toward
her / I felt more affection toward her. Even though she really wasn’t really at risk, I thought: “Man! I could have lost her.” I think the more you protect someone, it builds a cherishing heart.
If you have an original autograph from George Washington, you don’t use it as a coaster.
It you have a Rembrandt painting, you don’t put a popsicle stick frame around it—you protect it, you show it off, you put an alarm by it, you insure it. The same thing as in your marriage, when you’re protecting your spouse, that creates a heart that values your spouse.
Dennis: I’m holding in my hand something that causes a lot of problems in marriage. You mentioned it earlier—it’s being on time. You can’t tell, because there’s no other clock in the room; but if you were to take a careful look at my watch, Gary, you would see that it is ten minutes fast. Now what that is—is that that’s the influence of Coach Vince Lombardi, who had his watch set ten minutes fast. He believed in being places ahead of time/early. I don’t always do it, but this is my reminder to kind of stay ahead of things.
Now, I married a woman who is an artist; okay?
Gary: I can see where this is going!
Dennis: Of course—of course it is! But I want to underscore what you’re saying—
—a strength, like being on time, can become a negative in your marriage if you think it’s more valuable than your spouse is. I haven’t learned this perfectly—but I don’t throw my wife under the bus with other people, or even with her anymore, because I’ve just—I say: “You know what, Sweetheart? I’m setting my watch early. We’re going to leave early enough to anticipate the traffic and getting there on time.” That, in essence, is doing what you’re talking about. It’s—after four decades of marriage, I’ve finally got it, Gary; but sometimes, it does take decades to learn how to love your spouse and protect them.
Bob: You talk in your book about Kathy Ross, who’s the wife of Dr. Hugh Ross, and what she did to cherish him, and really to protect him, and to help him excel in what God had called him to do; right?
Gary: Right; Dr. Hugh Ross is a Canadian American astrophysicist, just a brilliant man.
He spoke at Second Baptist in Houston, Texas. As he would answer these spontaneous questions—this wasn’t part of the prepared notes presentation—people would just throw out these questions. He’s pulling these figures out of his mind that makes all of us think, “Okay; he has a different species of brain than I do”; but he casually dropped how he scores up there on the autistic spectrum.
I had to get the back story—I mean, how does this work? So when everybody was getting their autographs with Dr. Ross, afterwards, I went up to Kathy, his wife. She just told me this very inspiring story about seeing him when he was a post-doctoral student at Cal Tech. She saw that he had these great presentations / she saw that he had a great mind, but she also saw some of the autistic tendencies that was holding his ministry back. She made some helpful suggestions.
She prayed, from the time that she was a little girl, “Lord, I just want to help others come to know you.” She saw the impact he was having: “Well, maybe, I can help him out a bit.” When he put a few of her tips into practice, he found out that it was helpful. He went to her again, “Okay; tell me what I need to do.”
“Alright; let’s start with the haircut. Just go to somebody—don’t tell them how to cut / just tell them to make it normal. Go to Macy’s, have them pick out your clothes; because plaids don’t go with stripes, and your pants should cover your socks,”—and whatnot. She goes: “And use personal illustrations. When you have these great biblical principles, use a personal illustration so somebody can relate.” She said: “Hugh, this is really important—when you’re talking to people, look them in the eye. It makes a huge difference.”
He literally took out a 3x5 card, and he’s writing this down: “Okay; haircut, clothes, and illustrations—I’ve given him that.” Then, it just exploded his ministry / he began to see it take off. He went and got the normal haircut / he got the clothes. He said to Kathy, “With my work at Cal Tech, and my volunteering for the church, I only have one day off a week. Would you like to spend that one day getting to know each other?” That was enough of an invitation to melt her heart. They ended up dating, and they’ve been married ever since.
Hugh just has this brilliant mind that makes it seem ridiculous to not believe in God from science alone. He just really understands how it works. He has a really powerful ministry, and his website has this site—[Reasons to Believe]—If you don’t believe and if you do believe. He really lays it out there to help people come to know the Lord through creation. Kathy believes that her life calling has been to help increase his ministry.
The reason their marriage works—I described what we talked about—about the ballet is woman / about showcasing your spouse and supporting them—and her eyes lit up, because it’s been her life. By helping Hugh deal with these issues, he’s had a far more impactful ministry. She believes that, through Hugh, she’s reached far more people than she could have on her own. She never faults him for occasionally having those autistic tendencies show up. Hugh doesn’t expect Kathy to have the brain of an astrophysicist. They understand each other’s strengths / they understand each other’s weaknesses. They cherish each other / they support each other.
An incredible work of God has been born by two people joining together and building each other up.
Dennis: At the Weekend to Remember®, we have a principle that you just reminded me of—it is that of receiving your spouse as God’s gift to you. That’s what she did with her husband, Hugh. She saw him for what he was—a gift from God. She was there to compliment him in his strengths and in his weaknesses. As an act of her will, she chose to enter into a marriage that all of us have—all of us have marriages that where we’re marrying someone, who has strengths and weaknesses / plusses and minuses. If you can begin to think of it as a faith assignment to trust God with, it would make all the difference in the world.
Bob: You share a powerful illustration about cherishing in a story you tell about a resident?—a med student?
Bob: Was he still in med school when this happened?
Gary: He was—he was just starting out. His name is Dr. Greg Bledsoe. He is—actually, you should know him—he’s the Surgeon General of Arkansas.
Bob: Oh, really?!
Gary: I didn’t know Arkansas had a Surgeon General until he told me he was chosen for it.
Dennis: I met him!
Gary: You have?
Dennis: I have! I know him; yes.
Gary: Great guy!
Dennis: I wasn’t connecting the two here—it’s the one and only; huh?
Gary: Yes; he told me the story about, when he was a young medical student, just doing rounds with the resident physician. He wasn’t trained well enough to actually perform medicine—he was really just at an observing stage. They went into one room, where a woman was there in her eighties—a neuromuscular disease that left her in a wheelchair. She would sit at an angle / her mouth was agape. She would occasionally drool. All she could do was moan.
There was this eighty-something-old husband—very spry, filled with energy, a lively kind of guy. Greg was struck, because usually it’s the other way around—
—he says the wife is caring for an ailing husband—but in this case, it was reversed. As a young man might say—he knew all the care that would be required—and he looked at this man and he said: “I felt sorry for him. At this point in his life, he has to care for someone who needed this much care.” Then he looked down at the sheet, and he saw her address and the husband’s address. He realized she wasn’t at a home—he didn’t pick her up on the way to the doctor’s office—he was her primary caregiver. Again, he found himself saying, as a young man might, “Please God, not me ever.”
Then the resident physician got a page, and so he had to leave. That left Greg alone with the husband and the wife. Greg was a little embarrassed—there was nothing he could help with. He wasn’t far enough along to actually treat. The husband kind of sensed the awkwardness. He broke the silence and said, “She’s my fishing buddy, you know.” “Say what?” “Yes; she’s my fishing buddy. We set trout lines at that lake over there, two miles away.
“We’ve been fishin’ all over. Yeah, this one here?—she’s my fishing buddy.” He was beaming as he said this. Greg sat—transfixed for ten minutes—as he regaled him with story after story about what they’d had in their life together.
When the husband reached up and wiped a little drool off his wife’s chin, Greg was sort of reminded of—you know, for him, It wasn’t any different than when she was a 20-year-old and they went out for ice cream. As a little act of flirtation, he was wiping a little ice cream off her chin—he looked at her that way. After going through this moment, he said gone was any feeling of pity; instead, in its place, was envy. Here was a young man who envied this man that had this relationship with his wife.
Here’s a key point that I would make. Greg wasn’t envious of him for loving her. When he was being faithful—caring for her and serving her—
—it actually made Greg feel sorry for him. But when he saw this husband cherish his wife—to cherish a woman in her eighties, beset by disease, not even able to communicate, just moaning and drooling, with all the wrinkles—when he saw a husband cherish that wife, that’s when he envied him. That’s the power of cherish.
Love is important—we need to celebrate love / we need to proclaim love—love needs to be the bedrock. We need to call each other to love. But there’s something special that happens when we say: “I want to take the next step. I want to cherish my spouse, not only what it does for us, but the way it can inspire the next generation.”
Dennis: That’s what your book does—it inspires, I think, people to make cherish a part of their daily love and expression of love in marriage. I’ve got one last assignment for you, Gary.
I want Bob to tell people how they can get a copy of your book.
I also want Bob to share with them about the Weekend to Remember, because I think some folks may need to go to that. That may do wonders for their cherishing factor, if you know what I mean, Bob?
Bob: Yes; I would think, for a husband to say to a wife tonight / or a wife to a husband: “Do you know what would be fun?— would be for us to get away and have a weekend together—nice hotel / going to one of the Weekend to Remember getaways. We’ve talked about that. We’ve just never carved out the time to do it. Why don’t we look at our calendar?—look at the map and see where these getaways are being held and make plans?”
If you can’t do it in the next two or three months, start now planning for the fall and block out the weekend so that you’re committed to a weekend together, as a couple, at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. You can get the information you need about where the getaways are happening, what weekends we are in which cities. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for that information, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions—
—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800, “F” as in family, “L” as in Life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, you can find information online at FamilyLifeToday.com.There’s also information about Gary Thomas’s book, Cherish, available. You can order that from us online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and we’ll get a copy of the book out to you.
You know, I hope our listeners understand that we really do cherish you as well. We are humbled by the fact that you join us—many of you / every day—to listen to FamilyLife Today. We are always encouraged by the notes we get from FamilyLife Today listeners, who say, “God used your ministry in a significant way in my life.” Those notes come regularly here. It really is astounding how many people have written to us and shared the impact of this ministry on their marriage and on their family.
You stop and think, Dennis, about the number of legacies that have been preserved because of how God has used FamilyLife Today in the lives of so many couples over the years. I just feel like we need to take a minute to say, “Thank you,” to our Legacy Partners and to others who have contributed so that the scope of this ministry can expand. You are making it possible for FamilyLife Today to be heard by more and more people every year. In fact, every dollar you invest in this ministry goes to expand the reach of FamilyLife and FamilyLife Today.
If you can help with a donation today, we would be grateful for your support. In fact, we’d love to express our thanks by sending you a set of Resurrection Eggs®, a great tool to help share the story of Easter with your children or your grandchildren. It’s our gift to you when you donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate; or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO
Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: Well, we’re glad to have had Gary Thomas back with us. Gary, it’s always a—it’s always a real treat to have you. You’re real and we always have a lot of fun with you. I’m sorry we can’t put all of it on the air—[Laughter]— that we have here.
I’m going to give you the microphone and the privilege of cherishing your wife, verbally, with a tribute. Your wife is Lisa. You’ve been married over three decades—you have three children / adult children. I have the feeling Lisa will listen to this broadcast in Houston, Texas. Here’s your opportunity to get one point. [Laughter]
Bob: And you’ve been meditating on this for awhile—you told us you’ve been capturing, each day, things you cherish about Lisa. So, if she was here, and it was just you and her, what would you say to her?
Lisa, when I think of you, I think of you having given heroic love and care to our family, with our kids—the way that you basically made your life our life / the way that you have served us—the way that you gave up a large slice of your life to educate them / to raise them up in the Lord.
I thank you for your love for God. I think of the mornings, just even this past week, when I wake up—there you are, with your Bible in hand and those glasses on your nose now—just the way that you have let God fill your heart.
I thank you for your care for me and your belief in me. I know I don’t eat quite the way you want me to eat; but I was so touched the time when I heard you tell someone, “Look, my calling in life is to help Gary live longer so he can keep doing what he does.” I know that everything you do—you’re doing it because you really think, “This is what will help him.” Thank you for putting up with me—
—for dealing with the quirks—for still respecting me, and loving me and cherishing me, even though you know my faults as no one else does. I can’t imagine life without you.
Earlier on, this week, I’d been up, working for a couple of hours, and I heard you stir in the other room. I wish I could have captured and bottled just the stirring in my heart, that my favorite person in the world was now awake. I knew you were going to walk in and give me that sleepy hug and ask me how things are going. You have been a treasured partner in life, and I am so grateful for every one of those years.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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