Are relationships more like carpentry or gardening?
When you build something out of wood, you measure, cut, sand, nail, and – viola!- results. You have visible signs of progress and defined outcomes. Best of all, you have much of the control. Relationships, on the other hand, are not easy to measure, and they are certainly not easy to control.
Both gardening and carpentry are creative ventures, but they are very different in their approaches and processes. Of the two activities, gardening seems a better metaphor for dealing with relationships.
For starters, gardening puts you on your knees. Although gardeners have a lot to do, they understand that much of the critical activity will be unseen. Gardeners do the hard work of planting, but they must rely on God to activate the seed and to grow the fruit.
Growing things requires great patience. Good gardening, like good relationships, involves both the work of effort and the work of waiting. You work to create healthy conditions, but then you wait to let good things grow. As a carpenter, you can use your hammer to control the nail. But as a gardener, you cannot pound out an apple. Instead, your job is to nurture. The gardener must tend. Tend and trust.
Like carpenters, we would sometimes like to cut our relationships to proper size and shape, sand off our spouses’ imperfections, nail some strength into someone, paint things the way we like, and then position everything right into place—viola! But people are not carpentry projects, and marriage doesn’t work that way. Our spouses belong in God’s hands, not ours.
How do you tend a marriage garden?
As marriage gardeners, we want to keep our knees bent in humility before our spouses and before our God. We plant seeds of kindness, water with friendship, and fertilize with forgiveness. We keep pulling the weeds of our own bitterness and busyness.
Day by day, let’s keep tending our gardens. Let’s ask God to catch “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.”¹ Let’s trust Him to use the rains—whether gentle or torrential—to grow beauty and life.
With our knees on the ground and our hands in the dirt, let’s trust that unseen miracles are growing.
¹ Song of Songs 2:15, NIV