In 2000, after living in Japan for twelve years and in four different apartments, my family moved into a house. I was excited to have a yard, and the chance to grow my own food. I had dreams of corn, tomatoes and carrots. I prepared for spicy red radishes, and included a row of exotic herbs, such as coriander.

I dug up the ground, made rows and planted seeds. Before long, corn was growing two meters tall. Zucchini plants exploded with big leaves and flowers. The green leafy tops of carrots held the promise for what lay below the surface. I was in garden heaven!

Or was it hell? When I pulled my first carrot, up came something that resembled an orange turnip. Round and squat. What!

Next it was the corn. The ears shriveled on the stalk and withered. No way!

Followed by the zucchini, which produced beautiful flowers but no squash. What again!

What had gone wrong? This was not supposed to happen! My dreams, my hopes, my hard work only produced some round carrots!

It wasn’t until much later, and after many failures, that I began to learn what I did wrong. It all started with the soil.

My mistake was to think that if I broke up the top layer of soil and dropped in seeds, everything would just grow. But with only the top layer prepared, the hard soil beneath it meant my carrots could not grow deep, and instead grew round. With no nutrients in the soil, and shallow roots because of the hard soil, my corn grew tall fast, but then starved.

Without good soil, a garden will not grow.

Like a garden, a marriage needs a solid foundation in which to grow, and soil is the values you hold about marriage. You plant your marriage in these values and beliefs. They act as nutrients, feeding the relationship you have with your partner.

Let me give you an example from my marriage. Here are four values my wife and I believe and live out together.

  1. Marriage is good.
  2. Our marriage relationship is worthy of our time, nurture and hard work.
  3. Let’s harvest. A healthy harvest reveals a thriving marriage. A lack of harvest is unacceptable.
  4. How we treat each other is rooted in Jesus’ love for us. (We are believers in Jesus.)

Each value is simple and easy to remember. They are worded to express who we are, and have special meaning to us. To provide you (the reader) with understanding, this is what they mean.

Marriage is good. It is not a drag. It provides stability for our relationship and allows for the meeting of our needs (mental, emotional, physical). It provides stability for our children and allows them to grow in a healthy environment. A heathy marriage helps to build a healthy community, providing benefit not only to our immediate family, but also to those living around us. Bottom line, marriage is good.

Our marriage relationship is worthy of our time, nurture and hard work. Because marriage is good, ensuring a healthy and vibrant relationship with one another is important. We need to put time into it. It is worth giving our time to. We are proactive to nurture a healthy marriage. To do nothing and just ‘let it be’ actually has a negative effect on our marriage. Our marriage is worthy of all the attention we give it.

Let’s harvest. After all the hard work, we enjoy the harvest! Life is short, enjoy it fully. The last thing we want to do is leave unharvested fruit on the tree. My wife and I enjoy each other, hanging out, being romantic. Our children can see that their parents respect one another. When there is a lack of harvest, be it our neglecting to harvest or having no fruit on the vine, it points to something being wrong. Let me say it again, life is short, so enjoy it! Harvest now!

How we treat each other is rooted in Jesus’ love for us. My wife and I are followers of Jesus Christ so how we live, love, forgive and respect each other is rooted in the Bible. It is our ‘handbook’ for relationships. Our personal ‘marriage coach.’ We align our marriage to Jesus. You may have different beliefs, that’s okay! As a couple, know what you believe and why. We do, and it is really helpful.

These values give life to our marriage. In good times and bad, they provide a healthy place for it to grow.

What values do you hold? Take a moment and do a little thinking. First on your own, then with your partner. What about marriage is important to you? There is no right or wrong answer, just be honest with one another.

Next: Seed (Goals)