*Disclaimer: It may be best to read this after seeing the new movie UP, both to avoid giveaways and to understand what I’m describing.
If you were to ask anyone, stranger or friend, about what they consider an adventure to be, very few would reply “a relationship.” You’re far more likely to get answers about hiking in the Amazon, climbing Mt. Everest, or exploring the Mayan ruins.
And who could blame them for thinking the great outdoors hold the keys to most thrills? Earth is essentially a giant piñata awaiting a bat-wielding person to reveal hidden treasures. Until last year, I completely believed the outdoor-definition of adventure. I clung to the ideal that unless I traversed the far reaches of the world, I was settling for a mind-numbing existence.
Being with Mike has taught me that sacrificing my plans can actually lead to a different adventure, a much greater adventure: the adventure of intimacy.
But who cares about that? Where in our society is there an example of marriage being EXCITING, of all things? This is why it’s such a surprise that the central theme for the animated movie “UP” is that adventure can be found in a relationship, in a marriage, as much as it can be found traveling the world.
The trailers for the film show a septuagenarian soaring in his home suspended by a thousand brilliant balloons, headed for the wilds of South America. However, the story is infinitely richer and more multilayered than the simplistic journey of an old man.
In the first wordless five minutes, the filmmakers display a portrait of a marriage spanning fifty years in images so poignant they brought me to tears. I glanced sideways at Mike and could see the glisten of moist eyes behind his 3-D glasses. We both realized their relationship held so much of what we want for ours.
But I think the reason this movie struck me so deeply is that I sometimes battle the feeling that I am missing out. Many of my extended friends are exploring Machu Picchu, serving the poor in Ethiopia, and heading to China for graduate degrees – they are LIVING. And everywhere you look it seems that married people are not.
Which is exactly why I didn’t want to get married, or even have a boyfriend, until I was thirty. I had a list of things to accomplish (literally, a Word document titled “Things to Accomplish Before I’m 30”) and I wasn’t going to let any man halt my plans. I knew that the moment a ring was on my finger, all of my adventures would be over.
I was so wrong.
My adventures, even wild ones like cliff-jumping off waterfalls in Kauai, tempted to distract me from ever experiencing one of God’s greatest intentions for us – intimacy with other people.
In the book “Sex God,” Rob Bell writes, “We want someone to see us exactly as we are and still love us.” It would be incredible to show Mike the adventures I’ve been on, because I know he’d be impressed and want to know more about me. It would be harder to show Mike who I truly am, without any accomplishments, and still be loved by him — but that’s exactly what God wants me to do. Because once I let Mike love me, I might be better at letting God love me.
Now when I tell Mike my ideas for adventure and desires for our life, it means that I trust him to hold onto them. It means that he’ll work with me to make them happen. And it means that they aren’t just mine anymore; they’re ours to live side-by-side.
What I didn’t know before, and what I’m just learning now, is that by sacrificing my plans I’m opening myself up to more excitement. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I know who’s going there with me.
It scares me. It’s unsettling. But it’s exciting.
The most surprising aspect of most of our mutual “dreams” is that they have nothing to do with physical attainment. We have normal dreams of travel, entrepreneurship, and having children, but most of our ideas for adventure are for our relationship.
We talk about how we will get to a place of trust that is unshakable. We dream of total openness where we can share ANYTHING and feel safe. We imagine the richest intimacy possible in this life before heaven. That is an adventure.
And the most rewarding part of the adventure, in my opinion, is exploring the person. In my case, it’s the endless journey of finding out who Mike is, what makes him tick, what he loves, hates, and how I can be the best partner for him. It’s so much more intense than it appears.
If I’m really dedicated, truly trying to reach a level of intimacy neither of us has ever known, it takes all I have.
What could be more adventurous than giving someone all of me?
4 responses to “UPward Adventure”
Dear Abby (sort of like my own advice columnist),
You couldn’t have been more right on! It’s been 4 years since your wonderful father in law married Chase and I, and we both still to this day talk about all of the things we missed out on by getting hitched at 20. We were supposed to be backpacking the Middle East right now, but we had little Finn instead.
But, if I were to go back, I wouldn’t do antyhing differently (well maybe not the color of bridemaid dresses, oh and maybe not of said that… ). I guess the grass is always greener right?
I think Christ teaches us that life is about the relationships we develope here on Earth. In a marriage you can really get down to the core of a “relationship” because your spouse sees you in all lights.
And God knows our desires (yours and mine both) to see his amazing creation, and we have sooo much time to do so.
I hope Chase are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro when we’re 40 and backpacking Annapurna when we’re 50!
I used to think we got stuck with a baby at 24. And yeah Finn make things a little more “challanging”, but who can regret that little smile? And I can see how Chase adores teaching his little man new things.
Thanks for writing, it’s such a treat, and you are brilliant!
Love love love you!
Kim, thanks for highlighting the unexpected challenges that happen, and the unexpected joy they bring. And you are so right — we WILL be living wild Earthly adventures our entire lives!
Well spoken again, Abby! Wendy & I saw UP this week and loved it, too…and yes, the greatest adventures in relationships do not always happen with tickets in hand. Often they happen in carpool lanes or with diapers in hand or racing to church (late again!) or sharing the same bathroom sink…And often they involve laying down something precious…like our own agenda….to have an adventure together!
I think you probably know I’m speechless. Abby, thank you. Im literally in tears, not only for what you wrote, but the truth behind it and what was said in the comments above. Life takes us on many unexpected adventures, some of which we choose and others that are simply given us by the grace of God. I’m so thankful for the beautiful adventure of marriage. I truly believe it is the best, the most challenging, the most character builing, the most humbling, and the most rewarding adventure of them all. I’m lucky to have you as my sister-in-law to share all these things with and help each other walk through this often wild adventure.