I remember well the day my husband and I loaded our children into our new (to us) minivan and headed up to a cabin on Lake Superior for the week. Despite the prospect of getting away for the week, my mood was a little down. I had been thinking about my marriage, and while things weren’t bad, they just weren’t exciting anymore. My husband’s and my life felt humdrum. To be honest, I felt bored and I remember riding north, looking out at the trees along the winding road, and thinking, “It’s finally happened.We went so many years of being head-over-heels in love, but now it’s over.” I was trying to resign myself to being bored the rest of my life. In thinking this, I had made one crucial mistake, however. I had forgotten that marriage, like life itself, is cyclical. At times it goes down, but like a Ferris wheel, it can go up again, and by the end of our trip, our marriage was up, way up.
We were going to be sharing a good-sized cabin with extended family. It was in a somewhat remote location and we wouldn’t have cell phone coverage or internet connection in our cabin. We have gone on several vacations over the years, but never without internet access. So while we have fun and enjoy a lighter schedule, even while traveling I’ve always continued to write and edit blog posts, answer emails, and do a few other work-related things. This time, however, I was forced to make plans for my absence and really take time off. I couldn’t work while there. The cabin itself was a couple hundred feet or so from the shore of Lake Superior. I had brought along books, my journal, and board games for entertainment while in the cabin. Outside the cabin was the lake, breath-taking geologic features, and numerous trails not far away. Our bedroom window faced the lake and we fell asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore and we slept in pitch darkness away from any street lights.
I’ve thought about what made the trip so magical, and I’ve come up with a few things.
- Firstly, it was a break from our everyday stresses. We were away from the messy apartment and all it’s never-ending demands. We showed up to this cabin and it was ready for us. We just needed to unpack and that was it. There was still food to be made, but there were several adults sharing that responsibility so it wasn’t all on me. Also, a cabin is more sparse, there’s not as much stuff (and by stuff I mean children’s toys) in it and so much less to get dirty and out of place! Simply being in a place other than where we lived made the big long to-do list just disappear.
- The change of schedule and being in a new place was exciting. It felt like an adventure going off to some place so remote, even if it was just a few miles from the nearest town where we could check emails and get cell phone reception again. We found, however, that even in town we didn’t want to check those things.It really was freeing to be away from those things. We hiked, walked along the shore, toured a copper mine, and saw other local attractions together. Some days we just relaxed on the cabin porch, read, and had fun jumping in the super cold lake together.
- The most fun of the whole trip took place in the evenings after the sun went down. With no electronics to draw our attention, as reflex, we gave our attention to one another. I mean, it was pay attention to those around us or stare at the cabin wall! Not being able to be drawn into endless internet scrolling and clicking, we decided what to do with our evenings and we really enjoyed it! With my in-laws, children, and husband, I laughed and had an amazing time playing various games, chatting, and reading. More than simply having fun together, my husband and I bonded.
I’ve thought about that week several times since. My husband and I agree that it was the most relaxing vacation we’ve ever experienced. It maybe even tops our nearly cross-country road trips we’ve gone on a couple of times out to Wyoming and back and out to California. I think a big part of it was the fact that we didn’t work at all. We took a real rest. Also, not having electronic distractions helped us focus on one another.
Today, in this season of Lent, we know that we are preparing for Easter. When it comes to the difficulties we experience in life, big or small, it can be easy to forget that the difficulty is transitory. The difficulty doesn’t signal the permanent state of our marriage from now on. Though unfortunately my husband and I have not been back to that cabin since, as we live our lives together, I’m trying to remember what made that vacation so restful and renewing and I’m trying to incorporate those moments into my everyday life. I’m practicing allowing myself to let go of the to-do list to make time for rest and leisure – to really let go. I also am attempting (though somewhat poorly some days) to end screen time after sundown, because I want to see and delight in those around me. I don’t want to let my relationships become humdrum. I want to enable them to thrive.
Though that difficulty wasn’t major, it still served to remind me of a simple truth. Marriage, and the whole of life, is cyclical. We see it in the seasons, and in the liturgical seasons. We experience times of dryness, times of hardship, “ordinary” times, and times of resurrection and Easter joy. Whatever is the difficulties that we face, may we keep in mind that there is always reason to hope as we work towards Easter.
“Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.” (Hebrews 10:23)