Five years ago almost to the day, I sat on a park bench with my husband just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The weather was perfect, the setting idyllic. We had just completed an incredible kayaking trip and hike. Denali was off in the distance, and if you’ve seen it, you know that there are no words to describe its beauty. I should have been struck speechless with awe and wonder.
But I wasn’t.
My marriage was not in a good place, and I couldn’t see anything else. It was as though I was viewing the world through blinders. My husband and I were physically on the same trip (ironically for our anniversary), yet in every other way, we were miles apart.
Our tenth anniversary is in a couple of weeks. We took a trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona, to get away, to remember, to celebrate. This isn’t where either of us thought we would go if you had asked us five years ago, but then again, this isn’t where either of us thought we would be five years later. Quite honestly, I didn’t think we would still be married.
Our sweet neighbors will have been married for 57 years later this summer. My grandparents were married for almost 50. My parents just hit 35. These long, successful marriages seem like miracles to me. And they are! But so is ten. So is every day past ten and every day since July 11, 2009. It is miraculous that God took the two most opposite people on the planet (quite literally, we are polar opposites on both the enneagram and Myers-Briggs personality tests) and brought us to a place where we are not just still married, but we actually really like each other. Somehow we opposite humans sleep in the same bed, raise small humans, and have built a life that we love. The miracle is in the everyday motions of walking hand-in-hand toward this long road that leads to heaven … together.
Just as I couldn’t see the beauty of Alaska, our eyes can be blinded to these commonplace miracles of which marriage is one. My counselor told me that many people see this and other anniversaries as just another day. (More on why everyone should go to counseling in another post.) It is and it isn’t. Knowing that the sun rises every morning makes it no less spectacular to watch. Technically, the day of our anniversary won’t feel any differently than the day before did, but it’s a huge milestone for us. We made it, and amazingly, we are better than we have ever been.
While we were in Arizona, we hiked all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a single day. We didn’t plan that, and the park rangers don’t recommend it. We had intended to hike seven miles and actually did close to twenty. Going all the way down was difficult, but it didn’t feel terrible. Coming back up was brutal. I have run marathons that seemed far easier, and my muscles have never been so sore in my life as they were the next day.
Looking across and down into the canyon from the top was spectacular. Everyone says that pictures can’t capture the vastness of it, nor the colors, and all of that is true. We watched the sun set at the Grand Canyon the night before our hike and saw it rise early the next morning. Both moments took my breath away. But I didn’t cry until we looked out at the canyon from the top for the third time, after we had made it all the way back up from our hike. Its vastness and beauty were all the more impressive after having been at the bottom.
This is also the story of our marriage.
No one recommends hitting rock bottom and sticking your feet in the Colorado River, as it were. They advise you that it can be done, that people do make it back up, but most do not. Because we are crazy or stupid or naive or maybe a little of all three, we didn’t listen. And somehow, through time and outside support and lots of conversations and prayer and ultimately the grace of God, we took every grueling step back to the top. We made it, and not a day goes by that I am not surprised and immensely grateful that we did.
Andrew, here’s to ten or twenty or fifty more … together. Oh, and let’s not hike the whole thing again.