Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. —1 Thessalonians 5:18
There have been times when we had to practice “thank therapy” in our relationship to keep our marriage from going toward a not-so-pretty place. We have a high-maintenance marriage—we have to constantly work at keeping our relationship healthy. We have found that even in the midst of tension, if we stop and literally list the things we are thankful for about each other, it reminds us of all the good things in our relationship. Thank therapy is writing down or thinking of at least ten reasons why you are thankful for your spouse.
Let Jim explain. A few years ago, I was speaking at a family conference at the beautiful Mount Hermon Conference Center along the coast in northern California. Over the years, this area of the country, and this conference center, has been one of our favorite stops. Cathy came to the conference with me, and we had a wonderful time of ministry to families as well as some downtime on our own for hiking and hanging out at the beach in Santa Cruz. After the conference, we drove to one of our favorite romantic spots on the planet: Carmel, California. We took long walks, ate fun food, and spent extra time just enjoying each other’s company.
As we left Carmel, we began to drive down the Pacific Coast on Highway 1. It’s an incredibly dramatic drive filled with beauty. As we passed Big Sur, I was basking in the romance of Carmel, when Cathy in a matter-of-fact way leaned over to me and said, “Jim, I think you are getting a double chin.” I was looking for something like, “Jim, you are my hero” or “Jim, you are an incredible lover,” but the double-chin thing for some reason made me really, really mad. How dare Cathy bring up a flaw that I can be somewhat defensive about while driving along this beautiful highway and right after an amazingly romantic twenty-four hours! She went on gazing at the beauty, and I immediately crawled into my “Jim Cave.” Maybe you have your own cave that you crawl into. Frankly, I was mad at her timing.
A few minutes later, as I was sulking and she was gazing, oblivious to her stinging comment, I heard a still, small, non audible voice: “Practice thank therapy.” With gritted teeth I responded (not audibly), “Thank you, God, for Cathy and her crummy comment.” (Not happy at all about the comment.) Then I softened a bit, looked over at her, and thanked God for a wonderful week with her. I thanked Him for her beauty and fidelity and her deep commitment to Him. I went on thanking Him for the wonderful mother she is to our kids and the many sacrifices she has made over the years. I thanked Him for our friendship and for our romance. I made a mental list of probably thirty reasons why I was thankful for this one who was still gazing out the window and didn’t even realize she had wounded me with her silly comment. And then it dawned on me. It really wasn’t meant with any harm. Her timing stunk, but hey, with so much to be thankful for about her, did it really matter?
There have been times with tougher issues than the double-chin story that I have had to practice the discipline of thank therapy to make sure I had my priorities straight. What are you thankful for about your spouse? Is it time for you to practice some thank therapy on each other?
• How would you finish this sentence? “Here are three things I am thankful for about you.”
• How would you finish this sentence? “I am grateful for this special quality of yours:____________”
• Why does it sometimes feel like we focus on the negative more than the positive?
A STEP CLOSER:
This week keep a journal of at least twenty-five reasons why you are thankful for your spouse, and then give her/him the list. (Jim once wrote a hundred reasons why he was thankful for Cathy, and then cut them up in a hundred pieces and put them in a jar for her to read.)
(Excerpted from Closer: 52 Devotionals to Draw Couples Together by Jim and Cathy Burns; Bethany House, 2009.)