It was an excursion of many miles. We drove through sun and storms along many terrains – some smooth and easy, some rocky, steep, and rough while others were jarring, almost treacherous. Yes, there were far more dangerous trails, far more difficult roads; but I had to deal with my own reservations for the ones we were on. Several times I was tempted to say, “This is too hard; too scary.”
But the reality was, I didn’t want to get off. I didn’t want to miss the adventure, the majesty, the soul soaring delight even in the unknown. To get to some of the most breathtaking views, we had to cross adrenaline pumping, heart pounding terrain. There were narrow roads and sheer cliffs, winding pathways that gave way to slippery slopes. And there was beauty.
The joy was in the journey as well as the destination alongside the man I have loved for over 30 years, but I had to get beyond my fears and trust him to choose well for us, to take us where he knew we could go safely. But I also had to trust God to bring us over and through those things he might not see or know; and I called out to the Lord and sang songs of praise from the back of the bike and smiled knowing He was directing our every mile.
And such is marriage. Every marriage goes through changing weather of moods and circumstances, the smooth and easy paths as well as the steep, rough roads; times of laughter inducing smiles and moments of difficult tears. Periods of sweet peace and unity and times when the chasm created by two sinners in need of grace feels enormous and the weight of it is jarring. And sometimes one or the other whispers “This is too hard; too scary.”
But, as with our mountain adventure, we don’t want to miss either the journey or the destination. We know that. We just want someone to smooth the rough spots so we can get to the beauty of marriage! We want someone who can take our moments of brokenness and create beauty out of mistakes made, words spoken too quickly or too harshly, self-focused pride.
The joy is that we have One who can and does; our hope is in God alone! Our fears are assuaged by His mercy and His hand brings light to dark places. It isn’t always comfortable and the heart may pound as He chips away at each one’s selfish roots; painful and glorious all at once.
His goal in growing two into one is bigger than just a beautiful marriage; that is an amazing by-product, a gift. His greater purpose is to make us more like Himself, more in love with Him and, thus, more humbly submissive to Him, becoming all He created us to be. But it doesn’t come without some discomfort, some shaping that is outside our comfort zone. As we grow in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, He changes us and causes us to set aside our self focused agenda, to forsake all others and to love, serve, honor, and cherish the one to whom we made our vow, to the glory of the One before whom we made our vows!
Marriage is “about learning how to love selflessly by learning to know the One who loves sacrificially. Marriage is about covenantal love. It’s about a love that stems from the much greater, more intense, and immensely more pure love of God. Marriage is one way God refines us into people of holiness, and makes us aware of His unconditional grace and love. Marriage has more to do with eternity than we ever fathomed.” (FierceMarriage.com) On the back of a motorcycle, riding the roads of Colorado, I thought often of how an adventure such as this, blended with much excitement and some risk, parallels the adventure of this “holy refining,” this mystery called love that draws two hearts to become one in marriage.
I love spontaneity, but I also like knowing what’s ahead. Call me schizophrenic, but the two can actually co-exist! Every morning in the mountains, as we set out on our next exploration, I wanted to know, to some degree, what I could expect. That was often something that was frustrating to my other half who would set a course and not wonder what was around the next bend until we got there. Would there be sheer cliffs on narrow, rocky paths where I would enjoy looking up and out but not down or would we simply be traveling on wide, gravel roads with spectacular vistas that I could take in at any angle? Sometimes things changed or, while we knew the destination, we didn’t completely know what the means to get there would entail and I had to rest. I had to learn to sit back, enjoy the journey, trust my “driver,” and relish the excitement and the grandeur but take any fears of the unknown (or known) to the Lord.
Such is life in our place called “home.” I have one who has chosen me for his bride; who has promised to love and protect and I willingly choose to trust that he will. But we still need to take our marriage, each other, and life in general to Jesus, moving forward but sitting back and trusting. Too easily, we can fear the “what ifs” and miss the “what is.” We find an unexpected opportunity and we take it or we make plans and move towards them; either way, there can be unforeseen happenings ahead, but we can look at the days without fear when we walk them together, knowing Who holds each one.
When in the majesty of the mountains, I could have chosen to focus on the fear of some of the places or I could have complained about the places we didn’t go or the flaws of the places we did; and I would have failed to see a myriad of delights big and small! I could have missed the simple but completely wonderful evenings of staring up at the sky where a million stars danced above us, a cool, crisp morning sipping a cup of coffee with the one I love in the shadow of a magnificent mountain, or even short little walks hand in hand across the campground late at night. Simple moments yet some of my sweetest memories.
In our day to day, we can miss the treasure of the ordinary, the delight in the daily alongside the one to whom we said, “I do.” We can nurse our unrealistic expectations and fail to recognize the treasure in jars of clay. We ask God to “give us this day,” but when He does, too often we are so busy looking for the “next big event,” the extraordinary that we miss what He’s given us as well as who He has given us and what He wants to do with our “ordinary,” hand in hand with the gift right by our side.
We could have complained when we locked ourselves out of the trailer late at night or when various little incidents rose up to steal our joy. But, instead, we faced them together. We even laughed at some of them in the moment, all of them later. Admittedly, a few of them caused our self focus to become pronounced and we squandered those times in frustration. But God is a God who redeems, who buys back wasted moments and uses them to strengthen us at the time and prepares us for what’s ahead. It’s the stuff of which memories are made and stronger bonds are forged; it’s the training ground for the bigger moments, the more difficult disruptions!
Back in our little corner of the world, life comes at us in various ways and again threatens to steal our joy! But when we choose to face them, putting them in the hands of our Father who knows us so well and is using “all things for the good” of we who “love Him and are called according to His purpose,” we can laugh at life’s little interruptions and hold on to one another in the big ones. We can shake our fists at the meager attempts of satan to take eyes off the One who is not caught unaware. We can choose joy in spite of circumstances or emotions even if we have to choose it, even fight for it, daily or minute by minute! “Weeping may last for the night; but joy comes in the morning!” (Psalm 30:5)
Up on Yankee Boy Basin for the second time, this time in the truck, we kept climbing higher and higher and being more amazed at the grandeur of God’s incredible creation! We went up one way and chose to come down another, just a little off the first path. The road was impassable; damage to the undercarriage of our truck would occur if we proceeded. We couldn’t get down without “making a way.” Hubby got out and moved the rocks around, placing them in such a manner so that the broken places could be restored and our tires had a firm place on which we could move forward towards even more beauty! Ultimately, we continued back down the trail again basking in the wonder of all that was around us.
God always provides a way out of the desert, of the impossible path, out of the “no way out,” out of temptation and, with that provision, a firm place to stand. Sometimes He calls us to act and, thus, to help make the foundation stronger, firmer. Sometimes He simply calls us to go a different way or provides a way out and tells us to step out in faith and take it. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:12-13) Just as on the mountain road where we thought we had a firm place to drive but came upon a broken place in the path; in marriage, we have to keep our eyes open, aware of the potential broken places ahead that would threaten to take us off the right path and derail our marriage. We aren’t to do so fearfully; rather, we are told to ask God for wisdom, discernment, eyes to see, and feet to run when they need to run! And then we get the freedom to run together along that steadfast path, laughing as we enjoy the view!
As we followed the roads out west on the motorcycle, I was surprised to see how many riders wore no helmet. It’s not the law there, so they chose to experience “freedom” instead of protecting themselves for what might lie ahead and, should it, would likely cost them their life. Another thing that caught my eye on the Million Dollar Highway was the lack of guardrails as you careened up and down and around the mountain passes, twisting and turning. A friend who grew up in the area said that, driving that stretch, she would often see cars and trucks who had plummeted over the side into the deep canyon below. They thought they could handle the pass, maneuver the turns but they either had gotten too close to the edge or, ill prepared for danger of the sudden steep grade, their brakes had failed.
. Marriage needs protection. The culture shouts the wrong kind of “freedom” even within marriage; freedom to think more about ourselves than our spouse, freedom to make our choices completely independent of each other, freedom to fill our time with things that are contrary to strengthening a marriage and that can make us discontent, freedom to develop lives apart from each other, and set us on a course for disaster, freedom to be unforgiving; freedom to dismantle the guardrails that are intended to slow us down and remind us of God’s design for this holy union, this “oneness” that must be treasured, nurtured, cherished, and shielded.
Marriage needs safeguards, shelters. Praying with and for each other, protecting time each other, holding each other accountable, having other friends who are committed to God’s design for marriage with whom we can have mutual encouragement, learning to say no to self and finding ways to build the other up, each growing in the grace of God and their relationship with Him, each putting a hedge around their minds and hearts that keeps out whatever sets itself up against a strong and safe place for the two.
Grounded and established in the Truth of God’s blueprint, guardrails in marriage, as on a mountain highway, won’t keep us from falling over the edge; but, if we choose to keep our distance, as is their intention, we can avoid more than just the inevitable fall. We can actually make the journey smoother, the ride less fearful, more delightful, and far more fulfilling for both of them and for those they encounter! They will be as a hedge of protection from significant spiritual and emotional injury not only to the marriage but also to each individual, even as preparing for the steep places and a helmet will protect a driver from injury or death.
In the weeks before we left, it appeared that many situations were coming together that might make us have to cancel our trip. We were more than disappointed in the thought as we had been thinking of and planning for this anniversary celebration for so long! We dug in and fought for that time! Hubby spent extra hours over the weekend and at night getting things finished at work so nothing would be left undone and we could take off on our adventure! I made arrangements that would clear the road on my end. A few things still loomed and we had to make some adjustments, but we didn’t let that keep us from making it work out! We changed the days, but we didn’t give up on what was important to us – our long planned time together!
Marriage is like that! It is worth fighting for, worth the rugged climb at times. The person to whom I said I would “love, comfort, honor, and keep in sickness, and in health, for better and for worse, forsaking all others so long as we both shall live” is worth fighting for! Marriage to the one to whom we have devoted our lives is important enough to do whatever it takes because the “we” of marriage is worth it! Many things, circumstances, and people will vie for our affections, our time, our attention; but by God’s grace, we will fight! We will stand with and for each other. We will honor each other by continuing to develop trust; trust that is achieved through honesty, through transparency; laying our souls bare before the other because we can trust they will be nurtured and kept safe. Truth, no matter what the cost even to our own pride, expressing itself in love. No walls, no deceptions. When we fail each other (and it will happen), the one who offends must be quick to, in humility, ask for forgiveness and leave the offense behind them, not picking it back up nor continuing in it. The one offended must then commit to forgive. Both will act in the power of the One who equips us to live and love by grace!
Our time in the mountains was, like marriage, a collection of moments; various experiences, people, and places. Moments that were thrilling but also those that made us step back and take a deep breath. But blended together, they created a grand design. “Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story!” (Jennifer Smith) A true love story will not just be made of beautiful, carefree moments; a true love story will often be forged over time, grounded in Christ through both the tender and tense, the ordinary and extraordinary; how we respond to them will determine how beautiful the mosaic will be.
I’ll be on the back of the motorcycle again, behind the one to whom I entrusted my heart so many years ago; and, as I do, I’ll stop and be thankful that I get to keep riding life alongside this man, thankful that I get to show him again and again the fierce heart of a woman who loves him, trusts him, and is ready to walk every road with him; thankful for the privilege of being his bride, able to share all that we are, all we are not, and all that comes our way together as we daily recommit to and strengthen our marriage in our one sure and unfailing foundation which is Christ, regardless of the terrain!
“You cannot love a fellow creature fully until you love God!” C.S. Lewis
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3