“Life’s too short to stay with such a difficult person. Marriage shouldn’t be that hard.” We sat in shock as someone relayed the advice she had received from a marriage counselor. Maybe the counselor has been watching too many Hallmark movies! Where else would he have gotten the idea that marriage should be easy? What if we have that same mentality toward everything else in life? Job, hobbies, child-rearing, finances, friendships. Very few things worth having come easily.
This past spring, the kids and I (Bonnie) were visiting with some friends and noticed they had planted a garden in their back yard. Since we were still doing our best to social distance and were limiting our extracurricular activities, I had the brilliant idea that we should plant a garden. I imagined it would be fun for Josie and Colby to plant seeds, spend time cultivating the vegetables, and watch things sprout up out of the earth. I spent several hours researching what it takes to plant a garden successfully. I surveyed our yard space and picked out the location that gets the most sunlight. I even went out and bought seeds. However, I never followed through with actually setting up beds and planting seeds in the ground. Fast forward three months, and guess what we harvested! Nothing.
The principle for planting and harvesting is a Biblical one that also applies to our marriage relationship. Whatever we reap, we sow. Galatians 6:7 advises, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Whatever we invest in our marriage will spring up. If we sow seeds of jealousy, strife, and dishonesty, we are sure to find ourselves in a contentious marriage. If we allow ourselves to think everything is okay and never keep a check on our relationship, we will eventually find the life choked out of the relationship. We have to “water” what we want to grow and “weed out” what we don’t.
Don’t expect the marriage relationship to be easy, even when you are married to the most amazing person on earth. It takes work to maintain it. We think there are three areas we can focus on to cultivate a healthy marriage. First, we must both be connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ, and allow Him to work through us. When Jesus is our life source, it will be natural to talk about Him with our spouse, pray together, and get involved in a local church. It’s impossible to over-estimate the importance of having a spiritual connection with your spouse. It’s what allows you to trust each other and move through the most difficult of circumstances. You will eventually run out of love, patience, and kindness if you rely on your own strength. But these characteristics flow naturally out of the personality of Jesus and through you when you walk with Him.
The next way we invest in our marriage is on an emotional level. It’s not always easy to invest in the thoughts and dreams of someone completely different from us. But taking the time to understand your spouse and finding ways to connect with them will keep your hearts bound together. In his book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapmans suggests that we all feel loved differently. If we can find out what makes our spouse feel most loved (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Gifts, or Acts of Service) and lean into that, we take steps toward filling their love tank. A full love tank fuels an emotional connection.
Finally, we can make an effort to work on a physical connection with our spouse. Spiritual and emotional growth can’t happen if we are never physically present. We understand that life takes us in so many directions, and it can be challenging to make time to be together. But isn’t it worth it? We work at our marriage physically by spending time together. We make a habit of sitting close or holding hands when we’re just watching TV. It doesn’t sound romantic, but we also intentionally schedule times for intimacy. Physical affection and familiarity is the culmination of the spiritual and emotional relationship.
None of this is easy. Contrary to Hallmark movie endings, “happily ever after” doesn’t just happen naturally when you find “the one.” We must spend time working AT our marriage, so we don’t end up having to work ON it. We make sure we are planting the right kind of seeds, watering them, and intentionally removing unhealthy weeds that could stifle a healthy relationship. Whatever we invest our time and energy in will inevitably reap a bountiful harvest!
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” –2 Corinthians 9:6
Working at the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie