It’s been ten years since Trevor and I said, “We do.” I’m so grateful that we did and that we still “do.”
For some couples ten years is but a drop in the marital bucket. Others can’t see past the wedding plans looming ahead. I can barely grasp that length of time in relation to being married. They have been good years, hard years, frustrating years, and joyful years. Mostly importantly, they’ve been loyal years.
Trevor is vastly different from me. He’s quiet, introspective, thoughtful, and always careful. I don’t know a stranger, I’m loud, rarely careful, and overly sensitive. He is intensely private and I think privacy is for the birds. He keeps me in line and I keep him moving. He measures; I guess. He is the reliable, handy navigator and I’m the chatty, friendly tour guide. Yet despite our many differences, Trevor is the safest harbor for my sensitive soul on this side of Heaven. It is as God wisely intended. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2:18).
Our marriage is far from perfect. My noise and emotion can overwhelm while his silence and indifference can confuse. And that’s why the power source of our marriage must be our Savior. God intended for us to be married, but with Jesus at the center of our hearts and our lives.
Many years ago God gave me a beautiful picture of marriage. His perfect version of marriage, not the Godless, under-valued, self-based version many recognize today. Trevor and I weren’t married yet. My mind couldn’t fathom the life-long fullness of marriage and the unyielding responsibility of the vows we would speak. But I’ve come to cherish this beautiful picture of marriage – marriage as God intended.
Picture a garden full with spring and brimming with the promise of summer. A stone border surrounds the garden, still bare but longing for green cover. It’s late April, nearly May. Rain and storms come and go and green is bursting onto the scene. Tiny spots of color are appearing and the vague scent of flowers is warming up the memory and washing away winter’s chill. Inside the border of large stones are various mounds of freshly dug soil. The smell of dirt is startling and somehow intoxicating. A wide variety of seeds was recently planted and rest comfortably in their new dirt home, hidden but ready for bursting.
The focal point of the small garden is two trellises standing against one side of an old, worn shed. The shed defines the garden on one of its three sides. The crooked door is often open and the walls are weather-beaten, the paint fading and peeling. Its color is indistinguishable. A single window pane is splintered, veins of glass barely holding their place in the frame. A large brown spider, energized by summer’s imminent arrival, tends to her new web under a small eave on the roof.
The wise gardener searched all winter to find the perfect vines to plant in front of the two bare trellises. On the right he plants a dark green, sturdy vine that by summer’s bright beginning will bloom with a few large purple flowers. These elusive flowers will open only to dawn’s first light and be closed by noon’s glare.
The trellis on the left will eventually be covered with a light green, fast-spreading vine with small leaves whose roots need daily water. The tiny yellow flowers on this vine bloom all day and will be innumerable. They’re petite and delicate and a favorite of butterflies and bees alike.
The gardener has taken all this into account and chose the dark-leaved, purple-flowered plant carefully, for it needs little water and will not be affected by the yellow-flowered vine’s desperate need for extra moisture. In turn, the many small yellow flowers will one day serve as cover for the light-sensitive petals of the purple-flowered vine.
They are a good match and the gardener plants them with great care and anticipation. He waits until the season is right, the warm weather has arrived and the soil is fertile. Yet immediately upon planting the tiny vines look and act differently. The dark-leaved, purple-flowered plant is a slow grower, spreading out along the bottom of the trellis. Its instinct is sturdy roots and a thick base and it shies away from bright sunlight. It has yet to flower.
The light-colored, tiny-leaved vine grows quickly, efficiently, drinking in the daily moisture and growing only up. The sides of its trellis remain bare as it grows straight up the middle. Its growth is so fast that soon it’s nearly a foot higher than the dark-leaved vine. Delicate yellow flowers bloom three days after planting. But the dark-leaved vine is filling in slowly and surely and has begun to spread across. Its thick, sturdy branches are reaching up to the sun but also toward the other trellis, and the two vastly different vines begin to come together.
One month after they’re planted a large purple flower finally blooms in the early morning, nudging up against the copious butter-yellow flowers of its neighbor. At the same time the thinner, more delicate branches of the small-leaved vine are beginning to rest on the stronger, sturdier vines of its neighbor.
The gardener works diligently throughout the summer, trimming and pruning as needed. A bare, stray branch is cut here and a dying vine is trimmed there. Useless branches are snipped off in order to increase and guide the vines’ growth, direction, and beauty. During the diligent pruning process the light green and dark green leaves have entwined, filling in and reaching upward while winding around each other. Individual flower’s branches are indistinguishable as the two vines blossom simultaneously in summer’s bright light.
Slowly, the trellises holding the two vines begin to disappear. The dark-leaved vine has grown around both trellises, acting as an anchor and supporting the weaker light-leaved vine’s branches. The light-leaved vine is constantly reaching upward, in turn bringing along its neighbor and spreading upward toward the sunlight. There are dozens of small yellow flowers to each large purple flower and the colors mixed together are shockingly vibrant. The flowers open upward, aimed at the life-giving sunlight. When it rains, the dark-leaved plant is slow to absorb the water, allowing the light-leaved vine all the moisture it needs to survive, grow and flourish.
Together the two vines have survived the summer heat, the raging storms and the occasional, necessary trimming by the gardener. The vines are completely entwined, their branches mingled securely and the flowers layered sweetly like butterfly stairs. What was once separate and entirely different has become a new, unique creation. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23).
In the ten years of our marriage Trevor and I have learned that we must grow together toward the Son, otherwise our growth will be uncontrolled and random. Without Jesus guiding us, our branches might reach toward a hidden shadow rather than Life-giving Light from our Savior. When our eyes are on the Light coming from above and we’re pruned regularly by the Master Gardener, our coupled vines will continue to reach heavenward – together – toward the Son.