My husband and I are quickly approaching a milestone anniversary.
Would I say that our almost-25-years of marriage has been a perpetual walk in the park? Of course not. Life happens and reality bites, even for the happily yoked.
Our union has seen seasons of growth and seasons where everything seems to be buried under three feet of snow. Such is the nature of relationship – winter and spring, summer and fall.
Budding and blooming, we’ve been silly in love. Holding hands, starting our family, sharing firsts of every kind. Windswept and barren, we’ve felt the chill of change and seen the leaves drop from our tree as if in one fell swoop. Side by side we have weathered bitter cold and sweltering heat, learning how to be there for each other through the years of ups and downs and sideways.
Being in relationship is hard. Whether marriage or friendship or family-tied, the tug-of-war created by personality and circumstance is real and tenuous and inevitable. Many go the way of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,’ opting for a different set of challenges in hopes that the landscape of new and other will be more pleasing than the worn-out here and now.
Don’t get me wrong – some relationships should be ended. Sometimes it’s not enough to tend your own garden and wait hopefully for the other to join you there. Our brokenness is sometimes more than we – or our life-partners – can bear. Like pouring gas on a fire, some people simply set each other off. We know this. God knows this, too.
In the midst of our relational realities, we have been given direction in the Scriptures regarding how we are to live among our biological, spiritual and nuptial family members, not the least of which is found in Colossians 3:8-10, 12-14:
“But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things. Don’t lie to each other. You have taken off those old clothes—the person you once were and the bad things you did then. Now you are wearing a new life, a life that is new every day. You are growing in your understanding of the one who made you. You are becoming more and more like him. God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So your new life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity.”
Through the fence, things often appear more lush and green and inviting. This can be attributed to many things, not the least of which is the expense of hiring a landscaping expert to do the work of keeping up appearances for the rest of us.
Today, let’s choose to work in our own yards – caring for our own grass and flowers and (if your yard is anything like mine) pulling our own weeds. Together we are becoming something that looks a little bit more like Jesus everyday.
Want What You’ve Got – including the required maintenance – and watch your well-watered, love-infused relationship garden grow.
Daily Questions: What long-term relationships are you in? What challenges to unity do you face in these relationships? Are you tempted to look over the fence, or are you able to focus on your own relational landscape? Re-read the Colossians 3 text above and take note of the words and phrases that jump out at you… How might living into this text help your garden grow?