Revive Our Hearts Radio

Focusing on Your Spouse’s Strengths

Leslie Basham: Gary Thomas knows a lot of people are tempted to see the best in others and the worst in their own spouses.

Gary Thomas: Has comparing a spouse’s weaknesses to another spouse’s strengths ever made a single spouse happy? And has it ever motivated your spouse to change?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

Yesterday, Nancy began talking with Lisa and Gary Thomas about cherishing one another in marriage. This program was recorded when Nancy was on the road, and there were some technical difficulties, but stick with the rough recording because this is such a meaningful conversation.

Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Thank you for joining us today on Revive Our Hearts for a conversation I know is going to be of great interest to you, especially if you’re married. But let me say, if you’re single, don’t tune out because there are important principles here if you ever will be married or if you know any married people and are a part of their journey in just helping them love the Lord and each other more. This is going to be a really helpful program.

I’m so thankful to welcome back to Revive Our Hearts today, Lisa and Gary Thomas. Thank you for taking time out of your day here in Houston to come and share with our Revive Our Hearts audience.

Dave/Lisa Thomas: Thanks, Nancy.

Nancy: Gary’s on the staff at Second Baptist Church of Houston. He’s an author. He’s a conference speaker. You may have heard him or read his books. If you haven’t read his books, I hope that you will after hearing this conversation.

They’ve been married thirty-three years, have three adult children, and have lived in different parts of the country, and now your kids are . . . You don’t have any kids here in Houston, do you, Lisa?

Lisa: No, we do not. They’re scattered across the country in Boston, Philadelphia, and north of Seattle.

Nancy: So really spread apart.

Lisa: Yes.

Nancy: Once you have a lot of grandchildren, somebody may be considering moving. I don’t know. That seems to change a lot of things for people.

Early in our marriage, Robert and I have, Gary, been so blessed to buy the books that you’ve written on marriage. I’ve read a lot of these books in the past, taught a lot of these principles, but now we’re living this, and it’s been really sweet.

I’ve said to Robert a number of times, “Honey, you’re the poster child for these principles.”

Robert, as many of our listeners know, was married for almost forty-five years. After cancer, his wife went home to be with the Lord after forty-some years of marriage. So we married as grownups, but we’ve entered into this as two people in a new marriage and needing God’s grace and needing a lot of wisdom.

We’re reading together this Devotions for a Sacred Marriage: A Year of Weekly Devotions for Couples, and it’s just so practical, so helpful. I keep going, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you, we need this. And thank you, Robert, for living this.” I keep thanking him for the ways that he practices these principles and the ways we’re learning to practice these principles.

So that book is available through Revive Our Hearts this week for a donation of any amount. When you give to help support this ministry, we’ll send you a copy of Devotions for a Sacred Marriage as our way of saying, “Thank you for helping us strengthen women, married and single, in the ways of Christ.”

And then, Gary’s newest book, Cherish: One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage, is available in our resource center online, ReviveOurHearts.com. Go there, and it will tell you how to get a copy of this book.

I hope every married person will get a copy of both of these books. I hope every single person will get a copy of these books, either to read yourself or to share with someone you know who is married because these are really life-giving, life-changing truths from God’s Word.

Lisa, you wrote the forward for Gary’s book, Cherish. I know when your husband writes a book on marriage, there has to be some pressure associated with that—like, we never argue, we never have differences. But you guys have walked through a lot to learn these principles together. And in the forward, you said, “I know what it feels like to be cherished.”

Lisa: Right.

Nancy: What did you mean when you wrote that?

Lisa: Well, first of all, let me just say I run the book table when Gary is speaking, and I just like to tell people, “He lives these principles.” I couldn’t stand there and sell his books or promote them if he wasn’t living out the things that he says.

And with Cherish, it wasn’t just when he started writing that book. To be honest, it comes more naturally to Gary than it does to me to do those extra gesture and cherish me in really amazing ways.

I think cherishing is something that is so unique, it’s going to look different to every person. And, for me, it was just through the little things, like, I have this magic car that never runs out of gas.

Nancy: (Laughing) Because you have a cherishing husband.

Lisa: Exactly. He’s learned how to wake me up very gently. I’m not a great morning person, so if he has to wake me, I much rather he wakes me than an alarm, and he’s just learned to do it in a very sweet way.

It might just be feeling his hand on my back, going through a crowd.

He learned early on, I would say, “Quit yelling at me.” He’d say, “I’m not yelling.” And he had to learn that meant, “I don’t like a scolding tone.” So he doesn’t use a scolding tone with me.

Nancy: As I’m listening to you, Lisa, I’m thinking, My husband Robert is an unbelievable romantic and tender and cherishing. I was single for fifty-seven years, and always had up kind of walls, appropriate boundaries and hedges, in my relationships with men. So this is stuff I’m having to learn. And he had to learn it, too.

Sin comes naturally to us. But once Jesus comes in, He teaches us how to cherish one another in the family of God and in the Body of Christ, and then in a unique way in the context of marriage.

Lisa: Right.

I think from moving from gritting your teeth and getting through it and enduring and putting up with to delighting in, adoring, celebrating, it takes time and energy and the help of the Lord to do that.

Nancy: So you can learn to cherish.

Lisa: Sure.

Nancy: In fact, you say in the forward, “I’m confident that this book, written by one who excels at cherishing (that’s your husband), will help you learn to cherish well.” So this is something that can be learned.

Gary: Absolutely. To write the book, I felt like I wanted to learn how to do it. I did it at first in response to obedience. I believe God convicted me. In our marriage vows we pledged not just to love but to cherish until death do us part.

I’ve been writing on marriage for twenty years, and always focused on love, sacrifice, service, commitment, hanging in there, perseverance. I never even thought about cherish.

Nancy: So what does cherish bring us different?

Gary: Cherish is what Lisa said. It’s celebrating. It’s adoring. It’s delighting in. And often we think, Well, if my spouse was better, I could cherish them. But I believe if we adopt the mindset I talk about in Cherish, the Adam and Eve mindset, for a brief slice of time . . . I think this is what’s so powerful in the book of Genesis: Eve was literally the only woman in the world. There was no one that Adam could compare her to.

He couldn’t say, “Well, this one has a great sense of humor, but Eve isn’t quite as athletic. Or, “She’s not as godly; her voice isn’t as sweet.” Or, “She’s not as intelligent.” Or whatnot. She defined what a woman was for Adam, as Adam defined what a man is for Eve.

Nancy: The only one.

Gary: The only one. And marriage is the choice where they become your Eve and Adam where, I think, you evaluate very thoroughly before you get married.

Nancy: Sure.

Gary: After you say, “I do,” that’s your Adam, that’s your Eve, and comparison is no longer appropriate. I just ask the listeners: Has comparing a spouse’s weaknesses to another spouse’s strengths ever made a single spouse happier?

Nancy: Nobody.

Gary: Has it ever motivated your spouse to change? It has probably discouraged them.

Nancy: Right.

Gary: Because they sense it, and they want to give up.

Nancy: Right.

Gary: It’s like when you have a sore tooth. You keep pushing it with your tongue. We do that with our marriages if we don’t cut out comparisons.

So cherishing begins with the mindset, “This is my Eve. There will be no other. She is the only one. I’m not going to think about what it would be like to be married to anyone else. I’m not going to contemplate a future with anyone else. I’m not going to say, ‘Well, if she didn’t have this . . .’ This is what I deal with.”

So you’re focusing on a real marriage, not a fantasy. That’s just wasted time.

Nancy: I think this is something (do you think I’m right?) that it’s harder for women than for men. Are we more prone to comparison and discontentment? I mean, if you asked couples: Rate your marriage on a one-to-ten, I think, generally speaking, husbands are going to rate higher; women are going to rate it a little lower. And so it’s more difficult for us as women.

Lisa: Right. I think a lot of people, once we get married, we look at what our husband isn’t as opposed to what they are. And even if they are all these great things, we focus on the things, like I said: Not able to repair things, which is so minor in the grand scope of things.

Nancy: I’m an editor by trade, even more than a writer, so my eye goes to the typo in the book. If there’s one typo, I’m going to see it. He says I can spot a typo on a billboard speeding by at 80 miles an hour.

So we’ve talked about how, in our marriage, my natural knee-jerk reaction is to point out the one thing—the piece of lint on the jacket. The whole rest of the jacket is great, but there’s just one piece of lint on it. And I’m going, “Well, somebody needs to point out these things.”

There is a way and a place—and you talk about this—to get into each other’s lives and to speak the truth in love, but to start from the base of, “I cherish you. I’m not comparing you to somebody else. I’m not looking for the little thing that isn’t quite right.”

Lisa: Right. I think that Solomon says this in the Song of Songs when he says, “My dove, my perfect one, the only one.” It brings out that same thing. Obviously, she is not perfect, and there are many women. But him saying, “My perfect one, my only one,” is that same Adam and Eve mentality there.

Nancy: So, Gary, when Lisa has that attitude towards you, what does that do for you as a husband?

Gary: Well, it makes me aspire to be the man she thinks I am.

Nancy: That’s funny. Robert often says, “I want to be half the man you think I am.”

Gary: When they encourage you, you like that affirmation. And so it’s like, “Well, then, how can I be more of that?” Encouragement really can be the seedbed of growth; whereas, I think, taking each other for granted is a seedbed for discouragement.

There’s this neurological trick where, if you’re not actively thinking (and we do this with God as well as with each other) every blessing just becomes “what is.” We just accept it as the status quo. So every frustration, then, becomes a point, not realizing the fact that . . .

We know over the course of the world, if we have $10 in our pocket, and we have a house to go home to and clothes, we are better off than the vast majority of the world’s population. But we’re not thankful to God because He doesn’t answer one prayer that we want Him to answer.

I’ve seen some wives married to just tremendous men. In fact, one that Lisa and I just met, was a couple where he had been everything. He was this superstar when they got married. He had literally been a professional football player, a quarterback. He played shortstop on the baseball team. He had been in a band as a guitar player. He was wealthy. He was now a pastor. He’s spiritually alive, a solid pastor.

And what was hard for him when they got married, he said, “I felt like for my whole life: My mom’s cheering me on. The cheerleaders are cheering me on. The fans are cheering me on. Then I would come home, and I would hear, ‘Boo! Boo!’”

She was horrified because she just thought every guy prayed for and with his wife; every guy provided financially really well; every guy came home to his wife and didn’t embarrass his wife and didn’t belittle his wife. Until she realized, “I accepted I had this great guy I’m married to, but instead of it being a great guy, it’s, ‘Okay, this is how guys are supposed to be. So could I get him to do a little bit more?’”

And we all do that.

Nancy: It’s defeating and discouraging.

Gary: If we’re not pursuing cherishing, I think.

Nancy: And yet we’re talking to some right now who, their husband maybe really isn’t a great guy. Maybe they feel ignored or belittled or taken for granted. And they’re going, “Yes, I wish I was married to that guy!” So there’s the comparison again.

What can help take a marriage where there’s toxic, there’s distrust, there’s hurt, there’s years piled up of taking each other for granted and not being kind to each other. How do you change the dance step, because it’s not going to be fixed overnight? What’s a step that can help start to change the tune in that marriage?

Lisa: You can only work on your side of it, unilaterally. But it can change the tone, I think. One is meditating on the truth of Philippians 4:8 and choosing to think on the things that are true and right and all those qualities about your spouse.

Thankfulness—there has to be something you can thank God for in your spouse each day, even if, like you said, there’s a lot of disappointment.

Gary: One thing that I did in 2016 that helped increase that level of cherishing, was I got a daily journal that has a page for each day. (I stole this from another wife—there was a wife that came up with the idea—and I thought it was a great idea.) I just wrote down something every day, specific to that day, that Lisa did or something that she was. Mostly it was just thanking her for, “You did this. . .” She didn’t know I was doing it.

So, literally, every day, the first thing I did, before I had my quiet times, before I went to work, I’m opening up this red book: “Okay, Lord, remind me of what Lisa did yesterday that I can record in this book.” And what that did was it changed the way I thought about her and then it changed the rest of the day because after 1 or 200 days, you can’t keep writing the same things, so I’m literally scanning her, because I know in the morning before I can get started with my day, I’ve got to write something down. So I’m looking for the good things.

If it’s not the best of days, that just goes off. You’re not going to write it down. You don’t even think about it. So it trained me to think Philippians 4:8.

Nancy: And did you give her the journal?

Gary: It was her Christmas present.

Nancy: Awww . . .

Gary: I went ahead and did some other things.

Nancy: Okay, you guys who are listening, don’t tell my husband this. We’ll keep it our secret. But I think I’m going to do that this year, but please don’t tell him, because that’s going to be a surprise for him. Okay?

Lisa: (Laughing) It was really sweet. My daughter said, “Whoa, I thought people only did this kind of thing on a Hallmark movie, Dad.”

Gary: And at the end of that, Nancy, I don’t know if I prayed for God to change Lisa one time in 2016 because when you have a written record of 250 great things that she is and has done, it just seems a little bit picky, to say, “Oh, God, can You change this one little thing?”

So it was really just practice of learning to cherish the woman I already have.

Leslie: That’s Gary Thomas. He and his wife Lisa are talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth here on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy recorded this interview while on the road, and there were some technical challenges, but, as you’ve been hearing, the content is still worth savoring. Let’s keep listening.

Nancy: I think as women, we really, really need this refocusing, this focusing on what is good, what is true, what is praise worthy, and starting to, not only notice those things, but, you mentioned gratitude, Lisa. That means pointing it out, saying, “Thank you.” Expressing those things that maybe we think but we assume they know that, and we sometimes just don’t say it.

Lisa: Oh, right. I’m very guilty of that. It’s like, “Wait. You don’t know that I think you’re great and I’m thankful for all those years of hard work or just getting up each day and going to the grind?” I’m just not as good about expressing that.

Gary: We talked yesterday, Nancy, the difference between love and cherish. I think that’s partly behind women with the expectations you’re talking about because they’re in tune to the fact that, “I’m to love my husband. I’m to be true. I’m going to hang in there. I’m going to persevere.” And women are legendary and heroic about persevering and loving in the face of challenges and difficulties.

Nancy: Yes.

Gary: But a lot of Christian men don’t feel cherished. They don’t feel celebrated. One man was with seven leaders in his church. These were solid guys with solid marriages, the kind of marriages a lot of people would say, “I wish my marriage was like that.”

And just to check, he said, “Okay, I want you to raise your hands: How many of your wives love you?” All seven hands went up.

And then he said, “How many of your wives like you?” And every hand went down.

Nancy: Interesting.

Gary: Every husband felt loved. None of them felt cherished. The danger of a husband who doesn’t feel cherished is that, while the wife may ignore what the husband is doing, what we’ve been talking about, the husband is keenly aware.

This is part of our fallenness as men. We shouldn’t be this way, but we get to a point where we say, “If I can’t win the game, I’m not going to play the game.”

Nancy: Yes.

Gary: I’ve worked with a lot of professional athletes. For instance, they won’t take up golf because they excel as an athlete, and golf is so difficult. If they can’t excel, they’re not going to play.

So if a guy feels like he really is trying in his marriage, and his wife doesn’t notice, and all she says is, “This is where you’re failing,” the danger is some guys just stop trying to get his ego met through his marriage, and they’re going to focus on their work, or they’re going to focus on their hobby, or they’re going to focus on everything else except their marriage.

I’m never excusing a husband who does that. I’m just saying that’s the temptation that everything you and Lisa were talking about can pull a man back from. When he feels like there’s satisfaction in his marriage, he wants to be more engaged in the marriage, more involved in the marriage. And, wives, that means more involved with you and more engaged with you.

Cherishing, I believe, is a promise we made, but it is also a strategy to help renew the marriage in its intensity.

Nancy: It’s interesting how, by making a sacrifice and the effort to cherish, you get the thing you most wanted, which is the closeness and him to be motivated. And by pointing out the faults or not noticing or celebrating the good things, you’re actually pushing away and hurting yourself in the process.

Lisa: Right.

Nancy: So, Gary, let me ask you, because we’re talking to a lot of wives here, and I think it’s helpful to hear from a husband. In your marriage, what makes you feel cherished and celebrated as a husband? And while he’s thinking about it, let me just say this would be a good question for all of us as wives to ask our husbands: What makes you feel (I just made a note here, I have to talk to Robert about this one on the way home today) cherished and celebrated in our marriage? Because it’s going to look different than Gary and Lisa’s marriage.

Gary: It’s funny. When I was talking to guys about what makes them feel cherished, there was an insecurity. When I talked to women and said, “What makes you feel cherished?” You could pour a hot cup of coffee, and it’s cold, because they know exactly. With guys it was, almost like: “Am I supposed to want to be cherished? Does that mean I have to turn in my man card?”

Nancy: Yes. I get that.

Gary: And then, frankly, for a lot of them—and these were some younger men—they would say, “Do you want the real answer or the PG version?” Which means they were interested in physical intimacy. That really does make them feel cherished.

I think, for me, at this point of my life, just when I hear Lisa say like she did to others, “Well, I just happen to be married to the best husband in the world,” or something, little statements of affirmation. I know she cares for me, and her real concern with what I eat is all based on cherishing me and wanting me to be healthy and wanting to take care of me.

We kind of talked on this yesterday, but the challenge is: We mentioned, that eating, for me, is utilitarian. I don’t like to be hungry, but I don’t particularly enjoy food. But I know she is cherishing me. It really does matter to her.

Lisa: I’m making healthy meals.

Gary: Right. We talk about what we’re going to eat, and picking out a restaurant, where I can just say, “There’s an Applebee’s, let’s stop.”

Nancy: So cherishing doesn’t just mean it’s fluff and movie-sort-of-stuff. Sometimes cherishing is going into the hard places and speaking into those as well.

Gary: It does. I think the challenging in cherishing, though, is that the person who’s getting cherished gets to decide what makes them feel cherished. You know that in marriage, that’s the real challenge. Husbands will cherish their wives like they think they want to be cherished. The wife will do the reverse. And neither one of them feels like they’re getting that.

Just realize you married a real person with a real past, real psychological makeup, a real spiritual makeup, and it’s learning to find out what makes them feel special.

Some women may not like that daily journal that much. Some guys . . . the wives might be hurt. I can just imagine some wives writing this and then checking six months later, and the guy hasn’t even read it. You’ve got to be careful because you think you’ve got this great idea, and then it can just kind of flop. But marriage is a journey to learn how to do that.

Nancy: Well, we’re on that journey, Robert and I. You and Lisa are. And many of our listeners are as well. And to help you on that journey, we want to offer two books. I don’t want to just offer them. I want to urge you to get these two books.

I really think, as much as anything I’ve read in recent years, these will help your marriage or the marriage of a son or daughter or a friend: Devotions for a Sacred Marriage: A Year of Weekly Devotions for Couples. They’re short. They’re easy to read. They’ve got great illustrations, practical insights. We’re going to touch on some of those in our next program, tomorrow.

I want every married couple to have this book. Ask your husband, wives, “Would it be okay?” That’s what I did with my husband. I got ahold of this book. It looked good, and I said, “Honey, would you like to read this together?”

He said, “Sure. I’d be glad to.” He likes it when I read out loud. And so he said, “Why don’t you read it?” We pay close attention. We love it. We talk about it.

And that’s available when you make a donation of any amount this week to Revive Our Hearts.

And then this other book, Cherish, we’ve been talking about that, The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. I want you to have this book. I want you to read it.

I’d say, on this one, if you’re a woman, just read it yourself, and ask the Lord to show you how to cherish your husband, as I’m asking the Lord to show me how to cherish Robert in ways that are meaningful to him.

So go to ReviveOurHearts.com to our online bookstore, and you can see how to get a copy of Cherish.

We’re going to continue this conversation with Gary and Lisa Thomas, so be sure to join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with Gary and Lisa Thomas.

To take Nancy up on the offer she just made, call 1–800–569–5959. Give a gift of any size to Revive Our Hearts, and ask for Devotions for a Sacred Marriage. Again, that’s 1–800–569–5959, or make your donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com and get the book.

And, again, to order the book, Cherish, call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Gary Thomas says you might go through a season of loving your spouse just because it’s the right thing to do. But, he adds, when you do that, and do things according to God’s plan, it will result in great joy in your life. He’ll explain more tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is rooting for your marriage. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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