As a student, I spent some time in the city of Haifa, Israel, and while I was there I got to visit some spectacular, jaw-dropping gardens. They cover acres of perfectly manicured terraces, with arbors flowing over in exotic flowers, topiaries in every shape and size, and all in the perfect balance of color and artistry. But looking at those gardens, I thought, they didn’t get that way all by themselves. Behind the scenes were hundreds of caretakers who spent considerable time and physical effort every single day keeping the grounds.
It’s well-known that gardens have to be tended constantly, less the weeds start to grow and some plants begin to choke out other plants. Branches need to be pruned and the grass kept short and it’s a good idea to monitor for potential intruders such as slugs or rodents. It only takes a few days before a garden can start to show signs of neglect, and the longer a garden is left unattended, the harder it becomes to take back from nature.
While pondering these gardens I realized they are a beautiful metaphor for marriages. Marriages are very much like gardens. They cannot be neglected day after day and expected to be or remain beautiful. Marriages require constant, dedicated attention or else the weeds of daily life choke out the beauty, intruders begin to dig up resentments and we unknowingly begin to spread seeds of selfishness and indifference. If we neglect each other, that love may wither and could eventually die.
To guard against the decay of our own marriage garden, my husband and I started taking some active, practical steps as a couple to keep our relationship moving in a forward direction, and that’s when the “Intentional Marriage” seed was planted.
I recently did some simple math, and based on our ages and when we got married, Eric and I have about 16,000 days left to do and be all that we hope over the course of our lives. The more we thought about it, the more we realized how short 16,000 days really is.
I was so jolted by this potential reality, that I decided to be intentional and hang up a reminder in a conspicuous place in our home. I entitled it, “Our Intentional Life” and all it is, really, is a collage of scriptures, quotes, and key words to visually remind us of our commitment to each other, and more than that, it outlines some of our long-term goals for our marriage and for our lives.
There is a portion of the collage entitled, “Our Word for the Year.” We chose the word “Preparation” knowing that our marriage would be full of many changes and transitions in the coming months, especially with our jobs. This way, we were reminded to intentionally prepare for the marriage and life challenges those changes would inevitably bring.
I also added some photos of Eric and I, some of our best memories together, and every year I update the collage with some of our most important life goals, the estimated number of days we have left, and I change out the “word for the year” section with a new, meaningful word.
I got this idea about being intentional from Dr. Randy Carlson who has a really insightful radio program called Intentional Living. He also has a great website () where anyone get helpful resources on how to succeed in what he calls, “The Essential Five”—Faith, Relationships, Health, Finances, and Work/School. He often says that if you are not intentional about your life and your marriage, no one else will be!
Eric and I are committed to being intentional about our marriage and about or lives. We want our marriage to grow stronger by giving it the attention and hard work it needs to thrive. No one knows the future, but at most we’ve only got about 16,000 days to make our marriage count. Though it won’t always be easy, pulling weeds never is, we are committed to the daily task of making our marriage beautiful, one that will last a lifetime.