Today, we hiked along the Gatlinburg Trail, in the Great Smoky Mountains, through its deeply shaded lanes next to the Little Pigeon River. The sound of water flowing over the river rocks, the rustle of leaves in a gentle breeze, and the sunlight peaking through the canopy of trees causes you to take a deep breath and relax in the beauty of nature. Each step down the trail takes you further away from life’s stresses. I often call it my attitude adjustment hike. It certainly brings life back into perspective.
When everything shifts into perspective, you begin to look the people you meet in the eye and speak to them. Your outlook changes from “me-me” and downward cast eyes to looking directly in people’s eyes. It’s surprising how many people walk past you looking down and not responding, still stuck in the “me-me” state. They don’t look around to see the beauty that God has created and the potential for an interesting conversation with others around them. Their path is set with no variation, just putting one foot in front of the other.
I like to watch the reaction when we speak to people along the trail. I’ve seen surprise, wariness, blank stares, and sometimes friendliness. Today was much the same as it always is. The “hello,” “hi,” “how are you doing” greeted us as we walked along. Until we began our last leg of the hike, heading back to the car, a young couple that we had passed earlier stopped us. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” she asked as we paused on the trail. “Of course we don’t mind,” we replied, expecting a request for directions or a recommendation for dinner.
“I see that you are walking along holding hands,” the young lady said. “And I assume that you have been married for a long while.” Bob is always quick to let people know that we’ve been married 43 years. Of course, he usually says, “We’ve been married 20 wonderful years. Not bad out of 43.” Today, he refrained from his normal comment. Our inquisitor mentioned that she would like to have a relationship that was long lasting. Her question was “What is the secret to a happy marriage?”
I answered almost too readily “never go to bed angry.” But the more that I thought about her question, I will have to say true friendship (loving another as you would want to be loved), determination to stay the course and the decision to honor the promise that we made to each other before God are the reasons. Sure our adventure together has been rough and rocky in places. But even with the hard spots, even when we were angry with each other, life together is better together than life apart. Too many people enter commitments without the desire or the needed effort to maintain it. Love and marriage are works in progress with challenges at every turn—a roller coaster of highs and lows. With Christ’s help we continue to ride the roller coaster. It is His help that keeps us determined to succeed.