I love the Rocky Mountains. I love Glacier National Park in Montana, and I love Estes Park west of Denver. There’s nothing like climbing in the mountains, smelling the fresh mountain air infused with pine trees, feeling at one with nature, and enjoying the view as you climb higher and higher.
I especially love the Rocky Mountains in Canada, including Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. If you’ve never driven along the Columbia Ice Fields Parkway which borders the glaciers in Alberta, you need to put it on your bucket list.
So when Andy and I got engaged to be married, it was natural that we would schedule our honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies. My husband-to-be also loved hiking and climbing, and we made reservations at the famous Fairmont Chateau on Lake Louise.
We purchased tickets to the Calgary rodeo. We had hiked and biked in the Smoky Mountains during our engagement, and we couldn’t wait to start our active married life together.
We had hiked and biked in the Smoky Mountains during our engagement, and we couldn’t wait to start our active married life together.
Both of us were 27, we both had started careers, and we seemed to have the world at our feet. The future possibilities seemed limitless. We dreamed of living and working in Colorado, spending active weekends hiking or biking in the mountains, and eventually having four children.
The future possibilities seemed limitless.
That’s not what happened. Through an unforeseen set of freak circumstances, I became permanently disabled by excruciating pain a week before we got married.
We barely got me through the wedding, and we had to cancel our honeymoon. As for physical intimacy, that was hugely altered from what we had hoped for. Andy wrestled with the fact that expressing love for me was actually dangerous for my well-being. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt guilty.
Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt guilty.
That first year, as we look back, was traumatic for both of us. Indeed, we don’t remember a whole lot of it, other than a blur of doctor visits, multiple diagnostic tests, a failed attempt at returning to work, and overwhelming pain.
Not exactly newlywed bliss. Nothing that we’d experienced in our lives up until then really prepared us for it.
But we had each other.
That first year together, we clung to each other. In the midst of overwhelming questions and uncertainty, we became best friends. We thought we had been best friends when we were doing all the active things together, but we found an even deeper level of relying on each other when we were helpless and vulnerable together.
We found an even deeper level of relying on each other when we were helpless and vulnerable together.
And we had God … our faith in Him reminded us that He had a future figured out for me, for us, even when we didn’t have answers. We prayed more that first year than we ever had before.
23 years later, we haven’t realized our original dreams. We didn’t have four children, but I did have four major back surgeries. We don’t hike mountains or live an active lifestyle–I am still disabled by severe pain and largely homebound.
But we have found contentment together, and we laugh about things together, and we have managed to raise one amazing teenager together.
We prayed more that first year than we ever had before.
We are still best friends, because we’ve been through crazy levels of pain together, and God has shown us a way to thrive. We found adapted ways to express love through physical intimacy.
I’m not saying we’re always in harmony. Like every other married couple on the planet, we argue and let each other down at times. God helps us find a way to forgive each other and come back to love again.
I miss the mountains; I miss adventure; I don’t like being disabled. I’ve discovered that I don’t have to get everything I want to have a meaningful life and a fulfilling marriage. Thankfully, Andy agrees.
And if all we have is an afternoon in the back yard, hanging out together, talking, sharing life with each other, then that’s enough.
I’ve discovered that I don’t have to get everything I want to have a meaningful life and a fulfilling marriage.
After all, one of Andy’s favorite role models is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“Wishes to which we cling too tightly can easily rob us of some of what we can and indeed ought to be. By contrast, wishes we repeatedly overcome for the sake of our present tasks make us richer. One can have a fulfilled life despite numerous unfulfilled wishes.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Through struggles and joys every marriage can use a weekend of renewal. Join us for Rock Your Marriage and strengthen your marriage this weekend. And look for more information on an upcoming class on marriage Sunday mornings.
Read Roxanne’s article What Will You Hold in Your Other Hand about her struggle with pain.