I just love this time of year. I love the bright blossoms and the emerging bulbs and the grass that grows greener every day. I love looking through flower catalogues and landscaping magazines and pinning ideas to my “Outdoor Living” Pinterest board. I love spring!
I well remember my first foray into home gardening. I poured over a Breck’s wholesale catalogue for days. Inspired by all those beautiful photos of lush gardens, I ordered over two hundred tulip bulbs, then struggled to bury them at the requisite seven-inch depth in the patch of hard, black clay that constituted our “flower bed.”
Once they were in the ground, I put my gloves and spade back on the shelf and waited expectantly, envisioning the riot of blooms that would surround my house the following spring. I gave no thought to watering or weeding or fertilizing or nurturing those little bulbs in any way, yet I was totally discouraged and dismayed when only six of the two hundred ever even sprouted.
I think lots of couples face similar disappointments when it comes to cultivating a beautiful marriage relationship. They’ve seen the movies and read the books and heard all the “happily ever after” stories, so they buy the rings and go through the ceremony and exchange the vows, fully expecting the same blissful results.
But a beautiful marriage, like a beautiful garden, doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a lot of tender, loving care. It takes work. For a marriage to thrive, you must:
Cultivate the soil
Thorns and thistles may grow in hard, sun-baked clay, but cultivated plants need a little more soil preparation than that. If you want a beautiful flower garden, you must first break up the fallow ground. Likewise, love will never thrive in hearts that are cold, hard, proud, and impenetrable. For a marriage to flourish, hearts must first be laid bare – open, honest, and vulnerable.
For flowers to do well, their roots must be healthy and intact. If the roots are shallow or diseased or deprived too long of the water and nutrients essential to survival, the plant will wither and die. The same is true for marriage. A love that is firmly rooted in the Word of God, that drinks deeply and often from the well of Living Water, will be better able to withstand both droughts and storms that come its way.
Pull the weeds
You can prepare the soil and water well, but unless you stay vigilant, weeds will grow up and choke out more desirable plants in your garden. You must learn how to recognize such threats, watch for them constantly, and deal with them swiftly, before they have a chance to take root and establish themselves. So it is in a marriage. The love, joy, peace, and other good fruits that characterize a happy marriage cannot coexist with bitterness, resentment, arrogance, contempt, or selfishness, so don’t give those weeds a chance to rear their ugly heads. Stomp them out the minute they try to take root in your heart.
Fertilize as needed
The longer a garden grows, the more depleted the ground becomes of the nutrients the bedding plants need. To keep plants healthy, fertilizer must be used to replace vital nutrients in the soil. On the same principle, you should feed your marriage by reading books, attending retreats, and/or getting counseling as needed. It is important to maintain a teachable spirit and to never stop growing as a couple. Don’t assume because your marriage has been healthy and happy in the past, it will always be so. Keep a close eye on things: watch for signs of stress and address any deficiencies as soon as you are made aware of them.
Ensure lots of sunshine
Even with adequate water, good soil, and proper fertilizer, a garden won’t flourish without lots of light. Likewise, a marriage fares better when dispositions are sunny and bright. “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) A cheerful outlook and a positive attitude goes a long way in nurturing a happy, healthy home, so keep on the sunny side as much as possible!
Once I finally accepted the fact that great landscaping takes a lot of hard work, I was not only able keep the little patch of flowers outside our front door alive, but eventually planted and (with much help from husband and children) maintained nearly two acres of beautiful woodland gardens that are absolutely breathtaking when they’re in full bloom. If I’d thrown in the towel when my first attempts failed, I would have missed out on all the pleasure and satisfaction that gardening success brings.
Likewise, if I’d bailed on my marriage during initial hardships, I would have missed out on all the wonderfully happy years that have followed, for a marriage will produce strikingly beautiful and fragrant blooms when properly nurtured with lots of tender, patient, and loving care.