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It's the Climb - Marriage 101




Dreams. Goals. Adventures. Strengths. Happiness. These are a few of the things we might visualize when entering into a marriage covenant. We may get carried away with everything we hope and expect our marriages to be, for now and forever, without considering the actual work it takes to get the pinnacle of marriage.


Fairy-tales sound great and give us hope that such perfection in marriage is possible. We are raised on fantasies (and fallacies) that provide us a false picture of what marriage is and what God created it to be. Then, we are caught off guard when our Prince Charming or Damsel in Distress isn't quite who we thought they were. We enter into marriage with a false ideal of imagined perfection. We make a vow, "In the sight of God, I, ___, take you, ___, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death. This is my solemn vow." That is a standard set of vows. Sometimes, we go beyond that and take it deeper by adding our own words to express the commitment we are making to God and our spouse. For the sake of time, today we are going to look at the standard provided vows.


"In the sight of God..." It seems we are starting off on the right foot, right? God first, everything else after? If only remembering it and living it daily were that easy. Placing God FIRST in our relationships is not merely important to a lasting marriage, it's crucial. God should be the Cornerstone of every Christian marriage. According to the Oxford dictionary, a cornerstone is an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based. We MUST depend on God in EVERY area of our marriages. We MUST base our relational decisions ALWAYS with His guidance and wisdom. If we don't, our focus can easily shift from following God's design for marriage to our own selfish desires of we want and expect our marriages to be.


"I, _____, take you, _____, to be my wife / husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health..." Wow! How sweet the sound! When we speak these words, we generally speak from a heart happiness with a true intention to love our spouse in this way, "...to love and to cherish, until death do us part." When the struggle becomes real, when the mountain becomes steep and the rocks are sharp and unstable, will we choose to stick to our vows and continue climbing when it appears the easier option is to abandon our vows and our spouse, to return down the mountain, start over, and hope for an easier journey the next go round? Too many times, vows are ignored when the going gets tough and the marriage is seen as discardable.


"I meant the vows when I said them, but I didn't realize how steep the mountain would get. It's not fair. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't care how far we've come. I can't make it the next 1000 feet. It's too steep. Too rocky. Too hard. This isn't what I signed up for." Isn't it? Better or worse. Richer or poorer. Sickness or health. To love and to cherish, until death do us part.


My mom explained it this way, "Murder, maybe. Divorce, never." It's a funny comment on the surface, I suppose. Consider this, what would 'ever-after' really look like if we not only meant our vows in the beginning while all we see is the fairy-tale fallacy that has been ingrained in us, but also when the fairy-tale starts to fade, truths are exposed, mistakes, failures, and flaws are no longer hidden, and the future looks unstable and/or uncertain? What if we chose to keep going and not focus on the life behind us or the one we envisioned for our happy-ever-after? What if we kept climbing, forsaking all else, but our commitments to each other and to God? Would it make a difference?


This blog was inspired by yesterday's events. The longer I meditate on it, the more I see how climbing a mountain can be similar to reaching the pinnacle of marriage. So, what happened yesterday? Let me tell you!


It was early morning, overcast and raining. I'd been craving a mountain hike and yesterday just felt like the day to go, despite the undesirable weather conditions. I mentioned it to Steve and he was unsure if it was a good idea or not, but he seemed interested. We started the day with some general upkeep around the house. The rain was come and go. We heard thunder a few times and the possibility of a hike seemed less likely as the day progressed. Mid-afternoon, we decided to just go for it. We hopped in the Miata, dropped the top, and had an exhilarating drive to Pinnacle Mountain. It was perhaps more exhilarating for me than Steve as I've recently been working towards overcoming some illogical fears.


Anyway, as for our trip, I wanted to make sure we started at the trailhead that had the clean restrooms, so I searched in my GPS, Pinnacle Trail Bathrooms. Where it took us was to a small parking lot with a couple of port-a-toilets. I decided to just go with it. The plan was clean restrooms and a nice hike up the mountain. What we got was port-a-toilets (thank God for squats and strong legs) and an unknown trail. Up the mountain we went. Early on, we were able to establish the which trail we were on and which markers (red) we needed to follow. We decided together that wherever it took us, we were going to reach the pinnacle of Pinnacle Mountain.


Our journey quickly took us from a nice hike on a slightly bumpy winding path to steep uphill rock climbing. It was tough, but also exhilarating. We hit a few road blocks and made some decisions to derail from the path, momentarily, seeking to create a smoother trip to the top. Often, the shortcuts were great. A time or two, we had to pause and re-think the route we were about to take. Always, we were agreed we were not going to give up. With each marker we reached, we felt a sense of success. The higher we got, the greater the feeling of accomplishment.


Then, there came a point where it was difficult to locate the next marker. We weren't sure which path to take. Follow through on the commitment was up for negotiation. We decided to go a little farther, then look again for our marker. Finally! I saw a marker right near the top of the mountain!!! We'd come so far and only had a few hundred more feet to go, give or take a few. When we reached the marker, we enjoyed the victorious view over all the rough territory that had previously had us considering if the remaining trek was worth it. We were high in the sky way above the birds! We could see for miles and miles. It was incredible. We'd reached the last marker before the top. With a sigh of relief, we began to continue on.


Wait... What? As we rounded a tree, we looked ahead and saw not one, but several more red markers on the steep rocks in front of us. We were tired, or at least I was. These dang markers!! They just kept coming and the path kept going. Would we ever reach the top? Again I say, thank God for squats and strong legs!! "Ally, are you okay?" Steve asked. I smiled, took a deep breath, and assured him I was good. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more. I was not giving up. Eventually, we did reach the pinnacle and what a pinnacle it was!


I have hiked Pinnacle mountain several times, but it was always via an alternate route. I liked the smooth, easy, consistent man-made paths that were clearly marked, no questions needed. They required minimal physical effort and even the youngest kiddos could enjoy them. When we started this hike up the mountain, what I expected is what I knew, or rather, thought I knew.


What I learned yesterday is that while the man-made paths were convenient and easy to follow, there was little opportunity for physical and mental growth. They didn't challenge me. They didn't push me. They didn't take me into uncomfortable places, but most importantly, they didn't allow me to see the real and raw nature of the beauty God had created.


Choosing to walk in the path God has for us is often more difficult than the one man has made. It requires grit, strength, wisdom, and commitment. It calls for a choice to keep going, no matter what, until we reach the place God has called us to.


My greatest takeaway from yesterday was not from my own journey, but from a single comment that Steve made once we reached the top of the mountain. Although I had hiked other trails before and thought I had reached the pinnacle, I hadn't. I had followed the man made path and yellow arrows that always took me to the same place. I believed I couldn't get any higher. The fact was, only steps away was the true pinnacle. The highest point of the mountain, which I was oblivious too. Climbing the rocks took us straight to it. Hiking the trails got me about 98% of the way. Steve suggested we consider how many people make it 98% of the way and feel they've reached the pinnacle and decide they can't go any further.


We often get tired in life and perhaps also in marriage, and think we can't go on anymore. We have nothing left to give. We are 98% of the way there when we stop climbing, causing us to miss out on the incredible blessings God has right around the corner, if only we'd kept going. Was it my fault I didn't know it was there? Maybe. Maybe not. Did I ask? Nope. Did I seek out a higher place? I'm not sure it even crossed my mind. But still, the pinnacle was there waiting for me.


Some people choose to start the easy path and give up without much progress. Some will pursue to the point of 98%. Others will choose the difficult journey that builds strength and character. Some who choose that path will look around and see all the struggles to get to that point while neglecting the growth and beauty that happened along the way, and they decide the challenge is more than they bargained for. They'd rather give up, go back down the mountain and start over on the easier path.


Guys and Girls, divorce has never been a part of God's plan for marriage. I come to you as someone who has been through divorce. Marriage is tough and is not for the faint of heart. Giving up and starting over can sometimes feel like the easiest option, but oh the reward is great if you choose to seek God above all else and fight for what the enemy is trying to steal from you. I know what it's like to feel as if you can't go on anymore. You're right. You can't. Not without God.


Matthew 19:26 says, Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible."


BUT WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.


CHALLENGE: In your life and your marriage, give EVERYTHING to God first. Remember who you are and who God created you to be. Who does God say you are? Who doe He need you to be for your spouse? Are you considering and praying for their needs above your own?


Don't ask God to fix your husband / wife. Ask Him to fix you. Ask Him to create in you a new heart. Seek out His will for who He has called you to be.


Remember, it is not our place to fix our spouses. It is our place to become the best versions of ourselves, first for God, then for our partners. We MUST choose LOVE, daily. Not the feel good love, but the love God has called us to.


John 15:12-14 says, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."


Whoa! Lay down my life? Seriously? YES!!! DAILY!!! What does that mean? It means dying to self in all things for the God's glory and the greater good of your spouse. Consider what a game changer it would be if we all loved our spouses the way Christ loved the church.


Until next time,

Ally


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