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Grandpa was a careful, meticulous, and skilled gardener. I’m not sure if a weed ever stayed in his garden for more than a day. From sunup to sundown, he tended his garden. Though he did many other things with his life, he had a particular passion for gardening.
He was not obsessive but proactive and caring. He took gardening seriously. The fruit of his hands was on full display, primarily when it was harvest time. He kept one eye on the daily needs of the garden while keeping the other on the future harvest. With the end in mind, he did the day-to-day work that was necessary to satisfy his future hope and expectation.
It’s an adage, but entirely applicable here: Grandpa got what he paid for because he invested himself in the process. Why am I telling you this? I am sharing with you because a gardener is an excellent analogy to what a biblical husband should aspire to be.
Fundamental Ideas – In this chapter, I want to accomplish two things: (1) Envision husbands about their job description while (2) placing the first responsibility of the marriage in their laps, rather than their wives. The word husband comes from an old name, husbandman—a tiller of the soil. We know a husbandman in our day as a gardener. A husband, in an analogous sense, is a gardener.
If you want to know if a gardener can garden, all you have to do is look at his garden, which is how I learned that my grandfather was a master gardener. The proof was in the bountiful harvest we enjoyed each fall. If you want to know if a husband is a master gardener and that he understands and practices the “art of husbandry,” look at his garden.
His garden is his wife. She is the most explicit and most accurate reflection of his gifting, attentiveness, passion, love, and leadership. Whenever a couple comes to me for counseling, one of the initial assessments that I make pertains to the wife. If their marriage is more than a few years old, I want to discern his husbandry ability, skill, gifting, leadership style, and capacities.
The most obvious way to do this is by assessing his wife. I want to know how his performance as a husband has affected her. I do not ask him about these things because more objective data is sitting in the room with us. It’s her.
We see this idea more clearly in Ephesians, as it pertains to our Savior. He’s the model for all husbands, whom Paul calls us to lay down our lives for our wives. And “dying” for your wife is a necessary characteristic when talking about the art of husbandry.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
We are familiar with the first part of this text—husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. Though we see what Christ did—He laid down His life—we don’t talk as much about what He gets in return for His work. What is the harvest? What is the fruit that Christ receives for His work?
(Christ) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).
Do you see what He gets for His effort? He will receive, in some future day, the work of His hands. You could say it this way: He will get a return on His investment. Paul pushes this gospel truth right into the heart of our marriages by giving us an exhortation about how husbands have a responsibility in the overall sanctification and care for their wives.
If a man has been gardening (married) for a few years, there will be objective evidence of his labors, as seen in his wife. This data could be negative or positive—depending on the work of the husband. His wife is “Exhibit A” of what he has been doing since he married her. If he has been working hard, cultivating the ground of her heart, she will more than likely be responding positively.
No doubt there will be some husbands reading this saying, “You don’t know my wife. If you were married to her, you would not be so presumptuous about this gardening thing.” It would be accurate to say that I don’t know your wife. But it would be problematic for any husband to frame his initial response that way.
In my counseling experience, I have never interacted with a troubled marriage where both partners were not at fault. The most likely person to begin with when restoring a marriage is the husband because he is the leader of the home. If a ship is going down, I want to talk to the captain of the vessel first, not the first mate. Too many times, the husband will shrink back from his role in the gardening process by talking about how his wife is the main problem.
This tactic is not how any biblical husband should begin talking about the problems in his marriage. If he is humble, he will want to own his role in the marriage dysfunction rather than taking a blame-shifting stance (Matthew 7:3-5). The wise gardener will want to figure out what he needs to do first, not what the plants need to do. The husband should always begin with his failure in a marriage gone sour.
I know that your wife has issues. The doctrine of sin informs me about this. My wife has problems too, but whatever they are, it cannot be my starting point. I mean, who is not messed up?
These things are common sense. I get it—none of us was a prize worth saving when God redeemed us from destruction (Romans 3:10-12). Still yet, Christ did not look at us and choose to pass on us because of the difficulties. The challenges of the task at hand were too daunting. He rolled up His sleeves and began digging into the weeds of our lives. He did this by setting aside His life (Philippians 2:2-6) and dying for us (Romans 5:8).
It would be misguided for a husband to begin by complaining about his wife before addressing his gardening deficiencies (Matthew 7:3-5). If you want to grow in the art of husbandry, do not begin by cursing the soil. Begin with your heart.
A wife would have to be unsaved or insane not to respond to a humble man, who is seeking to understand her (1 Peter 3:7), love her, and lead her. Admittedly, there are exceptions to this idea, and some women can be plain mean, but don’t be too quick to put your wife in the camp of the mean-spirited women.
I have met a lot of mean women in my time, but in most cases, being mean is not how they want to be. I am not excusing their current meanness, but I’m also not ignoring the deficiencies of the gardener they married.
In today’s culture, dads have not trained boys to be husbands. It’s almost an assumption that they will unlock the mysteries of the art of husbandry after they are married. They won’t. The ignorance they bring into their marriages will stay in their marriages if nobody helps them.
If your marriage is still in its infancy, it would be understandable as to why you may be a novice in the art of husbandry. It is also understandable that your garden may need more work than an older and more mature one. But if you have been married for five years or more, your wife is Exhibit A. She is an objective representation of your love and care. If your wife has a lot of weeds, and if you are not sure how to proceed, I encourage you to find help. Ask somebody.
Ask your small group leader or your pastor to give you some help. Spend dedicated time learning the art of husbandry. There is no shame in that. We all must learn at some point. By all means, do not become angry, frustrated, apathetic, or disappointed if your garden is not meeting your expectations. That kind of response will not help your circumstances at all.
My grandfather knew how to grow stuff. Though he may have been perplexed from time to time or occasionally stumped, he always persevered with a little hope and a whole lot of sweat. A friend of mine was recently commenting to me how she rarely sees couples who have been married for a while, who are still in love with each other. Isn’t that a sad commentary on our Christian marriages? Too many marriages are:
These problems are not how things ought to be.
The weeds of this world should never choke out the practical wisdom and the power that God provides for His children.
Now that you have the vision, let’s make it practical. Here are a few questions I would like for you to think through and apply. If you’re a journaling person, begin by writing during your quiet times. If you are not a journaler, find a close friend that you can talk to about this chapter. These questions are for husbands, with the hope of changing first, and their marriages next.
In the first part of this chapter, I used all the following words. Write out the first thing that comes to your mind as you think about yourself as a husbandman. After you finish this assignment, go to a trusted friend and ask him to help you change in areas where you need to change.