It’s that time of year when, thanks to the grace of God and a long-suffering spouse, I get to celebrate another anniversary. It’s gardening time, too! The zucchini is out of control. They’re the size of speedboats and I’ve started sneaking them over to the neighbor’s porches, leaving them there and running. You know how to tell you have no friends? You have to buy zucchini in September. Thanks to our garden, most of what we’ve eaten in the last while has been picked 50 feet from our dining table. We strain most of the bugs out and enjoy fresh peas and carrots and squash and kohlrabi (something that should never be planted let alone eaten).

This year for the first time, I grew watermelon, a grand achievement in a cooler climate. We harvested enough raspberries to keep us in pies all winter, and thanks to a wind-resistant greenhouse, tomatoes will be eaten until they come out our ears. You celebrate another anniversary and it hits you that marriage is like a garden. Here are three secrets we’ve discovered that can help nourish and cultivate a marriage, and, for that matter, friendships too.

1. Sow the right seeds. You won’t harvest beans if you plant kohlrabi. You won’t enjoy good fruit if you plant destructive seeds. What are the right seeds? Work on communicating well. Date each other. Get godly counseling if you need it. Attend a marriage conference. Read the Bible and good books together. Be a student of your spouse. Know their love language. Smooch each morning. Pray together each night. Sow the right seeds and you’ll harvest forgiveness, grace and commitment.

2. Yank out weeds by the roots. Weeds like selfishness, pride, anger, and lust strangle the good stuff, and the zucchini too. The minute you see one of these weeds, murder it. Sometimes you’ll have to get down on your knees to do this. Say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Say adios past mistakes, guilt trips, payback and “I told you so.” Yank these weeds out by the roots.

3. Use the ultimate nutrient. It’s grace. For me, this has meant learning to guard my mouth. Does my humor help her grow? Do my words nurture? Do I belittle my spouse to others? Do I roll my eyes or give the cold silent treatment? Stop it. Sowing careless words can leave scars that last years. So build through encouragement and watch your spouse grow. Our marriages should be a picture of Jesus and His church. In the ultimate act of grace, He laid down His life for us.

In more than 35 years, I have blown it too many times to count. God has shown us grace, so let’s spread it around liberally today, like…well, like zucchini.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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