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The Big Three

May 12, 2021
The Three Things You Should Have Read This Week (08/31/18) — Pastor Matt's  Blog

Have you ever thought about how many things come in triads, sets of three? Like chipping, putting and driving? Or offense, defense and special teams? Or earth, wind and fire? Or blood, sweat and tears? Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin? Or Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player? Or Faith, Hope and Love? Or for most of the married people I know, three that were included in your wedding vows: love, honor and cherish? (A couple of generations ago, it would have been “love, honor and obey,” but since the 70s and 80s, we’ve made an adjustment. I’m good with love, honor and cherish. If those three are in place, the obeying part will usually happen more or less naturally.)

Since shifting my role and career fully into counseling, I see lots of married couples. Most of them because things have gone sideways in their marriage. I can only think of one or two in my 45 years of ministry in churches, and how a couple of years in private practice who came because their marriage was really good, and they just wanted to make sure they were doing all they could to keep it there. The rest came because of problems. Sometime BIG problems.

So it’s rare when I see couples the first time that they’re oozing love, honor, cherishing. Usually what’s oozing is pretty toxic. My goal is to help them discover that there is love and honor and cherishing in there, if even just a tiny hint of it, and walk with them as they do things that will grow these things. Depending on how long the unloving, dishonoring and disregarding has been going on, it could take anywhere from a few dial clicks of correction to a pretty full-on life make-over to get back to love, honor and cherish. And even if it’s just a few dial clicks, it takes a high degree of commitment and effort from the couple to make the changes that this process takes.

Here’s something about this process that’s changed my life since I learned it. No matter how much I want to see the changes made in their lives and marriages, they’ve got to want it more than I do. In fact, until they want it more than I do, there’s almost no chance of it happening. I have a counselor friend that will sometimes tell a client, “I think I’m working harder at this than you are, and that’s not going to work. Let me know when you’re ready to get in the game.”

Discovering that my role isn’t to do the work, but is to help them figure out what they need to do, and then help them move toward that, has changed my life. It took me longer than I whish it had to figure out that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change people, and I’m not the Holy Spirit. But learning that has set me free.

So thanks for letting me unburden my soul on this…

Here’s why I’m writing about love, honor and cherish. Nothing in family relationships makes them more healthy than these three things. The one thing that most promotes health and vitality in a family is having God at the center. Until this happens, no amount of merely human effort will do much to change things in a consistent and lasting way. But when He’s there at the center, three things that will always be there and happening to one degree or another are loving, honoring and cherishing. These things mark a healthy family.

I believe they happen in marriage and family life in a trickle-down way. It starts with putting God in the center and partnering with Him to discover and reflect His nature in the way we live as individuals. And then when two individuals with this as their goal get married, loving, honoring and cherishing trickle down to them from God, the Author of all three. It’s not instant, and it doesn’t happen accidentally, but God brings as much of Himself to the relationship as we allow Him to. When children come along, loving, honoring and cherishing trickle down to them because they see these three things being expressed by their mom and dad. And when this happens, the result is a thriving, healthy, mostly-happy family, though not a perfect one.

I don’t know anyone who would disagree with this, philosophically. (There are probably lots who wouldn’t, but I don’t know them.)

The problem isn’t in philosophical agreement, though. It’s down here on the runway where life happens day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. In the world of dirty laundry, bills to pay, jobs that take more than they give, cars that break down, homework, little league and enforcing bedtime schedules. Unfortunately, I know lots of families who philosophically agree with my trickle-down idea, but who have little love, little honor and little cherishing going on. It makes me sad, and I think it breaks God’s heart.

But there’s a positive side to this. Moving out of the brokenness of marriages and family life where loving, honor and cherishing isn’t happening doesn’t take a post graduate degree. It takes some education, but it’s not a matter of anybody not being smart enough to do this thing. Here are a few ideas I’ve got:

  1. Make a decision that you will not be satisfied with the status quo. Decide that you will begin taking steps in partnership with God to build in love, honor and cherishing into your marriage and family.
  2. Don’t wait for anybody else to come on board with this idea. Do the things that are needed, even if you don’t see much movement in anybody else. This part is about you, not them.
  3. ASK GOD FOR HIS DIVINE HELP. I probably should have made this number 1 on the list. None of the rest of the list will happen without this.
  4. Make a list of behaviors that you’ve seen in and from other people that capture love, honor or cherishing. Friends, family members, casual observations as you’ve done life, characters in books you’ve read. Look around. Intentionally start looking for things that communicate love, honor and cherishing.
  5. Figure out your spouse’s and your kids’ Love Languages. If you’re unfamiliar with the Love Language thing, here’s a website that will help you: There’s even a quick electronically scored assessment you can do for FREE.
  6. Connect what you learn about your spouse’s and your kids’ Love Languages with the list you made in step 4.
  7. Make it your goal to do something off the list you came up with in step 6 every day.

SEVEN STEPS!? That sounds complicated. It’s not as complicated as it seems. But it’s more important than you might think.

And here’s the best part: nobody wants you to effectively and consistently love, honor and cherish your spouse and your kids more than God does. If ever there was a prayer He wants to answer, it’s the one you’ll pray in step 3. So do it now. Don’t wait for a better time. There won’t be one. You have an enemy who’ll make sure of that. But you also have an Ally Who has already defeated your enemy, and Who’s just waiting for you to ask Him for His help.

From → Marriage

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