Of Colorado Mountain Passes & Marriage

IMG_4721.JPGWhen you set out on adventure, you never know exactly what will come! 

We set out on adventure over thirty years ago and we have watched two of our three children do the same this year.  We have hit some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in that time, but we have done it under the watchful eye of our heavenly Father and so will our children.  It is an adventure worth sharing and the love and commitment I have for this man is greater today than when we first began.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart nor the uncommitted; neither is it for the one who is content and even set upon life and circumstances always being about “me” and “my needs and wants.”  It is for the humble of heart, the tender in spirit, and the one with the tenacity to say, “We said ‘I do’ forever and that’s what I still intend…no matter what!” It is for those not just willing to “be” together but for those hungry to live and grow and change together in the power of Jesus Christ; to love more deeply, to increasingly trust and create trust, to “outdo” each other in serving, showing, and telling of that love, to reveal more of who we are and who we aren’t because we know we are “grace-fully” loved as well.  It’s not just about staying, but praying and fighting tenderly but fiercely for the other because, ultimately, the two have been made one and when one falters, the other one feels it; but can provide that secure place to land.

So, as we headed out on a motorcycle adventure this past week, I couldn’t help to, once again, enjoy the road ahead behind the man with whom I have walked alongside most of my life and to consider how so many parts of that adventure are a picture of marriage specifically and, often, life in general.

As the road and the mountains loomed ahead of us, I couldn’t help but take in the beauty and also consider it as a picture of the life we have lived together, remembering God’s faithfulness and His grace poured out all over us!  Sure, we knew when we started that there might be things up ahead to fear on the roads of Colorado (let alone the day we married looking ahead to the roads of life and marriage), but I chose to trust this man, my husband, knowing he would never put me or us in danger.  And, if he found himself or us in a precarious situation of his own making or otherwise, he would do whatever it takes to get us safely back on track, more secure than before.

We headed up to Last Dollar Road and over to Sawpit for the ride to Telluride.  The last time we drove Sawpit, it gave both of us not a little apprehension.  Street tires carried us over rock and gravel, steep climbs and equally precipitous descents.  It felt treacherous as the drops from the edges were sharp and deep.

But the views – magnificent, breathtaking, God’s fingerprint on it all!  And, in the confines of my helmet,   I sang as I did the last time, “This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas.  His hand the wonders wrought!”  And instead of fear I chose to see the glory – I couldn’t help but do so – it was so evident!  “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  (Isaiah 55:12)

It was no less treacherous, perilous, steep, or breathtaking.  But we had traversed the obstacles once before, faced it together and, knowing the concerns, we took the steps to face it “more prepared.”  The scary parts felt less scary as we rode on tires more equipped for terrain such as this.  Still, one bad patch, one false turn, and what was glorious and fun could be turned upside down, literally and figuratively.  We made our way, he doing what he knew he had to do to get us safely to the other side still keeping our eyes open, but all the while with our gaze fixed on the One who ultimately has our lives in His hands.

Life is sometimes equally treacherous.  We often stand at the precipice of frightening situations externally but also internally as individuals and as a couple.  We “knew” the dangers ahead in marriage and now we have seen more clearly.  Even today, we aren’t sure what will follow at times and how we will always move forward.  We can choose to look over the edge at the “what could be’s” instead of straight ahead; “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (we) press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  We may tremble and wonder what’s next!

But God!

We can look at the difficult circumstances or we can look at the glory of God being worked out through them!  Secure in who we are in Him, we can look beyond the hard to His hand and we can lay ourselves bare first before Him and then before each other, knowing we are “grace-fully” loved.  We are not alone.  The One who is more than able to do exceedingly and abundantly more is in the midst doing just that. 

“For better or worse” can encompass so much, but when we choose to trust each other, look beyond the now to the not yet, and forgive offenses, we provide that “sure” footing, those “better tires” to get us over the rocky ground where we may get “stuck,” the unstable gravel where we may slip, and return to the more secure ground…together.

If we do something foolish on the motorcycle as in life, we will have consequences and we may have great pain often leading to the pain of the other.  We may gently lay down a bike and find we have few bruises and little scrapes or there can be a violent crash that may take months if not years from which to recover. 

The same can be said of life choices – an annoyance or an unintentional action that is little more than hurt feelings or a minor offense can bring quick apologies, forgiveness, and recovery.  A deeper wound from a succession of hurtful words or actions or betrayal needs to be quickly turned from, honest apologies given, and forgiveness must come even if trust may take some time to recover depending on how the circumstances are handled.   

We cannot expect that unwise and/or sinful words or actions will leave no scars; but, over time, if not mortally wounded, scars are reminders of God’s grace to us and our grace to one another. 

When on the back of the bike, my husband has specific instructions for me for our safety – move with him in the curves, come up close to the front and lean in while on gravel, and never ever put my foot down to the pavement (yes, that instruction came when, in fear one time, I did).  Likewise, he knows what he must do to keep the bike upright and riding safe regardless of terrain.  There are “rules” for safe riding and personal accountability as well as an accountability of both of us, one to the other.  And we do them…together.  If we get out of sync or if I choose to respond as I “feel” in the moment, the results will not be good.

In marriage, we are called to be “in sync” with one another in every way; when we aren’t, the clash is inevitable and, depending on the situation, can be light and momentary or devastating.  We are called to be answerable to each other as well, to keep our marriage “upright and safe” as it were.  There are to be NO areas of secrecy, no areas that the other is not allowed to “see into” – that being intimacy in every area. 

Is it comfortable to share our weaknesses, our failures, and our struggles?  Of course not.  We want the other to see as little of our “worst” as possible.  But, it is that which brings ultimate unity and defeats the schemes of the enemy of our souls that would weigh us down and keep us hidden from the one who has our heart. 

As Matthew Jacobson writes, “Your wife is the accountability partner God provided you.  And, wives, your husband is the accountability partner God provided for you.  According to Him, you are one entity (the two shall become one…in every aspect)…”   You share all while not clinging to “worthless idols” or justifying intimacy destroying habits that need to be eradicated from your life; you take them to the cross and leave them there…together!  That sets your relational feet on a more solid ground.

If we are to have a secure relationship built on mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual tenderness, there can be no hidden places.  The reality is that, if you are close in most areas, your spouse will sense when an area is not right, when a struggle is rearing its head, and where there needs to be a restart.  Don’t run from that; let the grace of God make you and your marriage stronger.

When we choose to hide our hurts, struggles, and temptations, we live with a guardedness that keeps us from total intimacy and the greatest joy that God intended.  When we are fully known yet completely loved, we experience the kind of completeness in marriage we were designed to have!

Don’t hide.  Don’t go deeper into the darkness.  That is the rocky ground where the enemy can heap shame and temptation again and again.  God’s word is so clear – true restoration and healing comes in the light.

Returning to our cabin over Last Dollar Road, we laughed as my hubby skillfully maneuvered his way over more gravel, rocks, and muddy puddles.  But, while my ultimate trust was in the God of these rocky places, I trusted my husband and the joy and laughter that followed is a memory I will not forget.  It took us to one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen and one I really didn’t want to leave!

Marriage is like that.  When we you traverse hard places together, deal with them rightly, and survive them by the grace of God and the firmness of commitment, you find an increasingly greater beauty in the covenant you vowed, a deeper love that is forged by fire.  Challenges have the power to destroy a relationship or strengthen it – it’s a choice.  Where will we fix our eyes?  On whom?

“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance/perseverance, and endurance/perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us!”  (Romans 5:2-5)

When you turn your back on selfish desires and choices or join hands when physical, financial, or emotional difficulties come and together plow through the rocks and the mud and the cold rain, you find yourself on a marital vista that equips you to more easily say “no” to selfish desires and “me focus” responses the next time and “yes” to the Savior, ultimately yes to your bride or groom. 

Yes, I will cherish you.

Yes, I will protect you.

Yes, I will stand beside you.

Yes, I will go to the Savior with you.

Yes, we will go through the fire together and not be burned.

I would be the first to say we are not perfect, not even close.  We have failed each other more often than I would like to admit.  Selfishness has reared its ugly head too many times; at times a lack of “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” – the five most important words in a marriage – have led to deserts where the chasm between us has been wide.

But we have a Savior who lifts us up, shows us our shame not to defeat us but to point us back to the cross where we can be restored to Him and to each other.  And, time after time, He has taken what the enemy meant for evil, to make us stronger.  I wouldn’t choose or orchestrate any of those circumstances, but I have seen the Lord chipping away at the rocky places in our lives, making something beautiful in the valleys so we could come over the passes into the beauty of the mountaintops and stand amazed.

“This is my Father’s world!  Oh let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God IS the Ruler yet!” 

In His creation, in this world, in our lives, in our marriage…and in yours!