Marriage, Mountain Climbing & The Olympic Games

The following is what I shared at the wedding reception of our eldest son, Brian, who was married to Lindsay, his best friend of eight-and-a-half years on August 11th.

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Like many, if not most of you, we watched the coverage of the 2012 Olympic games. We watched enthusiastically as athletes passionately pursued their Olympic dreams and along with them sensed both their deep joy, excitement and national pride whenever they stepped onto the podium representing their country. We also witnessed their heart-breaking pain and frustration whenever they fell short, sometimes within a mere fraction of a second, or a single point, behind their fiercest competitors.

Married on August 11, 2012 at the Winspear Centre, EdmontonBrian and Lindsay have both been involved in sports over the years, but as far as I know neither have expressed that they have Olympic goals in mind. However, they have experienced the pursuit of worthy goals and have achieved much as individuals as well as in a team environment. As Deanna aptly shared, their own relationship thus far, and their wedding today, is a testimony to their pursuit of the most worthy of goals!

When on our holidays a couple of weeks ago, some of us ventured up the 4.5 kilometer hike beneath the tram on Whistler mountain in Jasper. For a guy who spends the vast majority of my time seated in front of a computer, this proved to be quite a feat in and of itself. As most of you are aware, Brian has gone on many hikes (or more accurately referred to as “Scrambles”) up many of the tallest mountains in the Canadian Rockies. Although I’ve not gone with him on these more engaging adventures, as a family we took our kids on many hikes and camping trips, and so I believe I can take at least some credit for his passion for finding these out-of-the-way, very steep and often challenging hikes.

Today, with the support and blessing of family and friends, they are launching into a whole new adventure that is not to dissimilar to these other sports and athletic pursuits.

So, what do mountain climbing, and pursuing an Olympic medal, have in common with marriage?

Well, all three take a measure of boldness, backbone and bravery, and all three require that one is certain about taking “that first step”, to “get on the track”, or to “take their wedding vows”. All three of these noble pursuits take courage, confidence, consecration and at times focused concentration! With perhaps the exception of mountain climbing, there is always an audience looking on, supporting, applauding, empathizing and sometimes even criticizing our methods, our efforts, our successes and our failures.

A mountain climber, an Olympic athlete and a marriage partner will never succeed in their pursuit of obtaining the prize without tremendous dedication, devotion and determination, and must have a great degree of drive if they are to fulfill what becomes clearer and clearer to them with every milestone — their destiny.

They will inevitably encounter many obstacles in their path and will need to learn how to dig deep to find the energy to face and overcome these hurdles and endure the hardships. In so doing they will gain invaluable experience which will serve them well as they climb ever higher up the ladder toward success.

Like these noble athletic pursuits marriage is not for the faint-of-heart! Brian and Lindsay must face their fears head on and, together, overcome them with fealty, fortitude, faith, and faithfulness, never giving into faintheartedness, or fear, but fight to meet all obstacles with grit, guts and gratitude, knowing that they have what it takes to get the gold!

Anyone who summits a mountain, or wins an Olympic metal, runs the race with a strong sense of purpose, detailed preparation and must have patience, perseverance and persistence! They must resign themselves with unwavering resoluteness and resolve to find the Spirit, the spine and the single-mindedness to stay the course. Without tenacity and the very best tools, success will inevitably be tenuous at best. At times, when all these noble attributes seem to allude us, often all that remains is sheer willpower to simply remain loyal to our initial decision and to stand by our vows.

There are certainly many ways in which marriage can be likened to mountain climbing or pursuing an Olympic medal. But there are also a few ways that they differ as well…

Firstly, depending on the mountain, one can achieve the summit within a few years, a few months, a day or even within a few hours. The Olympics come around every four years and it is not at all uncommon for an athlete to obtain medal standing within a single four-year preparation period. Unlike these comparably short-term goals, a lasting marriage in which a husband and wife become fully and completely of ONE spirit, mind and body, is most definitely a LIFE-LONG pursuit. Brian and Lindsay, today is truly the first step on a journey that will take the rest of your lives to engage in, fully realize and thoroughly enjoy!

Secondly, where the first two athletic pursuits are often an individual journey, marriage absolutely takes a team of two, walking together in agreement, constantly and consistently pulling in the same direction. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)

And lastly, for two individuals to truly become one, they need character attributes that are often sadly missing in world-class athletes and the most accomplished mountain climbers. These attributes can only be sourced in the God Who created us and Who instituted marriage in the first place. Unconditional Love, faith, trust, grace, mercy, humility, kindness, generosity, mutual surrender, obedience and self-sacrifice are absolute requirements of an intimate, deep and life-long marital union. These are essential and need to be ardently sought after, received and nurtured in both partners, not only to strengthen and ensure the success and strength of your own relationship, but to model and impart to your children when, and as, you (hopefully) raise your own family.

Herb Elliot, one of the world’s greatest middle distance runners, said the following about the Olympic games…

It’s the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people not only to compete, but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral benefit to the athletes, and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness their unwavering dedication.  Herb Elliott

Regarding marriage I offer the following revision to Herb’s quote…

It’s the inspiration of a solid and lasting marriage that encourages our young people to not simply “tie the knot”, but to truly become ONE, bringing lasting spiritual and moral fabric to each other, to their families and to society as a whole! A life-long union is truly an inspiration to those blessed enough to witness such unwavering dedication to God and to one another!

Brian and Lindsay, welcome to the hike, encourage each other in the pursuit, and remain forever committed to this life-long journey, knowing that we are standing with you support you, to pray with and for you, to encourage you, to mentor you and to applaud your success.

May you be forever blessed!

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