When you “fall out of” love
The other day I was working the ground in what will eventually become our garden and it got me to thinking about gardens and marriage. I remember awhile back I learned one of my co-workers had been recently divorced. To my surprise I inquired as to the reason why.
After some beating around the bush (probably a result of her knowing I was a Christian with strong views on marriage) she said, “we just fell out of love.” This statement lead me to believe that she believed love was and is a vital part of any marriage. I simply responded, “people don’t fall out of love, they just quit trying.”
What does love got to do with it
I followed up my initial claim by saying, “love is a conscious choice we have to make every day and it has everything to do with our marriage. According to the Bible, love is more than a choice, it is a verb. That is, it requires action on our part.”
As I continued, I wondered how much was making sense to a non-believer. “Love is willful sacrificial service to your spouse regardless if your own wants/needs are met. To say that you fell out of love really just means both of you quit sacrificially serving one another.”
I realize at this point my audience is probably no longer engaged but the the truth of this is so important. Marriage is a lot like a garden. Here is what I mean. I spent four hours tilling a piece of land so we could plant a garden. After four hours and many blisters later (yes I had gloves on), my wife stopped and said, “I guess this is why you had to spend all day on the farm!”
Marriage & the Garden
The first marriage was created in a garden. One woman was brought to one man and they became one flesh (Gen. 2:24).1 After hours of tilling your soil you must then cultivate then spend much time planting.
After the hard work is done you must now constantly watch the garden. Each passing day the threats become more intense. Grass, weeds, thorns and thistles sprout, animals and birds attack, and before you know it your produce is disappearing or rotting from neglect.
In the beginning Adam was told to “keep” the garden. The Hebrew word is שָׁמַר (shâmar) and it carries with it many connotations but the similarities between all of them are in the context of guarding, protecting cultivating and preserving. This means it was Adam’s job to tend the garden and protect it from that which sought to destroy or corrupt it.
Think about how much effort goes into “keeping” a garden. When you tell someone you “keep” a garden you may not know it but you are saying exactly what Adam was commanded. “I keep a garden, I protect it, I cultivate it, I guard it and preserve it.” It has to be worked daily.
Thorns and Thistles
Marriage, in the same way has to be worked daily and for the same reasons. Because of man’s sin there are things in this world that seek to destroy and raze2 your marriage. Gossip, slander, backbiting, and outside forces of ungodly opinion are like the weeds, thorns, and thistles that grow in our marriage.
They must be eradicated daily. Do me a favor, walk outside and look at the cracks in your driveway or in your garden, what do you see? Weeds! You spray them today and they are gone by the next, but come back within a few days or weeks. The weeds, thorns, and thistles in your marriage must be eradicated daily and it takes work to “keep” your marriage.
It’s not just weeds, thorns, and thistles that try to choke out your marriage. There are beastly intruders that attempt to break in steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).3 These beastly intruders are not found of a strong marriage especially one built on the foundation of God’s solid word.
These intruders seek to devour you through unconfessed sin, a nasty and bitter attitude, other people, and a self-serving mentality. The enemy knows your weakness and knows how to tempt you. It seems that he is more faithful to tempt us then we are to “keep” our marriage. Build your marriage on the solid rock of Christ and let not the enemy raze (Mark 10:9).4
Again, What does love have to do with it
Again, I ask what does love have to do with it? Consider that sin is almost always a result of selfishness and pride. A bitter nasty attitude comes from selfishness and pride (usually not getting our way). Letting other people speak into your marriage is not necessarily a bad thing but if these people are speaking falsehood and lies that correspond with your own self-seeking interest in your unkempt marriage, they are simply helping you destroy that which God created.
All of this is a result of fleshly desires rooted in selfishness. Love is a selfless sacrificial action word that results from a choice made daily. In most instances this choice must be made hundreds of times each day. But we must “keep” our marriage as we have been commanded to since the beginning. Is it difficult? You bet, we already discussed that. As a result of sin the enemy seeks whom he may devour. Bear in mind that it is not impossible without God (Luke 18:27).5
Humility is the key to sacrificial selfless service to God, to your spouse, and to your fellow brother / sister in Christ. This is not possible on your own. But with God’s wisdom, guidance, and support it is possible. If you are struggling in your marriage ensure that your vertical relationship with God is strong. The more you serve your Creator with a humble heart, the easier it becomes to selflessly serve others, your spouse. Don’t fall out of love but make the choice to love a moment by moment reality in your marriage.