On Gardens: A Meditation on Marriage

It is Saturday morning. With the sun gently peeking into our room, my wife and I simply lay in bed talking, dreaming about our present and future life. Where in the world will we visit? Where will we live? What will our hobbies be in five years?  What jobs do we really want? What will we name our first child? Every time we discuss our future, we always, without doubt, plan our garden. We will plant and care for blueberry and raspberry bushes, red and green leaf lettuce, cucumbers and carrots, and all the herbs you can imagine, oregano, dill, garlic, chives, parsley, and more. My wife, Stephanie, wants hydrangeas and lavender, and I desperately want a cherry tree and fresh hops. But, when we plan our garden together, the dream that we love the most is of our future children in that garden. We think of our kids running barefoot through the garden and feverishly eating all of the berries they can before they are caught. I smile to myself thinking about Stephanie watering our garden on a hot summer day and spraying our kids with the hose; they scatter screaming with joy. I dream about carrying my children on my shoulders and having them pick all the cherries they can reach. And, once our children are old enough we will teach them to fertilize, water, and weed the garden. I think about all the ways I can use the garden as a metaphor for life, to teach them that enjoying fruit requires discipline and hard work. Gardens excite the human mind. And, they not only provide life, but they also foster that life.

There is something special and unique about gardens, something specifically tied to being human. In gardens the means of life and survival are grown, and have been for thousands of years. Gardens are not only practical and necessary for human existence, they are beautiful. They are places of tranquility, peace, and life. A mixture of flowers, bushes, trees, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. When human beings enter a garden a sense of relief falls over them, for they are surrounded and immersed by beauty. Humans see this beauty with their eyes in the colorful flowers; they hear the beauty in the songs of the birds; they smell the beauty of fresh herbs; they can touch this beauty by harvesting the garden’s produce, and they can taste beauty by sinking their teeth into a ripe piece of fruit. In a garden, the senses are simultaneously overwhelmed and calmed.

Marriage itself is like a kind of garden. Marriage, like the Garden of Eden, was given to mankind to cultivate and grow and pass down to their children. God commanded that Adam and Eve should be fruitful and multiply, and in that procreation, pass down love of and obedience to God to their children, which is in itself an image of God.[1] As God, the Father, generates from himself the Son and in their union spirates the Spirit, so, in marriage humanity participate in the image of God as generators. Husbands and wives together co-create with God and are entrusted to raise the souls of children to love the Triune God, seek virtue, and know truth.

Marriage, like a garden, requires discipline. Gardens do not grow themselves. Since the fall, the world has had weeds and thorns make the job of cultivation hard.[2] This physical reality correlates with our spiritual reality. Since the fall, relationships and life in general have many spiritual weeds and thorns, which we call sin. The sins of in-temperance, pride, anger, envy, and deceit choke the good fruits of temperance, humility, love, thankfulness, and truth. And, in marriage, discipline is needed to weed these sins out. If the gardeners consistently weed and till the ground, then the trees, fruit, herbs, and flowers can flourish.

Marriage, like a garden, requires life giving resources. Gardens need light and water to grow, in order to produce the energy needed to bear fruit. Marriages need Jesus Christ, who is the giver of life. Without him mankind can bear no fruit.[3] Jesus is the light of the world and the everlasting fountain, and in him marriages receive life. When husbands and wives (as well as any human being) seek Jesus in the preaching of the Word, the praising of the Word, the partaking of the Word, in the Church gathering, and in prayer and devotion, they receive the very life of God. Jesus is the Mediator of new life and fellowship with God, and without him no fruit can be grown.

Marriage, like a garden, goes through seasonal changes. Gardens do not always bear fruit, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The seasons come and go, and each season preps the plant to reproduce the fruit it carries. Even in the cold of winter, plants store nutrients and energies produced in the summer and fall to make it through the cold months. Even a seed must die to grow.[4] So Marriage, like a garden, understands that life is greater than the cold months and that even in these mini-deaths, life can spring forth once again.

All of this to say, marriage and family are beautiful and good; created so by the Triune God. And, like a garden, marriage and family should be a place of tranquility and peace. But, that tranquility and peace is not to be expected and demanded but cultivated and nurtured through the grace of Jesus Christ. Children enter into the garden of marriage that a husband and wife cultivate. When thinking on marriage this way, I pray to God that Steph and I have a flourishing garden in which our children can run, play, enjoy, and work. I hope and pray that God will give us the discipline, resources, and resolve to cultivate the garden that he has so graciously gifted to us.

[1] Genesis 5:1-3.

[2] Genesis 3:17-19.

[3] John 15:1-11

[4] John 12:24, 1 Corinthians 15:36.

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