The newlywed couple wanted to learn to garden. They decided to experiment with one lone tomato plant. It was tender and small and ready to grow. There was a plastic sticker in the soil that pictured the future of that plant – lush and large and filled with red juicy tomatoes.
They put it out on the patio and salivated as they waited for the fruit to come – but it didn’t. Each day the plant sagged a little more, the leaves yellowed, and the blossoms fell off. Its growth was stunted.
They became increasingly incensed at their plant. The picture on the sticker mocked them. This was not what they signed on for.
They decided to help the plant meet their expectations. Each day he went out and pulled up on the stalk about an inch or so, hoping to get it to the height where it would begin bearing. She massaged the blossoms hoping to stimulate growth. They were determined to get tomatoes from that plant one way or the other.
They were dumbfounded to find that the poor desperate plant began to die. She said, “Maybe we need to study up.” So, they found a book about tomato farming.
Step 1: Make sure the plant gets plenty of water. “Oops,” she said. “I meant to water it.” Step 2. Give it some plant food. “What? Plants eat?” The list continued: prune it, give it plenty of sun, dust it for pests etc.
He said, “No way.” We already spent a $1.99 on that plant and it has given us nothing. Plus, that sounds like way too much work. “What’s the alternative?” she asked. “Do we take it back to the store or just forget about it and leave it on the patio to rot?
Despite their anger and frustration, they chose to risk it and make the necessary investment. They bought some pruning shears and plant food, and they committed to watering the plant every day.
It wasn’t long after, that they enjoyed fresh salsa on their enchiladas and they (including the tomato plant) lived happily ever after.
Now forget the enchiladas and think about your marriage for a sec.
When we marry, we have expectations of each other. In fact, we even make vows to meet some of those expectations.
But there are others that are not obligatory. Like – “He will be the fixer of my car! “She will cook as good as mom did? Or even “He will put the toilet seat down after he is finished.”
We have a picture in our heads of what the marriage will look like – but there will surely be expectations that go unmet.
A conversation would be in order – a transparent, loving discussion about what’s going on. But change is hard for some of us.
And when he/she doesn’t change, some of us respond as the couple did with the plant. We try to manipulate and force change through criticism, manipulation, argument or just by making their life miserable.
“Why can’t you cook like my mom?” “I always thought my husband would be a better provider.”
“I wish you would have warned me about this before we were married.” “You are sleeping on the sofa tonight.” “My dad always lowered the toilet seat.” And on its goes.
That kind of toxic environment kills a relationship. The marriage withers and dies just as surely as it did with the plant. What then? Take it back to the store in terms of a divorce; or maybe just do the “right thing” and stay together but ignore each other the rest of your lives.
No one wants to live that way – do they?
Better to consult the book. And the book says, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. – Philippians 2:3-4 NETBible®
In other words, we need to create the environment of the tomato plant – to offer lots of water, and plant food, and sunshine and so on. That is where growth takes place.
Instead of being critical of her housework, grab a vacuum and help out. Rather than ridicule him because he doesn’t know how to change a tire, encourage him about the things he does well. Praise her for her cooking! Thank him for reading to the kids.
Treat your spouse as being more important to you than you are.
Forget the expectations. Love your spouse for who they are.
Forget the criticism – it is toxic and will never help your spouse meet your expectations.
Give your tomato plant a healthy place to grow and he/she will.
And the tomatoes will be excellent!
A PRAYER: Lord, help become a wiser gardener for the sake of my spouse, and the health of our marriage.