For the past month I have been thinking about the tree specifically because I am planning a bridal shower with trees being the main decor. I could not help making this comparison: marriage is like a tree. It is so beautiful! Here's why:
Think about the tree itself:
- Parts of a tree: roots, trunk, limbs, branches, seed, leaves, fruit...
- How does it grow? Every tree begins from a seed, produced by a process called sexual reproduction. The seed is called an embryo while still attached to the parent tree. The seed stores food as it grows and enlarges, producing a "coat" that will protect it from insects, disease, injury, and parasites. Once it is big enough it becomes a dormant living organism and waits for the right time to germinate. Trees remain with their parent tree until "optimal growth conditions" exist. When the seed is ready for germination it separates itself from it's "parent" tree, planting itself using a light-sensitive chemical to a place that contains the most light in order for it to grow. The two components a seed needs in order to germinate is light and water. Once it's in the soil it begins to absorb water until the "coat" bursts open. The first part of the tree to emerge from the seed is a root, anchoring it and drawing nutrients from the soil. After the root is established, the seed produces another shoot that pokes through the soil reaching for sunlight (light = fuel for growth) and develops early leaves. At this point the tree, which is coined a seedling tree, is very fragile.
- With age, comes strength. The older the tree, the bigger it grows, the stronger it becomes. It isn't considered an "adult" until after 5 years of age.
- Trees produce: seeds, leaves, and (in some cases) fruit
- Trees are deciduous or coniferous, which classify them according to their leaves and how they seed; still both go through changes. Deciduous has a latin base meaning "to fall" so trees under this classification have leaves that change color and then lose them. They do not have leaves in the winter, but they are very much alive. Coniferous trees are trees that do not lose their leaves (aka needles) during the winter but produce seeds in cones. These trees survive well in colder climates.
Hopefully you see where I'm going with this or have made some of your own connections while reading facts about trees. If not, do not worry, I'm going to tackle each piece and compare them to marriage from a biblical perspective.
How marriage is like a tree.
The Tree & Marriage: The Coat Needed to Cleave
The first marriage is between Adam and Eve and it is in Genesis 2:24-25 that we see how God designed the relationship of a husband and wife,
"Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh." (KJV)
To cleave is to split or sever; much like a seed separates from the parent tree when it's ready to germinate (or develop into an individual plant), a man and a woman must separate themselves from their parents when married! Still, this comes after much growth and learning. Just as the tree seed stores food as it grows and enlarges, producing a "coat" that will protect it from insects, disease, injury, and parasites; children must learn from their parents how to live a life that glorifies God. The "coat" a child develops while under the care of parents is God's Word; in it we will find protection from the world. It is the responsibility of the parent to raise their children in the knowledge of Him so that when they leave the protection of their Father's home they are ready to face the storms of life - much like a tree.
"Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck." Proverbs 1:8-9
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Without this protective "coat" a seed will not successfully anchor itself in the soil. The knowledge children receive in their parent's household will anchor them in their own marriage.
The Tree & Marriage: Germinate
Firstly, we are to cleave to our spouse. As women that means we are no longer the protection of our father. We no longer rely on him for safety, provision, nourishment, and care - that is now the job of the husband. As men that means that you are now the head of your home! Hold fast to your wife to create a home separate from that of your parents; in other words, germinate.
The Tree & Marriage: Anchor
Once a man and a woman are established in their own soil, they need to anchor themselves. A root is needed! With what shall your marriage be anchored?
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught..." Colossians 2:6-7
The Sunday School answer: JESUS CHRIST!
Marriages must be anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the knowledge of what He accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection, we have a steadfast anchor for the soul. In this anchor we have hope. We can endure and persevere. It is in the work of Jesus that we find encouragement! That is the very first anchor, because it is in this truth we find life everlasting.
Once we are anchored through faith in the gospelof Jesus Christ alone (Hebrews 6:19) we must grow.
The Tree & Marriage: Light and Water Give Fuel and Growth
Just as a tree seeks light and water for fuel to grow as it pushes toward the surface, a man and a woman push toward the light and earnestly seek life giving water.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4
Where must a husband and wife find the light and water? In the knowledge of JESUS CHRIST found only in Scripture.
Time and time again Jesus refers to Himself as the light of the world and the source of the living water. Here's two specifically,
"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:37-38
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
But let's dive into this a bit further. Who created light? The Trinity. Pay attention the pronouns in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make..." Us = Father, Son, Holy Spirit. John in John 1:1, Paul in Colossians 1:15-20 and the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:1 all refer to Jesus as the creator. What is the first thing God creates? Light. (Genesis 1:3) What did He make second? Water. (Genesis 1:6) In John 1:1 Jesus is also referred to as The Word. It is His Word that creates life, light, water and it is in The Word (Jesus) that a Christian has life! That's hard to ignore isn't it? Jesus creates light and water with His Word, gives them life giving attributes, and then compares Himself to His own creation, which exists to prove His existence. Christians find life in Jesus. Period. Marriages rooted in Christ, who push toward the light, soaking in life giving water, growing and learning in the knowledge of Christ through HIS WORD will have enough fuel to grow strong.
The Tree & Marriage: Gain Strength
Just like a new tree sprout, a sapling, newlyweds are fragile. Despite being anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ couples must spend a life time growing and changing in the likeness of Christ. Learn what Christ is like! There are two attributes of Christ that apply directly to both spouses: selflessness and servanthood. That is the trunk. A marriage is anchored in Christ and His Word, but both must strive to out serve one another, thinking of the other before oneself.
This applies in many different aspects of marriage (which we will dive into more later), but one of the most important is the marriage bed because it is here that we experience the "one flesh" intimacy referred to in Genesis 2:24. Sex is a major component to a strong marriage and I put it in the trunk because we are one, we are not separate. It is here marriages experience the intimacy, joy, and selfless serving that Christ experiences with His bride (the church). The Bible makes several references to this relationship between a husband and a wife when you see the word "know". It is a sexual term. It is intimate. It is more than simply being familiar with someone; it is far, far deeper than that. Dillow and Pintus in their book Intimate Issues refer to this union as, "Two separate beings become so bonded, so connected, so woven together in body, soul and spirit that God sees them as one being rather than two." (p.7) That beautiful description is spot on. God created human beings in such a way that our most intimate parts were designed to join together so that we can know God better. John Piper concludes that the supremacy of Christ - opened to us by the gospel - can guide and guard and govern our sexual lives, making our sexuality sacred, satisfying, and Christ-exalting. Why is this union so vital to our marriage? And how does sexual knowing compare to knowing Jesus? Consider the Holy Spirit who lives within us, planting His Word on our hearts, the deepest, most intimate piece of us. We can hide nothing from Him for He knows our inner most secrets (Psalm 44:21 & Romans 2:16). We stand naked before our Judge, unashamed, because of what HE accomplished on the cross on our behalf. God calls us by name into the innermost room, just as the groom in Song of Solomon calls his bride into his chamber!
Wives are called to be husband lovers (Titus 2:3-5, the greek word philandros translated to "love your husband" quite literally means to express or show intense sexual desire for your husband only). Husbands and wives are called to give our conjugal rights (1 Corinthians 7:3) and to not deprive one another (1 Corinthians 7:5). Also, our bodies are not our own (1 Corinthians 7:4)! Other than submission, sex is referred to most often when discussing marriage. In fact, God gave us an entire book about sex: Song of Solomon! We'd best recognize the importance of it in marriage as a means of staying strong and faithful.
The Tree & Marriage: Branches
Once the anchor is established, the strong trunk growing, it is now that a husband and a wife branch out. You are still "one flesh", equally established in the gospel foundation, but you each have different responsibilities. I pulled out each verse on marriage to determine what our roles are has husband and wife. Our marriage is a direct reflection of the relationship between Christ and His bride. It is therefore important that we do not ignore any of it, because it all points to Christ and what HE does and did on the cross. God uses marriage to give us an understanding of the intimacy He has with His people. (Read Ephesians 5:22-33)
What is in the branches for wives?
- Respect her husband. 1 Peter 3:1-7
- Be a husband lover. Titus 2:3-5
- Pure conduct. Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-7
- Gentle and quiet Spirit. 1 Peter 3:1-7
- God is sovereign. What have you to worry about?
- Do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3:1-7
- God gave your husband to protect you and God is in control. What an awesome bubble to live in!
- Be his helpmeet. (That's why God created a woman in the first place! Genesis 2:18)
- Submit in everything to your husband. Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1, Titus 2:3-5
- ***** I saved this one for last because it is mentioned over and over and over and over again in Scripture and it is the one we struggle with most. In EVERY.SINGLE.VERSE on marriage, submission was the first thing mentioned. This is not a debate on equality, for we are clearly equal heirs to the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is simply a reflection of Christ, who, although not wanting to, submitted Himself fully to God's plan to die on the cross. (Read Matthew 26:38-39 where He asks God that "if possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." THAT is exactly how we are to submit.) If we fail in submitting to our husbands we revile the Word of God (read Titus 2:3-5). In other words we are basically saying we don't believe that God's plan is the plan for us or that we are unwilling to put forth the effort and self-sacrifice needed to live out the standard God gave. If we do not submit, we might as well spit on God's Word because reviling it, as Titus 2:3-5 states, means to insult, despise, scorn, or blaspheme. We must live with un-compromised commitment to the truth in the Bible. Submitting to our husband, whether we want to or not is one way of honoring the Author of the Bible. For if you do not believe everything the word states about you as a wife, you will not rightfully glorify Him. And if you any intention of glorifying Him you must whole-heartedly submit to what He said. Anything else is to insult, despise, to abuse, to scorn, blaspheme, spit on, or revile Him as King. Because He is King, His Word should reign supreme in our hearts and minds! Whether or not you husband upholds his responsibilities God has clearly given him, you are still called to submit (read 1 Peter 3:1-7). You want a strong trunk? Submit to your husband.
What is in the branches for husbands?
- Love your wife as your own body. Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:22-33
- Provide for her. 1 Timothy 5:8
- Nourish her (care for, attend her needs, encourage), do not be harsh. Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:22-33
- Cherish her (admire, adore). Ephesians 5:22-33
- Protect her. 1 Peter 3:1-7 Physically, we are weaker. In most cases there is no comparison between a man and a woman's strength. It is your job, therefore, to protect us.
When a husband and wife submit to God's Word by fulfilling our God-given roles, their branches can sway with the storms, holding fast to their anchor, remembering the solidity of their trunk, and marriages will produce fruit.
The Tree & Marriage: Producing Fruit
What fruit do you want to produce? Strength. Perseverance. Friendship. Children. God willing (depending on how many years you or your spouse live), many, many years. Adventure. Joy. Laughter. And yes, heartache and tragedy, but storms make roots dig deeper and become more grounded. Lay hold of your first shoot, your root, Jesus Christ.
The Tree & Marriage: Coniferous or Deciduous?
Each marriage is unique. How one woman submits will be different from another woman because each man's needs and desires are different. How one woman fulfills the helpmeet piece of her responsibility will be different from another. The most helpful piece of advice in this aspect was from a woman who asked her husband one question, "If there is one thing I can do in my day to help you, what would that be?" Her husband asked for clean laundry, mine likes to come home to a clean kitchen, another could not stand clutter. If I can do nothing else in my day, I try to make sure the kitchen is clean because I know he would appreciate it. Does he berate me if it isn't done? Absolutely not! Otherwise he'd be failing in what Paul states in Colossians: do not be harsh. In fact, I have such an amazing selfless, serving husband that if it isn't done he helps me do it. The point in all of this is that like trees, we are all different. One marriage may be coniferous, another deciduous.
Marriages are like deciduous trees because each marriage will go through changes. As time goes by we grow and change. We will have different interests as we grow older than we did in the beginning of our relationship. We will go on less dates when children come in the mix. Time changes us, so in order to remain strong we must rely on our original root because change can be scary and can fool us into thinking we no longer have anything in common. YES, you do! You have the same root! You are ONE FLESH! You have Christ! And as long as you continue reaching for the Light and soaking up His life giving water, you will change because He will sanctify you. Embrace change as part of your marriage.
Finally, I believe all marriages can be like the coniferous tree. No matter the weather, no matter how much snow is piled on, we are still alive and well.
I truly believe that when we look at God's creation we see Him and His design for life. Tree's are strong, rooted, and established. They sway with the storms, but remain steadfast. That's what I want my marriage to be like: a tree, rooted in Christ and embracing HIS design for marriage.