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May 12, 2020 08:00am
Tilling the Garden of Your Marriage
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Springtime means gardens for many people. While my husband and I have tried our hand at vegetable gardens before, it had been a few years and we are still novices!

The big difference between this year and times prior was that we had never had to till the ground ourselves! But how hard could it be?

We planned out our garden on paper. Visions of sweet peppers danced in our heads! Towers of tomatoes, rows of corn and green beans, lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts were all going to be ours for the picking! 

We pictured just a few quick and easy pass-throughs down the rows, the tiller shredding sod for us like lettuce leaves in a salad shooter! Then all those nice, neat rows of rich soil would be ready for planting! Simple!

We figured out how much space we needed in between each plant. My husband meticulously measured out the plot of land. Then he plugged that tiller in and got to work! “This is going to be a cinch!” we thought. 

That is, until the blades hit the grass for the very first time. 

Our hopes of magical ground-breaking vanished like a vapor. This was going to be tough! Hours of back-breaking, arm-numbing, shoulder-tiring work lay ahead of us (and by “us” I mean my husband!).

As I watched him maneuver the machine, I was instantly reminded of how this process of planting and tending a garden is like marriage. 

Just as we had high aspirations for our garden working out nice and easy, many young couples have the same expectations of marriage. When you’re a new, starry-eyed couple, you carefully plan out your hopes and dreams for a life together.

Yet couples can be naively optimistic about the amount of work it’s going to take to maintain a marriage. It’s easy to think everything is going to be fun and romance and date nights, while underestimating how much effort a long-term love and friendship actually takes.  

As the blades of the tiller bumped and skipped all over the fresh sod, I remembered how when we first get married, the grass is new and fresh, unplowed. Then to our surprise we find the marriage ground to have bumps and jerks along the way, such as when we have our first disagreement or fight. 

Once he did break through the sod, it didn’t necessarily get easier. Sometimes he hit a rock and had to stop while we laboriously dug it out with a trowel. But sometimes digging just revealed more rock, deeper and wider than we could have imagined. 

Years into a marriage we may discover rocks, or problems, that have long been covered up and buried deep. Some problems may be easy to work through, giving you the feeling that things aren’t going to be so bad. Other problems may just expose bigger, underlying issues that you weren’t prepared to deal with. You start to unearth them only to find it’s more than a small stone that’s easily removed; it’s a brick or even bedrock that goes down deep. It covers more surface area than you were prepared to dig. It will take a lot more time, effort, and patience to expose it and remove it. 

After a full day of exhausting work, we realized it was going to take another full day just to finish the tilling. Then there would still be hours of raking, removing rocks, clumps, and debris before we could plant. And of course, after that there would be weeding to do, critters to keep out, pests to ward off—the work goes on and on! The change of season would only bring more work as harvest time requires picking and preserving. 

In a marriage, this can leave you feeling blindsided and frustrated, maybe even a little hopeless. There’s so much work involved! You work on one problem only to discover there are ten more to deal with! After all the months and years of work you’ve already put in, now you have to do more?

Yes! Gardens are a commitment! A worthy time investment! You don’t start tilling the ground and then walk away. You don’t sow seeds and then never come back to check on them or water them! Successful gardens require work and effort. Reaping a harvest requires patience and sweat. 

There is a lot of maintenance involved in a garden. Marriages can require a lot of weeding. There is “his and her” sin to deal with. The man brings his sin into the equation and the woman brings hers. Two sinners (even two redeemed sinners) trying to cohabitate, and much more than that, trying to love each other in spite of their sin, is hard! But it’s not hopeless! 

If you are a Christian, the good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners applies to more than the day you were saved. The gospel helps you love your spouse when he/she is being a giant weed! The promise that God has forgiven your sins in Christ and will not bring them up against you any more means that you can forgive spouses when they sin against you.

We must forgive much because we have been forgiven much! 

The promise that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6) means we can rest assured that God will not leave us or our spouse the way we are. Those weeds won’t be there forever! He is constantly changing us and pruning us to be more like the image of his Son as we cooperate with him to root out those weeds of sin. 

And just as Jesus is long-suffering with us, we need to be patient while God works on our spouse (and in our own hearts)!

When we hit rocks in the soil of our marriage, the God who gave us grace while we were still sinners will give us that same powerful grace to lovingly and gently unearth those rocks and patiently sort through them. 

God intended marriage to be a picture of the gospel (Ephesians 5:25-32), and that which he purposed, he will do. He supplies the grace and the power to turn our toil and perseverance in the garden of marriage into a beautiful and bountiful harvest. Seek God’s grace and trust his promises. He is faithful. 

If you have not turned away from your sins and trusted in Christ to save you, then he is your only hope, not just for a prosperous marriage, but for the payment for your sins and eternal life with God. 

Will you turn to him and trust him? He has endless storehouses of grace for you and your marriage. 

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