Updated: May 16, 2020
A few weeks ago, Matt and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. We had the opportunity to spend a weekend away, just the two of us. In the normal routine of life with work, community, and young children, those times to simply enjoy being together are limited but so necessary and valuable.
We spent the weekend in Desert Hot Springs and ventured into Joshua Tree for a few hours on Saturday. Neither of us had been to Joshua Tree before so we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were excited to explore to a new place together. We came to an area called Hidden Valley where there are huge piles of boulders all around. We walked along the trail for a little while and then decided to venture off the path and climb up some of the boulders. We started out, not expecting to make it all the way up, but we kept pressing forward and eventually found ourselves at the very top of the pile. It was exhilarating to stand up there on top and look around at the breathtaking views around us. It’s incredible how beautiful some rocks, dirt, and bushes can be, especially when you see it from above.
We spent some time sitting on the pile of boulders, taking in the beauty of the scene around us and talking. And it was good. It was one of those experiences that you can’t plan or orchestrate, but it refreshes your soul in a way that you didn’t know you needed.
The view from the top of the rocks allowed us to see a bigger picture of the valley that we had been walking through. Instead of seeing only what was right in front of us, we saw a 360 degree view of our surroundings. We were able to see where we had started, how far we had come, and where we were heading next.
Sometimes, we need those moments of stepping off the trail and seeing our lives from a different perspective. We can get so caught up in the stress and the mundane tasks of daily life that we forget to see the beauty all around us.
Our time together up on those boulders compelled me to stop and reflect about what was so good in those moments and how it’s connected to what is good in our marriage. My tendency in most areas of life is to look for areas to improve. There is always room for growth, but it’s also important to take the time to celebrate what’s good.
This is some of the good that I’m celebrating right now…
Learning With Each Other
One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most in the past year of our marriage has been the opportunity to learn together. We’ve both been doing a lot of reading, writing, and studying. We’re actively engaging in learning about topics such as race relations, peacemaking, and theology. We each have our own individual ways of pursuing knowledge, but we’ve also been sharing books and podcasts, watching documentaries together, and attending events together. All this has led to some really good conversations, and it’s brought more unity to our marriage as we journey together on this path of discovery.
As we sat on top of those rocks that day, we were talking through something we had heard on a podcast on the way to Joshua Tree. We both grew up in the church and our faith in Jesus is a central part of who are, but through experiences and relationships that we’ve encountered outside of the environments that we grew up in, we’ve both been on a journey of coming to understand in new ways who God is and how he calls us to live. It can feel unsettling at times when your paradigms start to shift, but being able to explore new ways of thinking together brings a lot of peace.
Learning About Each Other
I remember when Matt and I were dating and engaged, we didn’t argue much. Our first fight in our relationship was over Fantasy Football (we’re both a little too competitive), but that was one of the few. As we talked through topics in our premarital counseling, we were on the same page about most issues. We felt like we were very compatible.
While it remains true today that we see eye to eye on a lot of the broad issues that life brings our way, we’ve also learned that we have more differences than we first realized. I don’t like to talk in the mornings; Matt doesn’t have much energy for deep conversations at night after a long day. I like to get out of the house and fill my schedule with activities that allow me to connect with others; Matt needs more down time and doesn’t like big crowds. I try to find the positive in most situations; Matt’s mind first assesses all the possible threats.
It can be easy to let all these personality differences frustrate us. It’s possible to start thinking that I have the right perspective and he just needs to change. But instead of simply judging the other person’s faults, we’ve been seeking to understand each other better. We’re coming to understand more how each of us processes information, what we each need, and where our insecurities lie. This allows us to communicate more effectively, give each other space to pursue what feeds our souls, and support each other in the ways that we need. It evens allows us to learn from each other’s strengths.
Some of our learning comes through intentional practices – like studying the Enneagram together and learning about each of our personality types – and some of our learning comes through conflict. When conflict arises, as frustrating and messy as it may be, we do our best to seek mutual understanding. Some of our most profound moments of understanding both ourselves and each other better have been in the midst of working through conflict. And so I’m grateful even for those hard conversations.
Supporting One Another
As we made our way up the large pile of boulders, we each took turns leading the way. Sometimes we followed the same path. Other times we went different ways but we always maintained communication and came back together. A couple times, Matt offered me his hand for support. Part of me wanted to turn it down because I knew I could do it on my own. But I realized that just because I can do something on my own doesn’t mean that I have to. There is grace and freedom in accepting help.
The way we travelled up those boulders seemed so representative of our marriage. We share a deep value in supporting one another. Sometimes that means following the other one’s lead. Sometimes that means simply being present in the triumphs, the challenges, and the in-between. Sometimes that means giving each other freedom to do our own thing. And sometimes that means offering help or even insisting on it.
I’m grateful for the partnership in our marriage – that we call out the best in one another, that we look out for each other’s needs, and that we share in the responsibilities and the joys of life.
We’re only 7 years in, so I know that there is a lot of learning and growing ahead, but I’m grateful for the opportunities to step off the trail of everyday life and look at the beauty around us.
Are there areas of your life where you need to step off the trail and make space to notice what’s good – maybe in a relationship, in your work, in your personal growth? Take some time this week to reflect and celebrate the good in your life.