What would happen if we lived our lives bringing out the best in our spouse?
Gary Thomas is an awesome author–I respect him so much as a marriage expert, but also as a colleague and a friend. We’ve shared the stage before at a marriage conference, and we’ve talked and swapped advice about writing and publishing and, even more importantly, how to help people who come our way.
Gary has a new book out called Cherish, and it’s wonderful. I so wish every couple could grasp this idea and run with it–about how cherishing our mates can change us and can change them, too.
I asked Gary if I could publish an excerpt from his book, and I’m honoured that the first marriage post on this blog with my new blog theme is one by Gary!
Here he is:
Famed Russian-born ballet choreographer George Balanchine once said, “The ballet is woman.” The best male dancers recognize that their role is all about showcasing the female dancer’s beauty, particularly during pas de deux—couples’ dancing. People generally go to the ballet to see the beautiful form, grace, balance, coordination and strength of the female lead, but all of those qualities are even better showcased when the ballerina has a male dancer who can set her up, catch her, and support her.
As a former male dancer and later choreographer, Balanchine said that his job was to “make the beautiful more beautiful.” With a strong and gifted male dancer nearby, the ballerina can do more and attempt more than she could in a solo endeavor.
What if we considered that our job as husbands and wives was “to make the beautiful more beautiful?”
By supporting, stabilizing, lifting, and turning our spouses to the “best sides” of their strength and personality, our spouses can become more and do more than they ever could on their own. We essentially affirm the beauty we see in them by helping them become even more beautiful yet.
Some of our spouses may not even realize that they have a best side. It’s our job (and joy) to help them discover it. Others may have never allowed their best side to flourish—or even be seen—because they’re insecure. If that’s the case, when we learn to cherish them we will provide the support they need.
“Showcasing”–making the deliberate mental shift to cherish our spouse by highlighting their beauty to others in the same way a dancer focuses on supporting his partner—is an essential part of learning how to cherish our spouse. If two dancers are each trying their hardest to be noticed above or even by each other, the performance is going to be a colossal, ugly failure.
Husbands can take the attitude of male dancers, seeking to showcase their wives’ beauty. It may be the beauty of wisdom, so in social settings we do our best to see that she is heard. It may be the beauty of leadership, and we support her so that she can cast vision with others. It may be the beauty of hospitality, and we buy the things she needs and open up our homes (when we might prefer to be left alone) so that her beauty can be on full display. We remind ourselves, “Today, my job is to cherish her.”
Very few marriages would ever approach divorce if each spouse would make one of their first daily comments to each other, “How can I support you today? How can I make your day better?”If spouses began the day saying, 'How can I support you today?', we'd have awesome marriages! Click To Tweet
If wives adopted this attitude, supporting their partners to perform feats they could never do on their own, they might soon be married to “different” husbands with the same names—more confident, more at peace, more engaged at home. What if a husband knew—in the deepest part of his soul—that his wife was his strongest support, his most encouraging partner? What would that do to him? What if he was willing to risk failure out in the world or at home with his kids because he knew in his wife’s eyes he would always be her cherished champion? She supports him, she stabilizes him, and when he fails she binds up his wounds—spiritual and emotional—constantly turning and lifting him so his strongest side is always showing.
What if every wife woke up and thought to herself, “Today, my job is to cherish him by showcasing his best side to others?”What if all spouses embraced the role of 'showcasing my spouse's best side to others'?… Click To Tweet
A Brilliant Match
Dr. Hugh Ross, a Canadian-American astrophysicist, captivated the attention of five thousand people at Second Baptist Church, Houston as he made it seem patently ridiculous from scientific evidence alone to not believe in God. The ease with which he drew complicated numerical equations out of his mind—in response to spontaneous questions, not prepared notes—left most of us feeling like we were thinking with a different species of brain. Yet, near the end of his talk, Dr. Ross confessed that he is “definitely on the autistic spectrum” and that if it wasn’t for his wife Kathy, he’d be in a much different place.
While a continuous line of autograph seekers waited to get Dr. Ross’ autograph, Kathy told me her story of meeting a brilliant young Cal Tech researcher doing his postdoctoral studies while volunteering at a church.
Hugh was (and is) passionate about science and God; his intellect opened many doors that otherwise might have stayed shut, but his autistic tendencies were impairing his influence. As a friend, Kathy looked for ways to help him.
“What do I need to do?” Hugh asked her.
“Let’s start with the haircut. And then the clothes. Stripes don’t go with plaid, for instance. And you need pants that cover your socks, not to mention socks that match your pants. Try to use personal examples after you explain a spiritual/scientific principle so people can relate to what you’re saying. Oh, and Hugh, this is very important: look at people when you talk to them. It makes a huge difference.”
Kathy used a little more tact and grace than I’ve made it sound in this truncated form, but she remembers that Hugh literally took out a 3 x 5 card and wrote down notes as she talked. “Haircut. Clothes. Examples. Look people in the eye. Got it.”
Hugh went to Macy’s and asked the salesman to help him match clothes. He got a haircut, simply telling the hairdresser to make it look “normal.” He concentrated not just on what he was saying, but how he was saying it—including looking people in the eye.
The level of his impact took giant steps forward, which made Hugh all the more grateful to Kathy.
Kathy began to feel her heart moving romantically toward Hugh, but she told me she couldn’t imagine that a man of Hugh’s intellect and impact would be interested in her. Besides, with all the autistic stuff, how would that work out? Her heart was set first and foremost on serving God. “Heavenly Father,” she had often prayed, “If I could help anyone come to know you, that’s what I want to do.”
That’s why Kathy was so drawn to Hugh; she saw what Hugh was already doing on behalf of God’s work on earth, but even more she saw untapped potential if Hugh had just the right support. Perhaps she could reach more people helping Hugh than by sticking with her own ministry activities.
Hugh found his own heart yearning as well. In a matter-of-fact way typical of those on the autistic scale, his “romantic” invitation was as follows: “Kathy, I’d like to spend more time with you. With my studies and my work with the church, I have only one day off a week, but would you like to spend that one day off getting to know each other better?”
Believe it or not, that was enough to melt Kathy’s heart. They dated, got engaged, and have been married for decades, faithfully serving God together.
I described the “marriage is ballet” metaphor to Kathy and her eyes lit up; it describes her life. She found a brilliant but socially awkward man. By supporting, coaching, encouraging, and loving him, she has showcased his brilliance to the world. Many have come to embrace the Gospel because of Hugh’s witness and intellectual persuasion, others have had their faith solidified, and Kathy has been right beside Hugh the entire way.
What makes the Ross’ marriage work so well is that Hugh doesn’t fault Kathy for not being an astrophysicist and Kathy doesn’t expect Ross to act like a man who doesn’t have lingering effects of autism.
Hugh knows he wouldn’t be where he is without Kathy, and Kathy believes her life’s impact has been hugely enhanced by Hugh’s ministry, not diminished. She’s not embarrassed by his autism—she’s proud of how God is using him. She has devoted her life to showcasing him.
In short, this is a couple that cherishes each other and that builds each other up. Because they accepted what each other was and wasn’t, they actually became more than they would have been as individuals. They support, lift, turn and showcase each other, allowing their partner to shine at what he or she does best.
Rather than having their love diminished by each other’s imperfections, Kathy and Hugh cherish each other’s gifts, showcase those gifts, and thus enhance those gifts. Together, they marvel at what God has done; the two of them have become far more as a team than either one ever would have been as an individual.
The beautiful has become yet more beautiful.
This is the power of cherish.