Cherish is a word we don’t use much in our everyday conversation. I think that is why bringing it into the everyday is such a challenge. It feels strange to even use the word. We generalize with words such as like or love or enjoy. However, I think there are nuances of meaning in the word which bring it to life.
My working definition of cherish is this:
cherish – to hold or treat as dear; to feel love for; to care for tenderly; nurture
Let’s break that down.
To hold or treat as dear
A mama holding her child close when she first comes into the world and embracing her as she leaves to go out into the world. A husband holding his wife in moments of intimacy, through her pain or in an embrace of asking for or receiving forgiveness. A grandma holding a child in her lap as she reads to him. A child holding Daddy’s hand as he crosses the street or as Daddy crosses to another world.
We hold close those people who are dear to us. While of less importance, perhaps we could treat as dear those more mundane things in life as well. The chipped tea cup passed down from Grandma, the old Bible that Daddy read, the stained couch where we cuddle with our children while reading fairy tales, or the tattered quilt we wrapped our newborn in years ago.
To feel love for
Love has to be such an all-encompassing word in English. Other languages have degrees of love to address the differences between a spiritual relationship, a budding romance and an affinity for pizza. We Americans must make do with just one word.
Defining love could take pages of words. But to cherish is to feel that love. Ah! If we stop rushing and bustling, we may experience the full impact of the emotion of love. We can let ourselves enjoy the moment of looking into our child’s eyes or savoring that piece of homemade fudge or enjoying a sunset. We then immerse ourselves in the joy of it with a truly thankful heart.
To care for tenderly
The word cherish is used in the traditional marriage vows. If I were to get married all over again to my husband, I would not want to modernize the word. The idea of caring for tenderly is scoffed by remnants of feminism proponents, but I still believe it is the essence of a fulfilling marriage.
Neither my husband nor I need the care of each other to exist. He is capable of doing his laundry, making his own dinner and purchasing toothpaste. I am capable of taking the car for an oil change, earning an income, or checking with a mechanic about the noise the car is making.
But what joy we would miss if we were totally autonomous! The little touches of a marriage make it beautiful. I get into the car on a Monday morning, running late, and see that he has already filled the gas tank for me. He heads out the door with a cup of coffee and a packed lunch he didn’t have to prepare. I set the table on a Saturday morning while he sets out eggs, bacon and toast he cooked for us. The extra kiss that says I am so glad we are married. The wink across the room when we’re involved in different social conversations.
Again, it’s not of the same importance, but what if I treated everything that way? The little touches added to make a meal or a drawer or a conversation truly an expression of care for another person. Climbing into a bed made with fluffed pillows instead of untangling a web of sheets and quilts first. The mound of homemade whipped cream on top of hot chocolate made from a melted bar instead of a mix dumped hurriedly into a microwaved cup.
To nurture someone or something is to care for and encourage it’s growth and development. It is the instinct mostly attributed to women. We are the ones to remind our children to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth and get a shower. We are the ones who turn into the proverbial “mama bear” if one our babies is threatened.
In the Bible, the word nurture means training. Perhaps nurturing isn’t all instinct. It requires some work and discipline. And perhaps it isn’t just for our children. It may be time to begin nurturing the one closest to us, the one we see in the mirror every single day.