At a weak moment, after romance-laced encouragement, my husband persuaded me to accompany him on one of his treasured wilderness trips to Canada.
"You'll love it," he promised.
I'd heard his stories of bear sightings, torturous portages over impossible trails, and the wilderness's version of a bathroom. What part would I love?
Snow fell softly on the windshield as we pulled into the parking area where we would officially leave civilization behind for a week. Snow. Not a good sign.
By day two, I'd settled into a familiar routine. He'd take off in the canoe early in the morning to fish while I stayed at our campsite crying miserably and scrounging every available downed tree branch and pine needle to keep the survival fire going.
This was not my version of a dream vacation. My dream vacation boasts sugar sand beaches, turquoise waters, and seafood delivered by a white-jacketed waiter. We'll wake at noon, not dawn. We'll sip iced tea with little paper umbrellas, not hot cider in tin cups whose main function is to warm frigid fingers as we huddle together. Our afternoons will be spent reading novels by the light of the sun filtering through palm leaves, not swatting mosquitoes and fending off hungrier-than-we-are grizzlies. Evenings? Moonlit walks along the beach, not spike-shoed hikes over glaciers.
But there I was: off the beaten track. Way off.
I wanted to love the trip and "adventure" as much as he did. The pristine setting. The clear lakes. The pine air freshener. A rock mattress. Hanging our food pack in a tree to keep the bears frustrated and unsuccessful. What's not to love?
After finding, catching, killing, skinning, cooking, and cleaning our wilderness camping supper one of the last nights, we built up the fire again, for warmth this time. Its glow intensified as the molasses of night descended.
"Cloudless sky," my husband noted.
"Gonna get cold tonight," he said.
"Yup," he said, without flinching—or shivering.
Sleep is almost a defense on a cold, clear night in the wilderness. With only our noses exposed, we let sleep temporarily relieve us of the battle to keep warm.
He snored. I dreamed of electric blankets, tropical islands, and bathing in a tub of hot cocoa.
Hours later, the familiar zzzzip! of the nylon door and a fresh wave of cold told me my husband was awake and prowling, though it was still inky dark.
"What time is it?" I asked through frozen lips.
"Two thirty." In the morning!
He wanted me to climb out of my sleeping bag cocoon and join him outside, promising it would be worth it.
The sky looked like a super-powered Lite Brite display, with stars brighter, larger, and more densely populated than I ever remembered seeing.
That was only half of it. Every one of the gazillion stars had a twin in the flawlessly smooth mirror-lake. An explosion of light above. An echo of light below.
We were awed. But more than awed, we were proud. We could point to the stars reflected so perfectly in the lake and say, "Our Creator God did that!"
Not only did God perform that wonderful bit of artistry, he pulled back the curtain of my understanding and showed me something else spectacular. Not so much about mountains and glaciers, but about himself and about the man I married.
We've been known to let the kids stay up way past bedtime to watch a meteor shower, pull to the side of the road to watch a parade of wild turkeys, delay a departure until the sun actually finished setting so we didn't miss one valuable minute of its showy exit, ride out the storm on the porch so we could watch the lightning flash, sit in the swing by the pond too many minutes just listening to the frog song and the lyrical lapping of the water against the cattails when we should have been mowing the lawn or folding laundry or cleaning the supper dishes.
Those moments are connections with the Artist who created them. They speak of a Genius who is light-years beyond human intelligence. "Look at that! Our God did that!"
Sharing moments such as those remind us we are not "just" husband and wife. Our bond reaches much deeper. We are also brother and sister in Christ. We're related to each other in a dimension even richer and more long-lasting than marriage, because it will follow us into eternity.
So we're talking about vacations again. This time it's … Alaska. Not the tropics. But we're compromising. It's not camping along the side of the road, and eating meat that was once a moose. It's a cruise. With white-jacketed waiters.
But my husband still wants to bring the tin cups and spike-shoed boots.
Cynthia Ruchti, a freelance author, has been married 36 years.
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