This is a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It doesn’t really serve a purpose for this post, but I thought it was a light way to enter into the topic I want to discuss.
I know this is a bit of an odd topic coming from a guy who has never been married. While I can’t claim to be qualified by personal experience, I was raised by a married couple, and most of the friendships I’ve had for the past 20 years have been with people who are, or had previously been married. What I’m about to share is just an itty bitty piece of what I have learned from them, tempered by what I believe God intends for us. Maybe someday I’ll get to put it into practice.
I’m simple minded, so I like to take the complex and put it in a context which is easy for me to understand. With that being said, I believe marriage is very much like gardening. Yards take a lot of work to get healthy and beautiful. If you let it go, some stuff dies, some stuff gets overgrown, and weeds infest the landscape. When you let a marriage go, love dies. Trust dies. Respect dies. In their place pop up resentment, impatience, negativity, jealousy, distrust, and so many other weeds.
When a yard gets to this condition, it takes a lot of backbreaking work to restore. When I was a kid, I was given the task of clearing the dirt pathway along the entire side of the house of the weeds that had grown there over a period of several years. It was a stretch of the yard we never used. It was behind a fence, so no one ever saw it, either. But it was ugly, and actually, a fire hazard. I spent several weeks of my summer vacation battling the nastiness of that part of the yard. I had to battle the heat, contend with my allergies, and overcome my fear of the insect world which made a home in the tall and tangled web of weeds. After I had finally cleared this area of the ugly growth, I watched over it like a hawk to make sure it stayed clear of anything that would undo all the hours and sacrifice I put into it.
I know that marriage takes a lot of work. But performing daily maintenance is certainly much easier than trying to get rid of all the ugliness that overwhelmed the beauty that once was. Even if people can’t see it because you’ve got it hidden behind a fence, it’s still a hazard. You’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got to work together. Spend time together reading and discussing the bible. And one last commonality with gardening. You already know this if you’ve spent any significant time doing yard work. You have to spend a lot of time on your knees.