Hi this is pastor Ken and this is my Monday Marriage Message…Planting Hedges Around Your Marriage
When I was a young boy I lived in a small village in Eastern Pennsylvania just south of the city of Scranton. In that town I don’t ever recall seeing a privacy fence. I am certain they are now a regular fixture of the landscape, but back in the 70’s when I lived there, all people had delineating their yard from the next were hedges. Thick rows of tightly planted boxwood shrubs that were maintained in straight rows on the North, South, East and West sides of every lawn. They were every bit as effective as any good fence. If they were pruned properly you couldn’t really see through them very well. One couldn’t easily get through them, though I tried a time or two to the peril of the skin on my face and arms. They did everything a fence could do…but in a more aesthetically pleasing fashion.
Jerry B Jenkins wrote a book in 2013 entitled, Hedges: Loving your marriage enough to protect it. On the cover there was a picture of those hedges I remember from my childhood. In his book, Jenkins referenced the story of Hosea from the Old Testament. Hosea was asked by God to marry a prostitute to illustrate to the Israelite people their unfaithfulness to Him. Gomer, (Hosea’s prostitute wife), bore him several children and then regained a lust for her old life and ran away and returned to it. God then asked Hosea to go find her, buy her back and bring her back home. Hosea complied, but when he got back home with her he stated; “Behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and wall her in so that she cannot find her paths.” (Hosea 2:6) Essentially Hosea was suggesting that he would plant a hedge around the property so that Gomer would be walled in where she belonged…in the marriage, and so that others would be walled outside the marriage, where they belonged.
Jenkins goes on to suggest that every marriage should have hedges of protection around it. I think there are some necessary guidelines when ‘planting’ hedges. First, I and my wife agree that every marriage should have hedges of protection. I often tell couples in premarital counseling that I understand that they trust each other, and that is as it should be. No one should marry someone they can’t trust. However, if we place that same confidence in the world outside our marriage, that’s not stupid honesty…that’s just stupid!
As I noted in a previous podcast entitled Losing the Right, Satan is looking for ways to steal your marital joy and peace. He will absolutely use the world around you to achieve that goal. Hedges of protection make that much more difficult for your enemy to accomplish. If you don’t have hedges because you didn’t know you should, ok, but if you don’t have hedges because you think your marriage doesn’t need protection, think again!
Second, every marriage only needs 4 hedges. A hedge on the North, South, East and West will have every direction covered and will be easy to maintain. Too many hedges are too hard to remember at all times and will not be maintained. An unmaintained hedge is a useless hedge. I believe that your hedges should protect you but you should understand that they need to be present in order to protect as designed. If there are too many, or they are too lengthy or complex, they will not be consulted. They need to be easily remembered for quick use.
Third, you should plant them where you want them to grow, knowing you can dig them up and replant them later if need be. Your hedges are your hedges. The two of you get to decide what they look like and how close or far from the house (your marriage) you want to plant them.
My wife has permitted me to offer some examples from our hedges of protection that encircle our marriage. we do not offer them for exact reproduction but only as examples of what I am suggesting you develop for your marriage.
- We never allow ourselves to be put into a situation that if the other unexpectedly showed up, we would feel the need to explain. This is a filter we use all the time to decide if any given activity is safe for our marriage or not. Though many things would not pass through this filter that are completely benign, we choose the safer alternative that doesn’t allow our enemy to plant seeds of doubt. 1Thes 5:22 admonishes us to Abstain from all appearances of evil. This scripture makes its point that the appearance alone is problematic and should be avoided, even if the specific activity is harmless.
- We will not share a meal with one other person of the opposite sex that is not a member of our immediate family. We decided to plant this hedge because we came upon a friend of ours having lunch with someone we knew was not their spouse. Because we were troubled by the circumstance, not knowing whether to address the friend or not, not knowing if their spouse knew or didn’t know, all of it too sticky a situation for us to be comfortable with. We decided then and there to plant a hedge. We believe that sharing a meal with someone is somewhat an intimate thing to do, and we want intimacy to be reserved for us. Both of us have at different times had to remain behind this hedge even when those asking didn’t understand why we had such a rule for ourselves. Hedges are not designed to be comfortable when you brush up against them…they are designed to be effective.
Again, these are examples and are only for your consideration as you develop the hedges of protection you want to plant around your marriage.
2 Peter 1:5-7 states: Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. The world will tell you that if you love someone you shouldn’t put any restraints on them, this scripture points out that the restraints are actually a result of love. Diligence is the key that opens the doors to moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. All of these are necessary for a strong marriage, and they all begin with diligence. Hedges keep us diligent. There is truth in the adage, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’ Without diligence, we can blame no one but ourselves if these necessary components are not found in our marriages.
Questions to Answer:
- Do you feel the need for hedges of protection around your marriage?
- Can you think of a marriage that you know of that might have been protected if hedges had been in place?
Actions to Take:
- If you have never done so, develop your four hedges of protection for your marriage. These will only be maintained if the two of you agree they are prudent and design them together. If one spouse tries to develop them alone they will be resisted by the other. Do it together!
- If you have previously developed hedges of protection, review them together and decide if they need maintaining or possibly dug up and replanted in a new proximity to your marriage in order to be properly maintained.
So now, understanding the need to lovingly protect your marriage from the outside world that would seek to destroy it, plant some hedges…and go be Awesome!