The best marriage advice I have ever received came from an 80-year-old, Scottish widow.
Sitting beside her a few weeks before my wedding she told me, “The only marriage advice I’ll give you is this: cherish.”
The word didn’t come with any commentary, and I would spend the next 23 years unpacking its meaning and value.
My wife and I married young. We even recited vows that included the words, “to love, and to cherish.”
Yet, cherish wasn’t mentioned a whole lot in our pre-marital counselling.
I don’t even remember it being part of ‘ Homes of Honour ’ the Gary Smalley marital course we shared with people twice, sometimes three times our age.
At the time I had no idea what it meant and found her advice somewhat too simple.
It contradicted every “merry marriage” method, “how to” and “Your best life for now” list we were being handed.
Not realising the depth, breadth and calibre of the word, to her I must have looked puzzled, a little confused, maybe even indifferent.
Although I didn’t miss her intentions, nor the heavy-hearted weight of her wisdom born from suffering, I missed the point completely.
The verb cherish is enigmatic. It is hard to pin down, even harder to practice.
It is ethereal, other-worldly and hard to grasp.
The word is defined by Mirriam-Webster as to ‘hold dear.’ To ‘keep and cultivate with care and affection.’
It also connotes ‘to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.’
The Hebrew meaning goes even further.
Cherish is a ‘thing of value; something of delight.’ It is connected to the old Greek word ‘thesauros’, meaning ‘treasure; something precious.’
Dig down far enough and cherish connects to the word truth, “aletheia” in old Greek.
In another context, it extends out towards the verb phrases ‘storing up,’ and ‘keeping safe.’
In this light, cherish is a discipline. It’s not simple advice.
It has to be learned. To cherish someone other than ourselves — things or makeshift gods — takes effort.
It’s easy when we’re younger to take time for granted. To lose sight of the light, and life.
The last thing on our minds is stopping to appreciate the second, the present, the here and now moment.
Our society moves us all at a pace that exhausts us. We’re pushed to move, to turns screws, open cash registers and keep the economy going.
Sure, we take the time to Instagram some things. We mark events of the social calendar on social media.
We do the obligated filtered photo. Add soppy captions, performing society’s little dance, where everyone pretends to give a damn.
If we’re not viewed as products of the age, we’re viewed as a number or an empty vessel in need of programming.
In a culture that falls before the idols of efficiency, it’s hard to stand still. It’s even harder to stop.
There seems to be little time to “cherish” anything or anyone.
It’s here that the words of a widow linger.
My old friend has long since passed, and yet, of all the pre-martial advice we received, it’s her words that remain:
“The only marriage advice I have for you is this: cherish.”
Her words linger. They’re like a whisper. A full stop. They never fail to bring me to a halt, reminding me of the fleeting nature of this world.
I may not have cherished her advice at the time or taken her words all that seriously, but I do now.
I’ve learned that cherish demands a rejection of the cult of self; the “me, myself and I” ethos.
To cherish is to make room for others, buttressed and strengthened by healthy boundaries.
To borrow an inference from the words of an old Puritan Pastor, it is an all-in embrace of the principle that grace and self-denial go hand-in-hand.
So, I choose to heed this old widow’s advice. I choose to “cherish!”
I choose to hold what is precious and treasure what is real. To be deeply mindful and resolute in my defence of the lives of those who surround me.
This is the bedrock of a good marriage. This is the framework for a solid life partnership.
Time flies. Keep and cultivate; cherish this life partnership with as much care and affection as can be afforded.
For a marriage born from a right relationship is a thing of delight.
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