Chick flicks capture the frenzy, and newsstands are littered with the evidence: Women are flat-out wedding crazy. The wedding industry is a billion-dollar business. Many women are obsessed with being a bride. So much so that there are now television shows, magazines, professional planners, stylists, designers, photographers, and personal wedding websites all clamoring to deliver a girl her “dream wedding.”
Intrinsic to a woman’s nature is the longing for covenant love. There’s a reason women flock to romantic comedies and little girls dress up as their favorite fairy-tale princesses—our souls were fashioned by a God who loves us sacrificially, who says we are worth fighting for. This love story is inscribed upon our very souls. For so many women, a wedding is about this fairy tale coming to life.
But strip away the glitz and glamour, and a wedding is about one thing: a man and a woman standing before God, binding their lives together with holy vows. The altar, the aisle, the witnesses, and the rings all point to a covenant. Deep within the heart of a woman, she desires to be chosen—for someone to love, honor, and cherish her . . . till death do they part.
Traditional wedding vows contain three simple yet profoundly beautiful tokens of devotion: The groom stands before God and witnesses at an altar—biblically known as a place of sacrifice—and commits to lay down his life in order to love, honor, and cherish his bride. This vow stands as a picture to the watching world of what Christ did for His bride, the Church. The Christian wedding vow is based in Scripture, where God reveals the mystery that Jesus’ sacrificial love is the model for Christian marriage.
LOVE, HONOR & CHERISH
“Love, honor, and cherish . . .” Cherish is hands down my favorite word of the trio. Perhaps I like it because it is not abused and overused like its sister word, love. Nowadays people claim to fall in and out of love within the span of a thirty-minute reality TV show. The word cherish, on the other hand, still has weight. It stands apart as a word- picture of true love in action. To cherish something is to hold it in honor and to place high value upon it. Cherish is love wearing work boots. This love is not the run-of-the-mill emotional love of chick-flick lore, but the love that seeks the best for the other, the covenant-keeping love that puts work behind the words. This is the high and holy calling that the Lord God places on a man who would be entrusted with one of His daughters.
A recent event taught me a great deal about the intrinsic connection between cherish and value. A week after my wedding, I packed up all my belongings to move from Houston to San Antonio to begin my new life with my husband. The wedding festivities now behind us, it was time to begin our real dance as husband and wife. Movers arrived, loaded box after box of my former single-girl life into a truck, and shipped it off to a storage unit. This move was huge. My whole life was swaddled in bubble wrap. After years of living solo, I’d collected many treasures— items that were especially valuable to me, ones I took special care to protect.
These were not valuable in the materialistic sense of the word, but treasures that held a special place in my heart. While packing these items, I carefully wrapped each one before placing it into a box. Each box was then meticulously marked: Fragile: Handle with care. Breakable. Do not crush. I took this precaution because these objects were cherished.
Think of your own home. What do you cherish? The object itself may be worthless to someone else, but to you it is a treasure. That is the meaning of cherished. Something is valued because it points to something greater. For example, my grandmother’s teacup is not just a piece of china. No, it points to something greater, to someone I dearly loved.
A few weeks passed and we opened the storage unit to begin the painstaking process of unpacking. Once inside, I discovered the boxes that I had carefully marked Fragile: Handle with care were crushed. As I unpacked and surveyed the damage done from ignored instructions, I sensed God speaking a word to my heart:
“Marian, this is exactly how a generation of my daughters willingly treat themselves. They are my treasures that I paid the highest price to redeem. I cherish them, yet they ignore my instructions, and they are crushed. My heart breaks for their tears, their shame, and their brokenness. I long for them to be treated like treasures, yet they settle for so much less than my best.”
Taking inventory of the destruction, I saw the parallels oh so clearly. We are cherished by God because we, too, point to something greater—we point to His Son, Jesus, who paid the ultimate price to redeem us.
It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
1 Peter 1:18–20
Ladies, please don’t miss the words “for your sake.” Sexual purity begins with understanding the heart of God; He loves you, He desires His best for you, and He defines your value. God, who is the ultimate authority, has spoken. You are more valuable than silver or gold, for He paid the highest possible price to rescue you. When He speaks a commandment to you, He does so to bubble-wrap His treasure in order to protect you.
This is the heart of our heavenly Father, who longs for us to be cherished. He expects you to be honored. He expects your purity to be guarded. Most important, your heavenly Father expects a man to love you as Christ loves the church.
May I ask a tough question?
Do you expect the same for yourself?
Just as those movers failed to heed my instructions, and as a result my belongings were destroyed, when we ignore God’s instructions concerning love, dating, and marriage, we, too, are crushed.
Sexual purity springs forth from a woman’s heart when she knows and believes that she is cherished—a highly valued daughter of God who is worth fighting for. But let’s be honest. In the world we live in, women don’t often see themselves as “cherished” or “pricesless treasures,” nor do they see sex as sacred.
Sex is cheap in our culture for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons is that we’ve failed to see ourselves as people made in the image of God. Many Christians even fail to recall that they are the temples of the Living God and that His Spirit dwells in them.
We are the creation of a beautiful and loving God. When we fail to see Him rightly, we fail to see ourselves rightly. Sex only becomes sacred again when we see our bodies as sacred. When I started to see God for who He is, then and only then could I begin to see myself for who He says that I am. We behave how we believe. We live out the truth that resides in our innermost being. So when a woman sees herself as God sees her—cherished—she will align her life to that truth. Her choices reflect her core identity.
Recently I had a conversation with a mother sick with worry. Her daughter is in college and is in love. She struggles with insecurity, although you’d never know it by looking at her. She is smart, beautiful, and gifted. She professes faith in Jesus, yet she continually settles for guys who do not share her love for Christ.
She is a girl who finds her worth in a guy. Over and over again, her heart is broken. Her current boyfriend doesn’t treat her with very much love or respect. She isn’t his priority. He doesn’t honor her purity. He consistently puts himself first. Yet she chooses to stay with him. Her mom finally broke down and said to her, “You love him, but he doesn’t cherish you. You deserve someone who will treat you as God wants you to be treated.” I’m sure those words were hard for her to hear, but they were oh, so needed. Sadly, this girl is not alone. I’ve met countless women who settle for less than God’s best because deep down, they don’t believe they are cherished—or worth dying for.
YOU ARE WORTH DYING FOR
Move over, Nicholas Sparks, your books don’t hold a candle to the greatest love story of all time, the Gospel. The Gospel is God’s love story. Much like a knight in shining armor, Jesus left the splendor of heaven and stepped into our mess. Why? To fight for us.
Unlike in fairy tales, Jesus didn’t slay the dragon, He allowed the dragon to inflict on Him the most horrific death ever invented— crucifixion. And for three full, horrific days, it seemed like darkness won. But one bright Sunday morning the tomb was found vacant and the grave clothes empty. Jesus overcame death, bringing new life to His love.
Why does this matter? Let this truth resonate deep inside your soul:
There was a choice; Jesus made it.
There was a burden; Jesus took it.
There was a problem; Jesus solved it.
Jesus willingly went to the cross to die . . . for you. He experienced unbelievable suffering and shame all with one purpose in mind: to rescue you. As Ephesians 5:25 plainly states, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” That’s you and that’s me—the Bride of Christ. He “gave himself up” for us. Jesus’ sacrificial love defines the word cherished and stands as God’ s expectation for how a man should treat one of His daughters. Stop and really read that Scripture. Pause. Believe. The God of the Universe said with outstretched arms that you were “worth dying for.” Believing this truth transforms everything . . .
how you see yourself, how you treat yourself, how you view purity, how you date, and most important, whom you marry.
I should know, because God’s love story, the Gospel, transformed everything about me.
Marian Jordan Ellis