In 1962 someone built our home. I don’t have the deeds for the other homes on our street, but I assume they were built around the same year. Each home on the street has its own unique character and charm, and big trees line both sides of the street. I’m no tree expert but you can tell these trees have some years to them. I assume most were planted in the ’60’s, around the time the homes were built.
Our next door neighbors are about to tear down their home and rebuild from the ground up. I’m excited for them and can’t wait to see their new home!
I know they’re sad about it, but the big tree near their front door had to be cut down. The (almost) 60-year old tree has monster roots that will prevent them from building their new home.
A few weeks ago, some folks came to cut down the trunk and most of the limbs. In a few more weeks they’ll cut down the rest of the trunk and get rid of the roots.
As I saw the tree with trunk and limbs removed, one thought came to mind.
It took so long for that tree to grow but it got torn down in just a few hours.
And I’m sobered that the same thing that happened to that tree can happen to my life. And it can happen to your life as well.
For 18 years Kristen and I have been working on our marriage. We spend time with the Lord, pray together, pursue each other, and raise four boys. We serve other couples, pay bills, and are on mission as a couple.
But all it takes is a few dumb decisions and the whole thing can be cut down. Our marriage that’s grown for 18+ years can be destroyed in a few hours time. Yes, I know God can restore any marriage and fix any problem, but I don’t want to face that problem.
A few ways to strengthen the roots of your marriage
I can’t control what others might do to us, and I can’t control what my wife does and doesn’t do. But there are a few things that are squarely in my control. Here are some ways you and I can help “strengthen the roots” of our marriage.
1. Actively Fight temptation.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul writes, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
This plays out in our lives in so many ways. For the alcoholic it’s avoiding the bar. For my food/eating issues, it’s avoiding CVS and the candy aisles. Or for someone who struggles with lust and a desire to sleep with someone who’s not their spouse, stay away from porn or any kind of movie that would lead your thought life to drift. Come to think of it—every one of you should stay away from porn!
Over the last 13 years in full-time marriage ministry, I’ve watched many couples give in to their temptations. If often starts with lust and extends to porn and then infidelity. A few small decisions can cut down your relationship like the tree trimmers did to my neighbor’s tree.
The best way to fight any temptation is to grow deeper in your love for Jesus. Much more can be said here, but fight temptation.
Question: What tempts you right now that could destroy your life and marriage? How can you actively fight the temptations you face?
2. Roots Grow Through Mundane Daily Tasks
Most marriages rise and fall on the small things. Author and Pastor Paul David Tripp has often said, “The character of your life and the health of your marriage is not defined by two or three dramatic decisions but in thousands of little moments.”
We often make or break our marriage not by the dramatic decisions but in the mundane things we do every day. The way we protect the integrity of the “roots and tree” is through small habits and daily routine. Marriages are strengthened in the mundane.
I know that if I don’t work hard in the small things every day that my marriage can be destroyed.
Question: What are the little things you need to focus more of your attention on? What’s one small way you can better serve your spouse?
3. Date Your Spouse
I’ve written many times about the daily pursuit of our spouse. We need to maintain our friendship and pursue each other like we did in the beginning. Couples often do a great job of pursuing each other when they date and get engaged but then life gets busy and we neglect the romantic, non-sexual, pursuit of each other.
Your marriage will not make or break based on one date night, but a healthy pursuit of each other inside and outside the bedroom helps maintain the strength of your marriage. You’re watering and protecting the roots of the tree when you date your spouse.
Question: Are you serving your spouse according to their love language? When was your last date night?
Challenge: Each of you should plan a date for your spouse. Do something you know they’d love. If you’re lacking ideas, check out my date night guide (124 Killer Date Night Ideas).
4. Don’t Make Marriage a Solo Sport
Do you have others in your life who help strengthen your tree? Do you have friends who will love and encourage you? And do you have friends who will help challenge you when you need to be sharpened?
Widen the circle as needed. If the tree of your marriage is starting to weaken, pull your friends in to help you strengthen your marriage. Marriage is not a solo sport. We all need community to help us stay strong.
I’m thankful for the four other couples in our community group who help grow our relationships with Jesus and with each other.
Question: Who can you ask today to help strengthen your marriage? Do you walk with the wise or with fools (Proverbs 13:20)?
I’ll miss the big tree next door. But I know our neighbors will plant another tree and it will be a great companion to their new home. That being said, it’s going to take a very long time for the new tree to match the splendor of its predecessor.
Any healthy relationship takes time to grow. Don’t cut it down in a few hours through some foolish decisions. Do all you can to strengthen its root. Grow a healthy marriage.
Can you share any other ways you and your spouse strengthen the roots of your marriage?