I admit it. I am a closet reader of the Mitford novel series by Jan Karon. I began reading them in high school and have read every one published since then. They follow the life of a small town North Carolina pastor, Father Tim, and all those that his life intertwines with in his service to the Lord. Over the course of 13 novels, he visited Italy, met a long-lost brother, married for the first time well into his 60s, and adopted a teenage son. In the latest novel, Come Rain or Come Shine, his son is getting married, and of course, Father Tim performs the ceremony.
For the homily, Father Tim highlights the word “cherish” from the wedding vows, calling it “a higher plane within the context of love, something like the upstairs level in a home.” Biblically, he relates this to what Paul writes Romans 12:10, saying that to cherish someone is to “outdo one another in showing honor” – to take it to the next level.
Admittedly, this is a novel and not real life, but as I read those words I was blatantly convicted by the fact that I rarely try to outdo anyone in anything. I am okay with the status quo. I do what I need to do to let my husband and children know that I love them, and I move on, doing the next thing that I want to do.
Whoa, slow down, what? I am reading a fluff novel to take my mind of off things, and here He is, God, using a fictional account of someone else’s life to speak into my own. How does a wedding ceremony that didn’t really occur open my eyes to the filthy darkness of my own heart?
Since that reading, I have been mulling over what outdoing someone in showing honor would look like in my home. If I was to outdo my husband in showing honor, how would that work? I think I would care more about his preferences than my own. I would go out of my way to do things for him that show love, that show him honor. I would go above and beyond my usual laundry and folding of clothes and making the same old meal for dinner to putting away said clothes and making that special meal that feels too time consuming. And that’s just it – it is time-consuming for me, but if I was aiming to outdo him in showing honor, it wouldn’t matter.
Because I am a word nerd, I went to my concordance and looked up the word honor. According to Strong’s Definitions, its Greek counterpart means to value or esteem. I also looked up cherish, which means to foster with tender care or to keep warm. And both of those acts – esteeming and fostering, to me, equals time. It takes time to value someone. It takes time to go out of my way to do extra things to make them feel valued. It takes a sacrifice from me.
Just as Jesus sacrificed time for us – time with the Father, time in heaven, time when he could live fully in His power – I need to sacrifice my time to honor those I love. How will this look daily? I really have no idea. It will be different every day, but it will be intentional. I will have to see where the sacrifice needs to come, what will best show honor to my children, my husband. It may come in that last story that I am really too tired to read. It may come in sweeping up the farm dirt that inevitably makes it into our house without complaint. It could be bending over to pick up the crying, fighting child one more time.
It will come in following Phillippians 2:3 – “Do nothing in selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than you,” and it will involve sacrifice. It will involve loving my neighbor (whoever that is at the time) more than myself. It may not feel good. It may not be something I want to do – in all reality, it probably won’t. Paradoxically though, even though I am sacrificing, the task itself might be the easiest thing in the world – a hug, a snuggle on the couch, another explanation of how to regroup on a subtraction problem. The difficulty will lie in overcoming my own selfishness, in being humble enough, to actually do it.
And that is where God comes in. The beautiful piece of this is that I don’t have to figure out how to get over my own selfishness. I don’t have to figure out where to find the time or the energy or the desire to honor others. All I need to do is rely on the work of the Spirit in me, and then watch the fruit of the Spirit grow in our home.