We’ve just about wrapped up the necessary work on the house we’ve lived in for almost 15 years. I recently mowed our old lawn for what was probably the last time.
I’d waited too long to mow, so the grass was long and it took me a while to get the work done. I had plenty of time to reminisce—and regret.
The mower took me to places and memories from long ago—the spot where the swimming pool used to be and where I taught my children to swim, the place where we found a dying baby bunny, the clothesline that I loved, the garden that I watched my husband and sons build for me, the dip in the ground where my father-in-law had lit something on fire and singed his eyebrows, my beloved lilac bush with its fragrant but fading blooms, . . .
Every spot tugged at my heart as I thought about my special memories that were woven into the fabric of my family.
Yet underneath those fond memories was something else—remembered intentions that had gone nowhere: the diseased tree I always thought I would cut down to make space for a garden, the overgrown saplings and shrubs that I hadn’t pruned as I should have and were now growing through the fence, the fence we’d wanted to replace, the gazebo we’d dreamed of, the clematis that I thought would look beautiful but never managed to thrive, the weeds and tree seedlings that I hadn’t dealt with so took on a life of their own, the hole where the pool had been that never seemed to be completely filled in even as grass grew over it, . . .
Turn after turn, the sound of the mower was drowned out by my awareness of all the things I hadn’t gotten around to yet.
Someday, I had always thought, someday . . . when I’m stronger, when the kids are older, when we have money, when life settles down, when I have more time. Someday, I’ll get to it.
As I cut the grass, I faced the reality that someday had never come—and it never would. The house is ours only for another week. The yard really isn’t ours anymore.
I found myself wondering how we will be judged for our yard. Some future owners will be digging up plants, filling in a hole, or installing a new fence.
I imagine them shaking their heads. Whatever were they thinking? they’ll wonder. They had this lovely yard and did so little with it. What a shame to waste their opportunity to have the kind of back yard some people dream of. They had this yard, surrounded by a fence for privacy where they could enjoy so much more than they did. They didn’t tend the yard, so weeds had a place to thrive and plants that could have thrived withered away.
I felt deep regret that I had wasted so many years without the yard I could have had. Why did it have to take leaving the yard altogether for me to realize what I could have had all this time? I have fond memories in that yard, and I’m glad for that. But the yard could have been a thing of beauty and pleasure in my life, not just a backdrop. Had the regret hit me last year, I could have had at least one year living with a yard that reached its full potential.
So I mowed and mowed and mowed, mourning my loss—not the loss of the yard where I had some nice memories but the loss of the yard I could have had but kept putting off for a someday that now will never come.
I had nearly done the same thing to my marriage as I did to my back yard.
I had some fond memories with my husband, but those memories were of a marriage that was more potential than it was actuality. Over time, the memories had become hints of what once had been and a reminder of what we could have been.
My marriage was full of intentions that never went anywhere.
Someday, I would think, someday . . . when I’m stronger, when the kids are older, when we have money, when life settles down, when I have more time. Someday, I’ll get to it.
Someday never came for my old back yard.
I am so thankful it came for my marriage.
I sometimes wonder how I will be judged for my marriage. I imagine standing in front of God’s great throne and being held accountable for what I did with all that he gave me in life.
Had I never gotten around to working on my marriage, I can imagine him shaking his head at me. Whatever were you thinking? he would say. You had this marriage and did so little with it. What a shame to waste the opportunity to have what some people only dream of. You had a marriage, surrounded by a one-flesh fence that allowed you to enjoy so much more than you ever did. You didn’t tend your marriage well at all. Sin had a place to thrive—and your husband, who could have thrived with a little more care, withered away. What a shame. I am disappointed—in you and for you.
I spent a lot of years not tending to my marriage—but then that changed.
Someday didn’t come because I was stronger, the kids were older, we had money, life settled down, I had more time, or any of the other reasons I had put it off.
Someday came because I asked God to help me do what would have been impossible on my own.
Our emptying nest reminds me of the passage of time, and I don’t know how much time I have left with my Big Guy.
Although I put off tending our marriage, I am so thankful that I didn’t wait too long.
Our marriage still needs some work, but it is work that we are doing. As a result, we are able to truly enjoy each other, the pleasure, and the intimacy that are part of God’s design for marriage.
I will always regret not having the fuller richness of intimacy that could have come had I asked for God’s help earlier. But I am deeply thankful that I have at least a few years of living in a marriage that is reaching for its full potential.
When my husband was hospitalized last year, I rejoiced to realize that if he was on his deathbed, he at least would pass away knowing that I loved him. I would not have to say a goodbye full of regret that I’d never gotten around to being the wife he needed.
I won’t have to wonder what might have been if I’d tried to work on our marriage, because I finally did.
When I stand before God and am held accountable for how I tended my marriage, instead of bringing nothing but years of excuses and fear and walls, I will be able to offer my repentance and gratitude for the work he has done in me that have enabled me to tend my marriage.
When God asks you how you tended your marriage, what will you have to offer?
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Image credit jBrickman | morgueFile.com
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