So, imagine that you purchased some land with a garden on it. It was a well tended garden that was growing. For the first year, you could go out and take just about anything you wanted off of the plants – fruit, flowers, vegetables, herbs – all of it. So you make a habit of doing just that. However, you don’t make a habit of tending the garden much, or of replanting the seeds, etc. A year passes and you notice that there isn’t the abundance of good stuff as last year, but there is still enough to get by. Another year and the lack begins to become even more evident. Three or four years after buying the property and enjoying the fruit and flowers, and now the trickle has become a famine; the untended garden is no longer producing at all. The more hungry you get, the more you find yourself resenting the failing garden. Later, each time you go back to visit the garden you find weeds, dead plants, bugs, and virtually no fruit, no flowers. As a counselor, this is often when I meet a marriage
I am not sure why God allows us to generally start with a full garden. Certainly, not everyone does; some people have nightmarish first years of marriage. Sometimes immaturity, serious character flaws or long established survival rules from childhood can cripple the early years, kind of like salting the garden. In these cases, the death may be faster. However, the key way that marriage and gardens are alike is this: they both die without effort. The natural state of a garden is death and weeds; they do not naturally get healthier on their own. Marriage is the same way. Marriage requires effort, or it will naturally lose everything. Over time, two people madly in love become strangers unless they make a serious effort to stay lovers and friends.
Instead, often when one spouse sees no fruit when they wanted some, they become resentful and decide that it the their spouse who isn’t doing the work to make the marriage produce; that is o.k. because generally, their spouse has already come to the same conclusion about them.
Good news: there is another way that marriages are like gardens. With effort, they can be totally reclaimed. How much effort? It depends on how long it has been since anyone tried to work on it, and other factors. It isn’t easy, but there is no marriage that is so good that without effort cannot become bad; conversely, there is no marriage so bad that it cannot, with the proper and consistent effort, become great. Simply? Consider the same rule as you would a garden. Stop thinking about what you want and consider what the garden needs, and then start giving it. Fifteen directed minutes a day or more; 2 hours a week or so, a weekend per season or so, and one focused week or so per year. It works. You will work without much production at first, but in time, and in season, the garden will be back. Oh, and you may need to call a gardener at some point too.