Marriage Like a Garden
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15
Years ago, when our kids were young, we decided we wanted a garden. So, we picked our spot and went to work. We tilled, fertilized, planted seeds, and watered. And our garden took off. We began the summer weeding it regularly and as long as we uprooted the weeds before they grew and spread, our plants thrived. As the summer wore on though, we just didn’t keep up with the watering and weeding. Soon, the weeds outgrew the plants, taking over the garden. Once we let them go, they consumed and ruined everything. At that point, we just gave up, waiting for the next spring.
Today’s passage uses this imagery to illustrate the damage that conflict, resentment, and bitterness can do to us. In it, we’re told that as followers of Christ, we must extend grace to all, not allowing bitterness to take root in our lives. Once allowed to grow, resentment is like a noxious weed that takes over, metastasizing and choking out all life around it.
The passage isn’t specifically about marriage, but I find it suitable advice for the most important human relationship of my life. It’s always easiest to behave the worst around the one I’m supposed to love the most. By nature, I’m self-centered. I have a specific way that I think the world should run and when my expectations aren’t met, I get frustrated. This frustration easily turns to resentment and bitterness, often aimed at the one closest to me.
Today’s passage says that I must guard against this. When I feel resentment, I must quickly pull it up by the roots before it grows and spreads. Occasionally this means I must simply forgive my wife, showing her grace. Much more often though, it means that I must examine my expectations. When I’m honest, I can usually see that my expectations are unreasonable and self-centered. Any conflict that we have is at least 50% – usually more – my fault. As I have been shown so much mercy and grace by God – and my wife – it’s absurd the I would hold some perceived wrong against her.
If we want the kind of marriages we’re meant to have, then daily, we must choose to show love and grace just as we have been shown so much love and grace. Any resentments we have are usually ridiculous and must be uprooted before they grow. If we desire healthy relationships, we can’t allow our weeds to grow.