By Nancy C. Anderson
What are hedges? Hedges are boundaries. In Mark 12:1 Jesus said, “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it.” First, the man planted a vineyard. Think of your marriage as a vineyard. You “planted” it the day you said, I do. Next, the man in the parable placed a hedge around his vineyard. Why? Several reasons: to protect it from intrusion by animals and thieves; to keep his vines inside his vineyard; and to separate his territory from his neighbors.
A hedge makes the statement, “Private Property, No Trespassing.” The symbolic hedges around our marriages serve the same purposes. As a married couple, your goal, as co-owners of your vineyard, is to keep the good things in—and the bad things out. These HEDGES consist of simple principles that will protect your marriage from external invaders and internal discontent. They are all action words:
Hearing: Listening and speaking with patience and understanding;
Encouraging: Helping each other in thought, word, and deed;
Dating: Keeping it fresh and fun. Build a life that celebrates marriage;
Guarding: Agreeing on your boundaries—and enforcing them;
Educating: Becoming an expert on your mate;
Satisfying: Meeting each other’s needs.
Planting the Hedges
Gardeners know that maintaining a hedge is an ongoing task. But first, you’ve got to plant the hedge. And any gardener will tell you that when planting something, one of the most important considerations is the condition of the soil.
Assuming that Christ is the soil of your marriage, all the hedges, in order to grow to maturity, must be planted in Him. If you’re married to a non-Christian, your hedges and your hearts may be divided, creating conflict about the location of boundaries for your marriage as well as large gaps in those boundaries. You’ll need to be willing to find creative ways to maintain your Christian “soil” without discounting your mate’s needs.
Another important consideration as you plant your hedges is positioning them with room to grow. Last year my husband, Ron, and I hired a “landscape architect” (who charges twice as much as a gardener) to redesign our front yard. It hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. So, after he yanked everything out, he planted some scrawny hedges. (Actually, his crew did the work; he just talked on his cell phone and drank iced mochas). The hedges were supposed to act as a fence to keep stray dogs and children off our lawn, but they were about three feet apart.
I asked him, “How can those puny things give us any protection?”
He looked at me as if I was challenging his expertise, and with a condescending tone said, “Trust me; I know what I’m doing. If I plant them any closer, they’d fight for the same sun and water; they’d crowd each other out. They’d all die. They gotta have room to grow.”
The same principle applies to your marriage hedges. Plant them with the knowledge that they will grow, change, and fill-in as your marriage matures.
Watering the Hedges
We’re all responsible for watering our hedges. But to have enough water to offer our marriages, we must have our own reservoir to draw from.
The most important kind of water is Spiritual water, which we get from our relationship with the Lord, who is the Living Water (John 4:10–15). Over the years, Ron and I have read several devotional books together, and it’s vital to have a time to read the Bible and pray as a couple. But don’t neglect your own, personal relationship with the Lord.
In addition to regular church attendance with my family, I’m reading the One-Year Bible on my own, and Ron is listening to a series of Christian teaching tapes in his car. We often share with each other the new things we’ve learned. Sometimes he tells me a story or gives me an example from one of the tapes, and he likes to hear about my new insights as well.
In seeking spiritual water, let the Lord direct you. Ask Him to show you how to build your marriage into a strong reservoir full of deep Living Water.
The second way to water your relationship is with intellectual water: new information. Ron and I have many diverse interests and, while we do most of our activities together, we each have a few things we do alone. I’m a member of Toastmaster International, a wonderful group that trains public speakers, and I attend the weekly meeting at 6:30 A.M. so I don’t cut into family time. When I come home, Ron usually asks, “How’d it go? Did you win any more ribbons?” Or “What were the speeches about?”
Ron plays basketball every Saturday morning with a group of men at a local college. When he gets home, I usually ask, “How did you play? Did you learn any new moves?” With my encouragement, he’ll talk for twenty minutes and give a play-by-play description of the game. We both try to have new information to tell each other every day. But it wasn’t always that way.
When Nick was a toddler, I was at home most of the time and my days were so repetitive that I felt like I lived in the Bill Murray movie Ground Hog Day. I knew that Ron liked me to talk about something other than how many socks the dryer ate and how hard it is to get spaghetti sauce stains out of Tupperware. So I made it a point to have something new to tell him every day. I started reading the newspaper so we could talk about current events and joined a “Mommy and Me” class so I’d have stories from the “outside.” In the process of these new activities, I formed new interests and he looked forward to hearing what I had to say—and so did I.
Safely inside the Hedges
When we talk with couples who are having marriage troubles, one of them usually says, “I’m bored—our marriage just isn’t very exciting anymore. All we ever do is talk about the kids and bills and watch TV. I know everything my spouse is going to say before he [or she] says it. We’re in a deep, predictable rut. I need some excitement!”
Can you guess where they go to get their thrills? Yep, outside the hedges. That’s why it’s important to have some outside interests to talk about. Have your own “well” of experience to draw from. Keep your relationship watered with new information—both spiritual insights and unique, interesting activities.
A marriage that is well watered will have deep roots and will withstand the storms of life. If your relationship is in a drought, however, and its roots are weak and shallow, then the wind and erosion—life’s problems—will damage and eventually destroy your marriage. So keep your hearts safely inside your strong, healthy hedges.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." Proverbs 4:23
Adapted from Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage (Kregel Publications, 2004)
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