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.