The Gardener's Mentality
By Jimmy Evans
Jimmy Evans is the founder of MarriageToday Ministries. Go to his website at http://marriagetoday.org for some great tools to enrich your marriage.
We all marry imperfect people, and we ourselves are imperfect. Even though that may seem like an obvious truth, many people become overwhelmed by the faults of their spouse. In fact, it is common for most of us to wonder if we married the right person at some point in time.
Of course, the devil loves to point out our spouse’s flaws and problems to us because he is the accuser. He works division within couples by making accusations against each spouse. And because of the many flaws we all have, he has no shortage of ammunition to work with.
To stop the devil in his tracks and to keep our spouse’s faults from overwhelming us and damaging our marriage, we must adopt the correct mentality. I call it the gardener’s mentality. It is the opposite of the consumer’s mentality. Let me explain what I mean.
When a consumer buys something and brings it home and realizes there is a problem with it, he or she takes it back. As a consumer, we pay for something and we expect our money’s worth. We take no responsibility for the problem the product was delivered to us with. We are consumers and expect service.
A gardener is a different breed. Say, for example, there is a tree or shrub in a gardener’s care that is unhealthy or has problems. A true gardener doesn’t accuse the seller or reject the plant; he or she takes responsibility to do what is necessary to restore it to health. They ask themselves the question, “I wonder what I could be doing that would cause this problem?” Or if they had nothing to do with the problem they ask, “I wonder what I can do that will fix it and restore it to health?”
We all can thank God that Jesus has a gardener’s mentality with us. Even though He is in no way responsible for our problems and we all come to Him messed up, He loves us and nurtures us to health. In Ephesians Chapter 5, men are charged with “nourishing and cherishing” their wives. Interestingly, those are both agricultural words. Even the word ‘husband’ is an agricultural term, i.e. husbandman.
Related to marriage, are you a gardener or a consumer? If you are a consumer, it means you are most likely impatient and frustrated with your spouse’s problems. You take no responsibility to do what you can to nurture your spouse or be God’s partner in redeeming them as Christ redeemed you. You are probably negative related to your marriage and think you’ve made a mistake.
If you are a gardener, you see the problems in your spouse, but view them much differently than a consumer. You are optimistic about them getting better because you are proactive and positive. Your caring behavior gives them the encouragement and loving atmosphere they need to get better. Also, your prayers and obedience become God’s tools for redeeming them and making them into the person they should be.
When I got married, I was a consumer. I was miserable and was totally convinced I made a mistake in marrying Karen. The devil used all of Karen’s faults to torment me and cause my shallow heart to reject her and fantasize about the woman I should have married.
Today, by God’s grace, I’m a gardener. When I see something in Karen that is wrong or I don’t like, I stop and ask myself, “Am I doing something to cause this and even if I’m not, what can I do to help her?” That change of attitude has had dramatically positive effects on our marriage.
Be a gardener and not a consumer when it comes to your marriage.