When we are young, most of us dream about falling in love and marrying that one person, who lights up our life and brings us more happiness than we have ever felt. First, we experience that undeniable chemistry and attraction that draws us to each other, then the love and infatuation that grows between you makes you choose this person for life. Finally, marriage happens, and we experience what is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon stage”. However, for most marriages, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes obvious that the person you picked to be first in your life tends to become last. We tend to forget that the beautiful garden of our relationship that we started came as a result of placing our spouse above everyone else, spending significant time pursuing their heart, and caring for their needs above our own. We still have the same plants and flowers in the garden that is our marriage, but with comfort can come casual effort, and what we once cared for and watered has become neglected and overgrown.
As a young widow, I saw couples all around me who had all the opportunity to flourish in their marriage but chose other things instead. I saw them complaining of simple, everyday things that I would have given anything to be experiencing with a husband, because at least that would mean that my husband was alive. For some wives, picking up after their husband or doing laundry was a task that made them feel like a servant. For me, as I folded our laundry at night, tears would often fill my eyes as I ached for the opportunity once again to fold his shirts and show him in little way that I loved him and wanted to take care of him.
It’s through this season that I became the world’s biggest cheerleader of marriages, dates and getaways—always being thrilled when I saw couples taking time out of their fast-paced schedules, to be intentional with having fun with each other and keeping that spark alive. Something I wished I could have continued to do. I never regretted one dime that my late husband and I worked hard to sacrificially spend on a weekend together or a date night. Those memories and moments were not time and money wasted, it was an investment in our relationship. When life gets flipped upside down, you remember what truly matters in life, and the memories, relationships and things done for eternity cannot be taken away by circumstances.
Marriage is a picture of the gospel, because it is a relationship that shows the world that this person has my deepest affections and is greater than my own needs and wants. Just like Jesus is greater, and He picks us and chooses to take care of us, what a sweet gift. But, do our marriages truly display this beautiful picture of laying down our lives for our spouses? Loving them and taking care of their needs above our own? Do we realize the gift of having each other, our person who we can do life with? Or do we take for granted this treasure of being one and partnering in life together?
I recently remarried to a widower, and because of our past, we live our present out very differently. We both lost our beloved spouses in the prime of their lives, our best friends and partners in life. We were able to measure their value, not only by the impact they had on our life, but also by the deep void they left in our heart. As a result. we do marriage differently. We try and not let the little things of life steal the joy of today. The messy house and kids’ craziness (we have 5). We intentionally spend time together—praying, dreaming, laughing and watering the garden we have been given, so it will flourish.
People often can look at another marriage and say the grass is greener on the other side, but the reality is nothing flourishes without being daily watered and cultivated with the attention and care it needs to grow. Plants either slowly grow and flourish, or slowly wither. Both can happen over time, and both yield costly and noticeable results. Often, the marriages that seem to be withering didn’t happen overnight, they happened through years of not cultivating the garden they had been given. Weeds can slowly take over, and if they are not taken out by the root, they can overtake the once flourishing plant. Instead of having a beautiful garden, you have a wilting weed bed that doesn’t reflect beauty.
We all have choices in life to make. We all have the same 24 hours, and the same opportunities to do work in our own hearts and families and cultivate something beautiful.
God’s word gives us the key to all relationships in Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
The key to cultivating relationships, is to serve each other and count one another more significant than yourselves. Most conflict surfaces because of sin that is rooted in thinking of ourselves and our needs above everyone else. None of us may have perfect marriages, but we can seek the perfect God and father of our hearts to lead and guide us in His ways, and give us the ability to respond in His strength and water the relationships He has given us. Marriage is a gift, not something holding us down. It’s a precious gift that Jesus ordained to bring Him glory. When we view our spouse as a gift, it helps us value, protect and be purposeful with that treasure.
So, what are you doing to water and care for your garden? What are you doing to pull up the weeds by their roots? Are you willing to allow the Water of God’s word and Spirit to loosen the weeds, so they can more easily be removed and make room for your relationship to thrive? It’s never too late to water the plants you have been given. It’s never too late to share with your spouse about the weeds you have allowed to grow. It’s never too late to lay your life down for each other. There is always beauty ahead with Jesus, and there is always room for growth. Let’s allow Him to do His perfect and complete work, yielding a result that brings Him glory as we live out the gospel in our relationships.