Saturday marked our five-year anniversary. Not a major milestone as far as milestones are concerned but certainly something to celebrate.
I won’t tell you it’s been easy or perfect or blissful. It’s had its moments of those. It has also been hard, imperfect and disappointing.
And worth it.
It’s a huge act of grace that no one tells you the WHOLE truth about marriage before you get married. I fear no one ever would take the vow if they knew the truth. (Similarly, I’m thankful I never saw a birth video before I was pregnant and enrolled in childbirth classes.) Had I known how ugly, exhausting and challenging marriage could be, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to walk down the aisle. Or maybe I would have been too naive and lovestruck to believe it. (Note to self: I was too naive and lovestruck to believe it.)
Three days after Phil and I wed, we hiked a mountain.
Here we are on day 4 of married life, ready for a hearty breakfast before the descent.
When Phil first suggested this part of the trip — a daylong hike up a mountain to spend the night in a primitive cabin at the top — I didn’t hesitate to say, “Let’s do it.” Bear in mind that we are not now, nor were we then, in peak physical condition. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Looking back, our honeymoon prepared us for the next years of marriage in ways I would have never imagined.
We hiked a physical mountain …
… unaware of the mountains we would face in our marriage in the years to come.
We pledged to love each other, whether poor …
(our primitive cabin on the mountaintop)
… or rich
(we visited the Biltmore two days after we’d slept in the woods).
A lesson in contrast not easily forgotten.
We’ve had days when marriage feels like this …
And ones where it feels more like this …
We’ve learned that marriage requires sacrifice …
… sometimes even death (of self, of dreams, of expectations).
And it definitely takes patience, acceptance and love. I mean, those sound like no-brainers. They are easy to agree to. Much harder to live out day to day. Especially with a husband like this.
Truly, he makes the journey fun. (When I let him. I’m way more serious than I need to be.)
Five years of marriage feels a little like the morning we woke up on a mountain.
We were tired and achy from the previous day, but we’d seen some amazing views, breathtaking, really. We’d made some new friends. And it was time to move on. To head back down the mountain, continue our honeymoon and get on with our married life.
After five years of marriage, we know tired. And exhausted. And weary. We know beauty. And take-your-breath-away moments. We’re beat from the battles of two individual lives coming together to make one life yet we’re somehow stronger than we were when we started. We’ve reached a peak. And it’s time to move on.
To celebrate, Phil took me back to the woods for a combined anniversary/birthday/graduation/Mother’s Day present. (Wood is the traditional five-year anniversary gift. Isn’t he clever?)
Because we’re gluttons for punishment. And because we can’t help ourselves. I connect best with God in nature and solitude. My husband granted me both as a gift.
We found another mountain, different from the one from our honeymoon but not without its challenges.
The sign told us what to expect. “Very steep” is an accurate description.
We went ahead with it anyway. We could have backtracked and taken an easier path. “We’re not in a backtracking phase of life,” my husband reminded me, and up the mountain we went.
I sense another metaphor for our life and marriage.
I’d like to think that in the last five years, we’ve had all the trouble we’re going to have as a couple and a family. That we packed a lifetime’s worth of trials and tears into a short period so we could enjoy the rest of our married days without the hard stuff.
I’m not as naive as I once was. And I hope that doesn’t sound cynical.
We have a steep road ahead. More than one I’d imagine.
We’re going to sweat. And suffer bruises. (I got one on my hand on our latest hike. I have others on my heart.)
We will ache and hurt and moan and complain. (And NOT take anymore pictures of ourselves while hiking. Egad!)
And we will smile at the memories, even the times of not knowing how or when the hard time would end.
Because in the end, we will have seen something beautiful.
The pain will fade. The hurts will heal, if we let them.
And we will sigh in satisfaction, knowing we did something hard and survived.