The Appalachian Trail & Marriage

175 steps later, Kevin and I arrive at the base of the falls, both panting and gasping for air. We then see a sign ahead:

425

I steal a glance at him, adjusting my 25-pound backpack to sit closer to my back. My backpack contains everything we need to make it through the next four days- tent, water purifier, sleeping bags, and of course all our food. I chuckle to myself a little, remembering our conversation from a few nights before.

“Shelby, are you sure you want to take the percolator? That’s extra weight on your back, and the trail will be hard.”

 

 

 

I grimace but stubbornly put the percolator in my pack.

“The extra weight will be fine.”

The coffee better be worth it, I think, as I brace myself for the next 425 step staircase.

And we begin, Kevin ahead of me, and me slowly counting each stair. . .

Surprisingly, I reach the top first- throw down my pack, panting and soaked in sweat, waiting for Kevin, to finish the stairs…so we can

actually begin hiking

the real trail….

This of course is the beginning of our challenges together on the Appalachian trail. The Appalachian Trail (northbound) begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends 2,200 miles later at Mount Katahdin in Maine. It’s a trail I’ve always wanted to travel, 2,200 miles of hiking trails through the eastern United States. Kevin and I hope to hike the trail in sections. Some people tackle the trail bravely all at one time. These people are called thru-hikers, taking several months to hike the entire trail. Kevin and I are just section-hikers, hoping to hike a few sections of the trail at a time until we finish the entire trail. We are hoping to hike all 2,200 miles in our lifetime.

Eight strenuous miles later, and we arrive at our first shelter of the trip. We begin setting up our tent and getting what we need for the evening. When Kevin and I finally cram into our little tent for the night, thunder crashes and rain pours down over us.

Thunderstorms can make you feel small, out in the woods, sheltered only by a small tent and rainfly.

But it is there, listening to the downpour around us, with Kevin snoozing next to me that I begin to think about our life together.

I don’t mean to stretch the metaphor too far, but:

Marriage and trail hiking have a lot in common.

They are both journeys, and most of the time, when you’re right in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine where you are heading. It’s hard to imagine you’re going to actually make it.

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We keep our heads down, working hard to put one foot in front of another, and we can miss how beautiful the trail is along the way. How lucky we are to have a partner travelling with us.

Kevin and I are only a few months into our marriage, but I’d like to share a few things that I’m learning both on the Appalachian Trail and also this trail called Marriage. I am certain these experiences will deepen and change with time, because the longer you are in something, of course the more you learn. But for now, here are three lessons I’m learning:

HEAVY BAGGAGE MAKES THE HIKE HARD

It’s inevitable to enter a marriage without emotional & spiritual baggage, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep carrying it. There is an art to learning what you and your spouse need for each day. God doesn’t ask us to carry more than what we need for each day, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). So, part of the work upon entering marriage is recognizing all the unnecessary things you’re carrying and begin the work of letting those things go. For some, this may mean counseling- it may mean breaking old habits, or it may mean being willing to shoulder some of your spouse’s burdens so they can walk a little easier. Whatever baggage you carry, I suggest you take some inventory and begin the process of purging what you don’t need. Baggage can just really suck.

NO MATTER HOW THOROUGH YOUR PREPARATION,

THE TRAIL WILL BE FULL OF SURPRISES.

Kevin and I did premarital counseling (and of course I suggest you do your homework before you get married!) but no matter how much you plan, anticipate, and pray- things happen that you will not be prepared for. This doesn’t mean you give up. It means you lean on your spouse and work through it. Every serious hiker will tell you that hiking is really dang hard, but totally worth it. Marriage is the same.

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Kevin and I after the 425 stair ascent. Instead of being the Betts, we really need to change our name to Kevin & Shelby Sweats.

THE TRAIL IS TOUGH,

BUT THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR.

Our adversary the devil is a master at hopelessness. Despair in life constricts the heart and renders us incapable of sensing God’s blessings and grace. Satan loves when despair consumes us or consumes our spouse. Regardless the difficulty or challenge you are facing, stop and find reasons to thank the God who gave us life. Making gratitude a habit allows us to experience the goodness of God and the presence of Jesus Christ. Ann Voskamp, a Christian writer, says it like this, “A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.”  When we give thanks, and we look for thanks, we really find the giver behind all those gifts.

And we need that Giver of Gifts in our marriages.

 

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