Makeshift Hiking Poles and Relational Vistas

Do you have a favorite month? September is at the top of my list for several reasons. For starters, I really like fall, with its accompanying cooler temperatures and enhanced color templates. On the personal side, I took my first breaths in September and made my wedding vows in September—would you believe on the same day?! Actually, I wasn’t a baby groom, but I did get married on my birthday, twenty-six years later.  

Having just celebrated these two life-changing events this past week, I’m in a reflective mood. I am so grateful for the Lord’s love and mercy to me over these sixty-eight years of life and his faithfulness to both of us in the forty-two years that Bobbie and I have been married. She’s an incredibly gracious companion on this journey we’ve been on, and I owe so much of my growth to her persistence and courage in clinging to Jesus and dealing with relational and soul issues that we, like all married couples, face (yes, that’s present tense!).

Last month Bobbie and I had the chance to get away to Westcliffe, Colorado for a week and a half, and one of our vacation highlights was renting an ATV, riding up to Music Pass Trail Head, and then hiking the mile and a quarter to the majestic views from the actual pass, located at 11,380 feet above sea level!

Being the senior citizens that we are becoming, we had wondered how our tired and achy knees would fare on the hike. Our concern was amplified by my forgetting our hiking poles in the van as we left the rental shop on the four-wheeler!

I did remember them eventually, but it was too late to turn back, so we breathed a prayer to Jesus to help us find substitutes at the trail head! God is so amazing! Upon arriving, he answered our prayers and we both found suitable sturdy branches.  Walking up the Music Pass trail, we took it slow and steady, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other as we wound up the path. We made plenty of rest stops, plopping down on fallen logs and large rocks. An hour or so later, we were rewarded with the best of views from the top of the pass!

Thinking back on that day, it occurs to me that hiking up a mountain trail is kind of like the marriage adventure. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth the view from the top. In spite of sore knees and makeshift hiking poles, Bobbie and I enjoyed the camaraderie of doing something beautiful and difficult together, taking time to quiet our pounding hearts and pace ourselves for the long climb.

I’m grateful to Jesus for his work in our lives and for the way in which in the last years He’s given us the capacity to go to hard places that I would have never been willing to go in our early years of marriage.

A lot of the capacity for this tough climbing has come through the Restarting Class that I’ve had the privilege of leading and learning through multiple times now (we’re offering it again beginning next Tuesday, September 18).

Restarting has given me a template for learning how to build enough relational joy so that we have the strength to look at distressing and broken places in our stories and in our marriage. It’s helped me learn to identify powerful negative emotions (anger, fear, shame, sadness, disgust, and hopeless despair) that I’m experiencing and has taught me how to invite Jesus into places that those emotions have tended to rule my life (shame and fear have been my big ones!). That in turn has helped me develop the capacity to be able to take tough “relational hikes” with Bobbie, given us a sense of when to rest, and resulted in beautiful relational vistas and hope!

I am so thankful for the tenderness with which the Lord deals with us and the grace He so freely offers us.

“The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:14-16)

I would love to have you join me in Restarting this fall (Sep 18 thru Dec 4 on Tuesday nights at 7 pm…check out the class on our website or at the Signup Station on Sunday). And, I hope to see you this Sunday when Pastor Jack preaches on the topic of relational distress with a sermon called “Conflict Revolution.”

Pastor Steve