It may be a little cheesy, but I thought I would write something about this day. Steve and I have been married for 21 years and we decided to celebrate the day by going for a hike together. We would have preferred a warm and sunny day for this event. Instead it was rainy, windy, kind of cold and from time to time the sun came out and said hello, as if to tease us.
I carried a heavy backpack full of weights (!). I am training for a long hike I will have to do soon and take every opportunity to carry heavy burdens in order to get in shape. The trail we took was new for both of us. It was pretty overgrown and steep. The rain made it slippery on parts, and we both fell a few times.
Climbing up one of the hills Steve mentioned how we could have spent our anniversary had we not been living in the world’s most expensive country, and had we not worked for a poor aid agency that spends most its money on refugees, not on its staff. A spa, dinner at a fancy restaurant, a night at a nice hotel, maybe even a whole weekend away.
Instead we were climbing a steep and slippery hill with weights and homemade sandwiches in our backpacks. Then I had the thought: This hike is a bit like marriage.
It is hard, but it is also so good. It is fun, but it is also so tiring. It has it’s challenges, but also prizes to die for.
The 21 years I have been married to Steve have been great years. We have a marriage that people envy at times, and numerous times I have heard this: You and Steve were so lucky, you are so perfect for each other, have so much in common and seem to have such a great relationship.
This, of course, is true. But what I need to inform the observers of our marriage is this: It hasn’t come easy. It has been a lot of hard work. Look at us, we are as different as they get! He is American, I am Norwegian. We even celebrate Christmas on different days! He grew up in a family with values a lot different than mine. His interests were very much different than mine when we met. We liked the same music and some of the same books, we wanted similar things for the future, but mostly we were different. He likes to sleep in the mornings, I like to get up. I like to watch movies with happy endings, he likes action. He likes the windows open in the car, no matter what temperature. I like them closed. He likes a good cigar, I like bran muffins.
Some days our marriage has been a bit like walking up a steep and slippery trail in bad weather. Some days all I have seen has been the brush and the branches with thorns. And, I am sure that there have been days that Steve has wished that he had chosen an easier trail too. Perhaps he has wished he chose to spa and the five star hotel.
As we walked today I thought about this. I was struggling some places. I had to hold on to roots and stuff to not fall. Once, after getting up a particularly steep spot, my water bottle fell out and rolled all the way down the hill. I got to discouraged to go all the way down to get it, and begged Steve to be my hero. Which, of course he did.
Then I decided to look around me and noticed the beauty. I saw the crazy wildness of the nature surrounding me and marveled. I picked berries and observed colors that only fall can produce. I felt the cool wind in my face and the rain was refreshing on my hot cheeks. I saw water trickling down modest creeks and a grouse taking flight right in front of us. I saw quiet lakes and smelled the sweet smell of the bog. Had I not made the effort on the trail, those are blessings I would not have experienced.
So much like marriage. If we just take the time to look around and see the blessings that come with commitment and persistence, with devotion and love, then we will see it is worth it. Not only worth it, but incredibly fun, rewarding, beautiful, and meaningful. In the end you come to a lake, sit down and make a fire, eat a nice lunch, drink the strong coffee with some chocolate and think: Ah, this is why I said Yes.
Steve and I have been on many different trails that have been hard and challenging. But we have never thought of quitting, of turning around, of going back before we got to the end destination. We have fallen and helped each other back up. We have even pushed one another to fall (very seldom, but it has happened, and probably I was the one who pushed). But we have always gotten back up and continued on the trail.
There has been more laughter than tears, more music than nagging, more love than resentment and more forgiveness than bitterness. Doing the steep hills and the challenging climbs have not been easy, but we have made it. And, guess what, it has given us marriage muscles that we can be proud of, and a stamina that many wish they had. Not only that, but the trials have formed us and shaped us to become more like Jesus—a lot more likeable.
My advice today is: Don’t focus on the roots and the loose rocks on your trail, but focus on the beauty around you. Don’t think that turning around is an option, but rather think of the nice coffee break you will have together at the end of the difficult hike. It is totally worth it.