Bumping along a rough country road, our view from the upper level of a double-decker bus was breathtaking in the late afternoon sun. Passing the ruins of empty convents and monasteries left as ghosts of a by-gone era brought a sense of mystery. But quite amazing to us was something we had never before seen--rows and rows of hedges, sometimes for miles without a break in the walls of greenery.
The 6 foot thick, 12 feet high walls of bushes cultivated over years, kept everything on the outside from getting in, while protecting everything within its borders. Cattle were kept inside, safe from wandering or the harm of attacking animals. Hedges guarded the borders of land, one family's home boundaries separated from another-a literal hedge of protection.
When we pulled into an ancient town, we peered out our window before disembarking and saw the most gorgeous flowering garden in view beside the bus. When we were down on the ground, the tall hedge blocked our view of the garden and we could no longer see what was inside.
Just as we began to pass by, a small, white-headed woman opened the front gate of the garden and came out into the road. I walked up and told her how lovely her garden appeared from our second-story view on the bus.
"Oh, come in for a first-hand look! I love to share its beauty."
Dozens of rose bushes in full bloom aglow with yellow, coral, reds of all shades, and pink filled every corner of the garden. Tiny delicate blossoms of honeysuckle, full sunflowers towering, a rainbow of mums clustered together filled the air with perfume as the autumn breeze swept gently over the plants.
"What is your secret to this splendid garden?"
"Honestly, I think the most profound but often invisible strength of my garden is the thick hedges that define the boundary. They protect all that is beautiful inside these walls from pests and predators that would destroy it. Wind and storms do not sweep away the plants or diminish the leaves and growth, deer do not munch on the bulbs or eat the flowers down to the stubs, natural storms and threats at every point are kept at bay because of the protection of my hedges. Hedges protect the beauty and growth, and give me a safe place where my plants can grow over time."
Marriage needs to be protected, It needs to be hedged about by God's word and design, so there is accountability to living and choosing the right commitments and attitudes when temptations to compromise come.
Recently, I was thinking about how this image so clearly portrays how important hedges are to a strong marriage. The hedges of protection for my marriage have been holding my bond with Clay for many years. This hedge is a wall of safety that has kept me from going outside its walls into the danger of the world, into the predators that would destroy marriage--adultery, a promise that perhaps happiness awaits outside the walls of marriage, there is a more perfect man--lover--somewhere else, vain imagination that promises happiness anywhere else, but provides only long-term scars.
But my marriage hedge was built around our sacred relationship by vows made before God. The borders of our hedge, created by scripture itself, kept us both within the boundaries of our marriage relationship, even when we would be tempted to discontent or a feeling of despair. Vows, scripture, and idea of God's desire for marriage, and strong intentions built the borders of our protective hedge.
"To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
Sincerely, if naively, I had made these vows and intended to keep them forever.
My vows became a hedge that protected me from the danger of leaving the walls of safety that held our commitment together.
I made a vow before friends, family and most importantly, before God--and I knew from scripture that God holds us to our vows.
I wanted my integrity to match my words.
"If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." Numbers 30:2
I also knew that God said, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." Matthew 19: 6
To build anything great and strong requires time. But a hedge of strength, protecting, guarding the beauty inside is a safe-guard from destroying the sacred trust. Marriage is one of the most profound ways God designed for us so that we could slowly learn and develop in our own lives, the very character of Christ, learning to serve, love, and give ourselves as He did for us.
We hope you’ll enjoy this podcast today, as Kristen and Misty are again joining me to talk about marriage!
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