by David Roupe (Counselor at Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center)
When I grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, my father always had a garden. Since he grew up in a family of 12, the garden was an essential part of the family sustenance. It was so important that all 12 members worked in it to maintain and ensure a successful harvest. That mindset carried over to our family so that participation in the family garden was mandatory.
Marriage is much like a garden. There are several components necessary for a successful marriage, and all need to participate in order to make it work well. The Bible instructs us in the practices necessary to produce a glorious harvest! Any couple who will work at it can reap the reward of a vigorous and healthy marriage.
The first principle of a healthy marriage garden is found in Galatians 6:7, which says, “whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It stands to reason that if you sow kernels of corn in a row, you should not expect tomato plants to spring up. The same is true for marriages. If you speak unkindly, act selfishly, or think negatively toward your spouse, you should not expect to have pleasant conversation, loving service, nor a positive attitude in your marriage. You reap what you sow, so what kind of seed are you sowing in your marriage?
The next principle is that you must feed and water your garden. My dad’s favorite fertilizer was well-composted cow manure. He would mix it in with the soil at the time of planting in order to give the young plants plenty of nourishment to grow strong and healthy. Likewise, it is vital for all couples, but especially young couples, to feed the marriage with biblical teaching, abundant worship, and lots of godly counsel. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future,” (Pro 19:20). All gardens need water to survive. “[God] waters its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth,” (Ps 65). Likewise, marriages need the watering of the Word of God to sustain them through the drought of life to which we are often exposed. Daily downpours from the refreshing, cleansing, and life-giving stream of God’s Word will keep your marriage healthy and thriving…are you there?
The final principle in your marriage garden is that careful cultivation will maximize your harvest potential. My job in the family garden was to pull weeds and suckers. It was hard work, even for a young back, and could be tedious at times. But my dad explained how the weeds would compete with the plants for nutrients, water and sunlight, causing the plants to be stunted in their growth, producing smaller and fewer vegetables. In your marriage garden, weeds represent the sinful behaviors that have a propensity to spring up in relationships and drain the sustaining nutrients from a vibrant marriage. “If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live,” (Rom 8:13). This is hard work, but God promises a great reward! Do you regularly identify and pull out these destructive, intruding behaviors?
The other cultivation job I did was to remove “suckers.” Suckers are the branches on plants like tomatoes that grow but do not bear fruit. They “suck” nutrients from the plant but produce nothing. Marriages experience “suckers,” too. One of the chief offenders today are cell phones and electronic devices. Nearly every week I have to admonish couples to “pinch off” their time and attention-sucking gadgets. When they do, they find they have more time together, and they actually talk! Time in the same room, each on their own electronics, is not quality! To have a more fruitful marriage, are you willing to pinch off those time-suckers that detract from quality time with your spouse?
There are many other parallels of gardening to marriage. But if you will remember and practice these three – sow what you want to reap, regularly feed and water, and cultivate out the weeds and suckers – you will be rewarded with an abundant harvest full of beautiful fruit that will glorify our Master Gardener