Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the parable of the tomato plant (or how to really enjoy your marriage) — February 10, 2021

the parable of the tomato plant (or how to really enjoy your marriage)

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.  

the habit that saved our marriage — September 23, 2020

the habit that saved our marriage

We said, “I do” in August. By October our bliss had become a blister.  I got a clue the day she melted into a pile of sobbing mush. 

We talked and tried to unravel the problem.  My sarcasm fueled her insecurities.  She didn’t laugh when I said the meatloaf looked like an old shoe (tasted good though).

Problem was, she hid her hurt.  Instead of arguing with me, she argued with herself.  She was thinking, “He didn’t really mean that – I don’t want to rock the marriage boat – if I point out his mistake, he’ll point out mine” and “I don’t want to seem like a baby.” 

She would talk herself into silence, but the hurt remained.  It raised a tiny emotional blister on her soul.  The longer she ignored it, the bigger it got until that day it finally popped and created a yucky mess.  I confessed that I also hid my hurts.

We loved each other – didn’t want to hurt each other, so we went to Ephesians 4:25-27 for some help. 

Paul wrote, “Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.”  NET Bible ®

Some people “clam up” when they are hurt (which was our problem). Others “blow up” (which is where we would eventually end up) but what we needed to do was to “speak up.” 

Paul told us to lay aside falsehood.   To be hurt but pretend you’re not – is to lie.  We needed to speak truthfully to each other – in love – instead. (Eph. 4:15)

Anger is the way God designed us to respond to injustice.  There is no sin in that.  But to clam up or blow up is a sinful response to that anger.  We needed to speak up.

But when?  If the hurt had not been handled earlier in the day, then the time of reckoning is the end of each day.  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”   

There is a price for those who hold onto their anger.    Paul said it gives the devil an opportunity to erode the relationship.   A hurt creates emotional distance.  The longer the hurt goes unaddressed, the greater the distance gets between us.  We can end up asking, “Why did I ever marry that person?”   And yet an honest, loving conversation can thoroughly remove any distance.  

My wife and I are simple people, so we decided to end every day with a checkup.  We would pray with each other, and read the Word, but before any of that, I would ask her, “Have I done any badness today?”   (don’t laugh – the word badness worked for us.)  

She didn’t have the courage to initiate the discussion.  But, because I did, she felt like I sincerely wanted to hear how I might have impacted her.   I still had to do a little coaxing, but she would then open up and tell me she was hurt when I left her alone at the party.

I was shocked!  It didn’t understand why that would hurt her, but we talked, I learned and then apologized.  She would then ask, “Have I done any badness?”  I would share, she would learn as well. 

Unfortunately, we were often up past midnight that first year of marriage. But we were committed, and we saw the fruit of our habit every day.  It helped us to learn and adjust. 

In fact, we found the habit to be so valuable that we will do it again tonight (as we have every night for the last 44 years.  We will ask again, “Did I do any badness?”

But we probably won’t have anything to share.  You see we got tired of having midnight discussions – so we chose to change.  As we changed there was less to talk about. 

We still err, but we have enjoyed such peace and intimacy in our relationship, that we now deal with hurts more promptly.  I love being at peace with my wife – can’t stand it when I’m not. 

Sorry – this post is not all that funny – but it may be the most important piece I have ever written.  Because, many if not most marriages suffer because they haven’t learned to speak the truth in love to one another. 

If you are married and you are not regularly experiencing this level of honest conversation, your marriage is hurting, and you just don’t know it. 

I would challenge you to find a way of implementing Eph 4:25-26.   Feel free to do what we have done.  We are committed to do it until the Lord takes the first of us home.  If you do it, we would love to hear about it.

A PRAYER: God give me the humility and the courage I need to open myself up to my spouse, that together we might build an even better marriage.

They held hands — May 30, 2020
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