Growing Your Marriage
It was given to us on our 25th Anniversary. That was 21 years ago. The tree was of the decorative variety. It was small and was to have a life span of around 5 years. 21 years later it is hardy, over 25 feet tall, spreading, shedding limbs and bark, ugly, and beautiful in its own way, still standing…in stark contrast to the trees around it.
The tree has become a symbol of our marriage and a picture of marriage as man and woman journey through the years of living together. The sobering reality is that a typical marriage today does not have a long life span. The average length of a marriage in the United States is between 10 and 14 years. The worldwide average is essentially the same. It is rare to see a marriage over 20 years and even more so to find one over 30 years.
What can be done? What can we do as followers of Jesus to increase this average? Here are a couple of lessons we have learned from our “anniversary tree”.
1. It needs attention. Watching for disease, mulching the ground around the base of the tree every fall so the frost does not kill the roots, pruning dead branches so that the health of the tree can be maintained, and fertilizing. The same goes for our marriages. No attention deficit between a husband and wife, which will kill a marriage over time. The death is a slow creep but be assured, it is there. Busyness will kill the roots of a relationship. Time given is like fertilizer. It goes directly to the roots and revives, protects, and enhances growth and health.
2. Pruning is a must for the health and beauty of the tree. Dead branches detract from the lush green of the living branches. They need pruning for the continued vitality of the tree and its beauty. And marriage is all about pruning…what needs to be cut out of your relationship so that life and beauty can be restored? The images of the vine and the branches in John 15 come to mind. Our Father, the vinedresser is pruning anything in our lives that does not bear fruit and even pruning fruitful branches so that more fruit can be grown.
3. Embrace the ugliness. Don’t cut the tree down because it looks gnarly, worn, and shedding leaves. One guest, a woodsman, commented on its ugliness and asked why I had not cut it down. I answered with a variation of what I have written here. My point being—do not cut down your marriage because of seasons of ugliness. There is beauty in ugliness. It shines through in the resilience of two lives bound to each other year by year, decade by decade. The worn look is like an old tree. It has stood the weather for years and its rugged look reflects the serenity of patience in one place.
What does your marriage look like? What does God need to prune in your marriage? It is painful, but necessary for your health and the beauty of the Gospel to be seen in your home. In the blog posts to follow this month you will read of three areas of growth to consider: communication, forgiveness, and commitment. Attention to these will bring life, endurance, and lasting beauty to your marriage.
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