I Was Wrong About the Trees

When I was young and married, people felt very free to express to me their horror at young marriage. “You were so young!”, they’d say. “I think people settle down too fast. You’ve got to take time to become your own person. People change, and you don’t want to match up with someone now because they won’t match who you will become.”

By my very early twenties, I had a pat retort.

“Have you ever,” I’d ask, “seen two trees that are growing right next to each other? You can see in the whorls of the bark where one tree has overlapped the other, and then pushed back again. Their trunks are like two halves at the bottom, but as it goes up they are twisted into a seamless one. That’s how I think marriage should be. Marrying young gives us time to grow around each other.”

It is true that it silenced my attackers and put them on the defensive; to explain to me how they would one day find that tree specially fit for them.  But to be honest, I didn’t feel very clever back then. My speech was born out of desperation. I hoped that’s how marriage was to be because otherwise I was a fool. I often feared I was wasting my time while my “perfect fit” ran around somewhere out there.

Friday night I worked and in the gaps I thought about where I wanted to go with my next post, and about the comments to my last post. My thoughts went something like this:

  • What is marriage?
  • What is marriage like?
  • Well, it’s like Christ’s relationship to the Church. He is its head. What does that mean?
  • Why do feminists Christians think that head-as-source means less obedience from what flows than to a head-as-authority?
  • They shouldn’t. Headwaters literally in-form bodies of water. Any body of water that ceases to be informed by its head is not that head’s body of water.
  • What other analogies is this like?
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
  • Shazam!

My canned response came back to me. I had thought I was looking at two trees planted together, but what if what I had seen–looking at marriage–was a branch being grafted into a vine? Did that make sense?

Immediately, before I had an answer, another thought crowded into my mind: Don’t be so arrogant, Caldo, as to think you are like Christ. But I searched around my thoughts and after a few seconds decided that what I felt about being like Christ was irrelevant to the facts. The facts are that I relate to my wife like Christ relates to the Church, and that I am to relate to her in the same fashion. Which is to say that, in some way, to my wife I am the vine and she has been grafted into me.

“Cleave unto her” suddenly came into sharper focus, too.

I thought again about how her sense of humor had changed over the years. Once she only laughed. Now she contributes jokes–good jokes–nearly as often as I. Had I changed to be like her, as she has towards me? I have certainly changed, but I couldn’t think of a way that I have become more like her. Perhaps I had missed something? So I texted Mrs. Caldo; who had no idea.

CC: Do you think that over the years I’ve changed to become more like you? Take your time to answer.

MC: What? No

CC: Have you become more like me?

MC: I believe that’s the more likely scenario. What is your opinion on the subject?

CC: I agree on both. Coffee?[1]

MC: Yes.

I will think more about the idea of marriage as a process really like grafting. The “better half” comments are worse than I thought because the portrait is more wrong than I knew. If we are ever to understand and teach the lost art of marriage we must, I think, accept that marriage is not the coming together of two equals who will share their independence together. Nor is it the coming together of two equals of whom one pretends to relinquish control. It must be as the one is weaker than the other as the branch is weaker than the vine, and it is why and how the vine must nourish it as its own flesh.

These are all verses and ideas we’ve heard and discussed many times before, but the perspective of grafting showed me the matter of marriage in a whole new light. I doubt St. Paul and Peter would be surprised by any of this except that I have been so dense. There is a lot of deep knowledge lost for those of us who don’t toil in the dirt. (Though sometimes I have an inkling.)

For example: In that video the grafter cuts into the side of the stalk and it’s in that cut where the branch is grafted and becomes one with the plant. If you squint a little it looks like women appears on the scene when Adam’s side is cut, and God shapes Eve from the rib taken from it. The Church lives on the blood of Christ; which was spilled for her most effusively when His side was pierced and He died.

There are probably some earthy, common sense lessons, too. One video I watched mentioned that it’s important to graft when the branches are young. The grafts don’t take when they are too old.

The cut must be made in one attempt. Multiple cuts will prevent a successful graft.

The cambium layers, just below the bark, need to be aligned for the graft to take; which means that relative size matters, and that in a mismatch success is more likely when the stalk’s diameter is more than the branch.

Draw your own conclusions.

[1] Text-speak for “Can you get some coffee ready for me?”

27 thoughts on “I Was Wrong About the Trees

  1. CC:

    This is timely because I’ll be getting married next May. It’s just that we’ll be getting married relatively late in our lives (I’m 40 and she’s 33). It would have been great if we stumbled upon this earlier in our lives but the society we’re in does not see any benefits in grafts like what you’ve described. Moreover, she’s a much younger Christian and I’ve been trying to see how she can be discipled (by an older woman now, as I do not have the “husbandry” authority over her). I’m also thinking about how I should lead her spiritually when I become her husband.

    As we begin our marriage in our advanced years, how should we approach it biblically? What should we do because I’m a middle-aged branch and she’s a “stalk” in her mid-thirties? Or are we really so late in the marriage “game” that we should consider… not getting married?

    Hope this doesn’t derail the intent behind your post. Apologies if I did.

  2. Cane-

    I like this, and I don’t think you were “wrong” about the trees. I think you have probably gained some insight and modified your understanding. This is growth and I am glad you have written it here. I have seen this analogy play out in my own marriage. I think Mychael would answer those same questions in pretty much the same way. And this brings me to chocking on red pills:

    Or are we really so late in the marriage “game” that we should consider… not getting married?

    No. I was 36 and she was 33. We were both wretchedly worldly “Christians” and still are deeply flawed. I wonder if you would consider stopping by my blog, and leaving a note there. I think your fiancé and my wife might mutually benefit from each others fellowship, for reasons related to your concern, and others I won’t go into here.

  3. Cane,

    You do not want to be “your own person” when you are married. That is the flaw of those who challenged you earlier.

    You are also correct that the husband-wife relationship is exactly like that of Christ and the Church.

    I remember a relative couple of my wife’s talking about how they were “two trees in the wilderness” growing together. We both recognized it for the new age foolishness it was. (Not meaning to be insulting to you, but they were definitely new age types.) My wife and I would not have met earlier in life, but it would have been far better had we married 5-10 years earlier.

    We have survived and even thrived, but that happened because I was willing to step into my proper role, and she into hers. I would argue that I had to take my steps first, but it is not the “the wife will always respond if the husband does the right things.” Instead, it is a case of her being unable to really follow someone who is not leading.

    Husbands have got to walk confidently in their leadership role. Wives then have the choice of following or not. Not the foolish “servant leadership” idea that is taken from a single point in Jesus’ life, but true leadership, with all the good and bad it entails.

    Great set of questions to consider.


    I completely agree in the value of fellowship among women in proper red pill relationships. I got to see my wife work with my daughter-in-law this weekend. She shared many of these truths that have taken years to weave in. Having a valid source to reinforce them would be good. It can have danger for those who are not properly focused, but we should not shy away from it merely because of risk.

    It did work better in that case because my son is planning to move across the DFW to be closer to us and farther from his wife’s family. My d-i-l knows it is for the best, but still has close ties to her family that will be hard to limit or even cut as is likely needed.

    That would not be the same as any connection between Scott’s wife and MC, but it is similar enough that I believe it has merit as an example.

    This kind of also fits with your whole idea of building communities Scott, a very good goal. How to rebuild them in a modern society that is very different is the challenge.

    Though enough straying from the topic of the OP.

  4. Choking,

    We are all humans and God works with us where we are. I see no reason to not proceed as long as you are both committed to the supremacy of Christ and His Word in your lives. You are likely to have many bumpy roads ahead, but all of us will have our own bumpy roads.

    I see no reason to bail. Scott correctly notes that it can work when a couple is older. My wife and I were in our late 20s when we married. Not quite where you are at, but older than I would prefer now. We are into our 28th year now, so it can work.

  5. @CoRP

    As we begin our marriage in our advanced years, how should we approach it biblically? What should we do because I’m a middle-aged branch and she’s a “stalk” in her mid-thirties? Or are we really so late in the marriage “game” that we should consider… not getting married?

    As I’ve written about you before I’ll be free with the details anyone could find on my site and we’ll run it through the alpha version of my grafting calculator (Get it? Grafting instead of graphing…I kill me.)

    – You’re both Christians (like kinds of plants)
    – You’re both virgins, I believe (there will be only one cut on both stalk and branch)
    – You’re older (age of branch is under age of stalk)
    – She’s still fertile (not an old branch; not the youngest but not old)

    The only question then is whether she will suffer to be “cut down” enough for grafting to occur. I trust that you have decided the answer is “Yes” based on our emails.

    That’s what it looks from thousands of miles away, which isn’t saying much. Ultimately these are questions you must answer.

  6. @Scott:

    Thank you. Your blog is on my Feedly list. I’ve enjoyed reading it and am happy to just lurk.

    As for my fiancee, her first language is unfortunately not English. So, I am not sure how I can introduce her (even if it’s gradual) to Mychael’s posts. She is also not aware of … well… the “red pill”.


    I guess you have highlighted my lack of faith in God guiding us to make our marriage work. Thanks for the comment and reminder.

    I get what you mean. We’ll have to work on our marriage with “fear and trembling”. Heh. Thanks.

  7. @BradA,

    This is why St. Paul talks about elder women instructing younger women. There is a good friend I have who is taking advice from her younger sister…it won’t end well going that way.

  8. Excellent post. It dovetails (or grafts) nicely with some thinking I have been doing on Christian delayed marriage (with the focus on “waiting” over marrying) as well as the complementarian fear of headship.

    It also brings to mind a comment my wife made the other day about women who check out from their marriage complaining that they lost their identity. Indeed.

  9. complaining that they lost their identity

    I am working on a post about this, from a psychologists perspective but I need to do some research first.

  10. Pingback: The loss of identity in marriage | Morally Contextualized Romance

  11. Cane-

    You may want to delete that first one. I forgot to name it before publishing so it just came out with the generic blog name.

  12. @ Cane

    “I doubt St. Paul and Peter would be surprised by any of this except that I have been so dense.”

    My guess is that there’ll be a lot of this in glory.

    Me: Ohhhhh…… so THAT’s what you meant!

    St. Peter: Seriously, dude?

    Repeated ad infinitum for eternity.

  13. GKC, that is certainly true. Learning from your younger sister is fraught with all kinds of dangers in almost all cases.

    Though I also think that godly women need to have fellowship with other godly women. Finding those who truly qualify for that can be a challenge today.


    Don’t worry too much either. You will have hard times, I guarantee it. Don’t let any of those posting how well they are doing fool you. We have all worked through some level of struggle. I will let others comment about how deep there struggle was, but I am convinced no one gets to a solid long term marriage without some bumps, often quite large, especially in today’s environment.

    Knowing you will face bumps can help you overcome them, so that is why I note things ahead of time. Both of you are older, so you will have to unlearn some bad practices. Lean on your Lord even when you don’t want to and you should succeed!

  14. Haven’t had time to read the comments yet, because I wanted to speak up right away and say this is a great post. I am going to need to respond to this post, as well as Scott’s.

  15. The grafting analogy also helps to explain the pain involved in a divorce (at least to the non-initiating party). It really is a ripping and tearing of one flesh, not a clean cut and not merely an unwrapping of two intertwined organisms.

    [CC: You’re picking up what I’m putting down.]

  16. Pingback: Some More Thoughts on Marriage as Grafting | Things that We have Heard and Known

  17. And it isn’t just pain either. The ripping and tearing exposes both to not only the elements, but infection as well. All the matter of evil can find its way inside them- all the worse because they are both so weakened from the ordeal they cannot resist as they would were they still healthy and together.

  18. Pingback: Brief Thoughts And Updates | Donal Graeme

  19. @BradA

    Thank you. I shared with my fiancee about how I think money/finances will always be one of the top three concerns of husbands. That, to me, may be a perennial bump for us because she had been told many accounts of how difficult or undignified it was for her married friends when they had to ask their husbands for money to buy accessories, cosmetics or clothes. Her conclusion was all men are like that.

  20. Choking,

    I am probably too loose on stuff like that, but I cannot imagine micromanaging what my wife spends on cosmetics and such. She is very restrained overall, so I am not worried at all and I suppose that some women might not make it with that approach, but I think a few husbands are a bit stupid in areas like this.

  21. Pingback: Two Become One | Donal Graeme

  22. Pingback: Where was I…Ah, yes: Why Graft? | Things that We have Heard and Known

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