By – Amy Q.
Here are some truths I realized about marriage as I was helping my husband drag out his first trophy buck this weekend. I do understand that finding any sort of correlation between hunting and marriage makes me quite a redneck, and that this could therefore be used as a Jeff Foxworthy joke. Jokes aside, here are some thoughts I had after we got the buck home and collapsed from exhaustion.
Finding a buck, like finding your spouse is not about luck
God made it quite clear to Christopher and I where we needed to go the morning we got his buck. Our original and favorite hunting spot was taken so we left rather frustrated and had to quickly think of a second location. For some reason Billy Gulch came to my mind, I told Chris, I second guessed this idea and then he pointed the truck that direction and we drove. An important thing to keep in mind is that Christopher and I are not die hard, know-it-all, Montana hunters. In fact we usually sleep in on the weekends, we know what time sunrise is and then we head out afterwards. This morning was no different we started hiking around 9am, we are very lazy hunters. And an even more divinely planned fact is because my husbands brother couldn’t get us Cat-Griz football tickets for that same day we were out hunting instead. Chris didn’t get this buck because he is a great white hunter man, it’s because God wanted us to have it, plain and simple. We prayed the morning we went out, Chris was even praying out loud during the hike and he prayed specifically for a big muley buck. How crazy is that? But it’s not crazy at all, cause that’s Gods provision, His plan. It had nothing to do with luck, chance, karma, or our incredible hunting skills, we just prayed, believed that God would help us and He did. But without Him you can sit there believing that stump is deer until your blue in the face and that’s not going to make it a deer. So what does this have to do with finding a spouse, a lot actually. How was it that a boy born in Rhode Island, moved across the U.S. and wound up in my little town. I gave my life to Christ at church camp a year before he moved to St. Regis. We started dating when we were 15, ten and half years ago. And now we are married, and Christopher will be saved going on three years this Easter. God placed us together for a reason, it wasn’t the stars aligning it was His divine plan. As my pastor explained, God puts you with your spouse because only He knows exactly what you need, and God knew that I needed Christopher. Lord knows it wasn’t just my good looks…
Taking the shot, is like making a vow
When Christopher had the buck in the cross hairs of his scope once he pulled the trigger there was no going back. You choose to shoot and it’s your responsibility as a hunter to finish what you started, which is take the animal down, and not let it go to waste. We know that bagging any kind of animal for meat is a blessing and a provision. And marriage is one of the greatest gifts from God. I know that marriage vows are immensely more serious, they are a promise, a covenant between you and God and your spouse forever. Marriage is an unbreakable bond between one man, and one woman for the rest of your life. According to the Bible once you make that vow it too is one you can’t take back. You can’t stop a bullet once it’s been fired, and you can’t change your mind after the wedding day. That is why you are taught in hunters education to be 100 percent sure of what you are about to shoot. And when you marry you need to be absolutely positive that this is God’s will for your life, and secondly that with His guidance you can keep your marriage vows.
After the kill feels like the honeymoon phase
Christopher checked through his scope that the buck was down and not breathing before we raced over to it. Both of use overcome by sheer joy and excitement as we came upon the massive beautiful animal that Christopher would get to tag. He was giddy and shaky as I snapped pictures of him posing with his kill, and he kept praising God for this gift. We prayed together thanking the Lord for our answered prayers, and then we field dressed the deer. If you’re a hunter you know what this part is like, if not, let’s just say this is the part of the marriage comparison where you share with your spouse everything about yourself, the good, the bad, the sin, the scars, the parts you want left hidden. This is the time it all comes out. Literally. Of course in marriage this may be over time, but to build true intimacy, you have to share it and bare it all to one another. And as a couple who is just beginning in marriage the journey is usually filled with joy and adventure and laughter as your leaving the starting gate. This too is similar in the process of dragging out the trophy buck your husband just killed. Still high off of the adrenaline and the rush you start out optimistic. Both of you holding one side of the horns stomping the snow in unison, until twenty feet later it hits you, this is going to be a long, hard, grueling journey.
Dragging a 200 hundred pound animal is hard, and so is marriage (in a good way)
We make it another 20 yards and we drop the horns both of gasping for air. We bobble back and forth with our hands on our heads trying to allow more air into our lungs, our thighs are burning and our 25 year old young backs are already hurting. I keep thinking to myself this is going to be a long day… Christopher and I have been married 6 and half years so I realize I am by far not even close to a marriage expert or really have any reason to be giving advice. The only reason I am married today is because of God’s grace. I literally was raised not knowing what a marriage was, my parents were never married and then later separated. My husbands parents divorced when he was very young and remarried several times. Realistically and truthfully we both shouldn’t even know how to make this marriage thing work. But we do and it’s because we are doing our best to put Christ at the center of it everyday. To love God first and let Him lead our relationship allows us to love each other the way God commands us to. Of course our marriage wasn’t always like this, Chris wasn’t even saved until we had been married for four years. But I believe God shielded us from temptation and from crumbling until Chris gave his life to Christ. Our life together is not without trials and pains, and challenges, but we learned from early on that we have to prioritize our marriage to make it work. Put our relationship first before work, cleave to each other and leave our families as the Word instructs us to. Chris and I came into marriage young (19) and unprepared, but we weren’t naive. We knew the risks, the chances of it failing, the broken families we came from and the many more breaking around us. We weren’t immune to the possibility of divorce, we simply fought for our marriage every day, every week, and then God came in and took over. We both knew that dragging out this huge buck was going to require strength, determination, patience with each other, and perseverance. We set out, even though we stopped more than we moved forward, but we did it together as a team.
It’s crucial to make goals and strive together to reach them
In our marriage our biggest stepping stones were our first home together, buying our first vehicle that started regularly, surviving our year of hospital bills and surgeries, my oophorectomy and my appendectomy, then Christopher breaking his elbow. Next would be graduating from college together, working at the newspaper, Christopher getting his first teaching job in Superior, then him giving his life to Christ. It’s really vital that as a couple you have dreams to share and look forward to, it gives you focus and something to work towards as a team. When we were dragging out the deer every time we stopped for a break we’d catch our breath and then one of us would point out a stopping point ahead, like the next bush on the left, or that pair of trees on the right. Each time we started pulling this gave me the push I needed to keep going a few extra feet to reach our goal. As my fingers would start to slip and my legs were giving out Chris would huff and puff, “Almost there…just a bit further”. Then we’d lurch to a stop right at our goal marker. Without this goal method I know it would have taken many more hours to get back to the truck. What’s your next dream you want to accomplish as a couple? Make it your intention to share your hopes and finds ways to reach them together. Write them down, put them on paper and in a place you can see them every day. Our next steps in marriage would be getting out of debt, buying our first home, then starting a family.
There will be times in both when you’re tempted to give up
I believe that I have un-diagnosed asthma, and on top of that I’m not the most in shape twenty five year old huntress you’ve seen. But thankfully my sweet and encouraging husband never let me stop. At times I felt like passing out or just laying down and quitting. I was so tired, hungry, and depleted of strength. But Christopher with his humor and support would keep talking to me, and encourage me to continue. And at times I had to be the one who cheered Christopher on, he was exhausted too, his head was pounding and his leg was hurt from pulling. So don’t forget that you have to take turns, give each other permission to feel weak or to even fail. You will fail one another, you’ll hurt and disappoint your spouse, not on purpose but because we are sinners. Your relationship will see mistakes and trials, and terrible pain sometimes but it’s in these seasons of struggle that God is growing the both of you. So don’t walk away from your marriage in these times, instead walk towards God who can heal and bring comfort. Because you’ll learn that you both can’t be strong and unshakable all the time. In marriage sometimes you’ll be the one who has to wipe the tears and hold your spouse up, months later it could be the other way around. Be there for each other, find your stability in Christ, and take turns being the shoulder to lean on. Pray for your spouse when there is nothing you can do to help them.
The road is long, really, really, long, but you’re in this as a team
I know that God put Christopher and I together as husband and wife for a reason, because through loving Christopher I will become the wife and woman God wants me to be. Through the lessons I have to learn, the character traits I will glean from being with this one man my entire life, the struggles we’ll go through together. I’ll admit the hardest part of life and marriage for me is the sheer unknown, not knowing what’s around the next corner. When dragging the buck out it was suddenly like we had both forgotten the entire hike in. Every corner we came to on the road we thought we were almost back to the truck. Maybe after this one, or it’s just one more straight stretch away. It made us more despondent and pessimistic with each turn realizing we were further away then we’d thought. God can’t reveal his plan for our life like a neat colorful brochure, as much as I would love it. We can’t plan for tomorrow, or next year if it weren’t for God granting us life to wake up each day. Making goals is a great tool but we also have to life in the present and listen for the ways in which God wants to live in us and through us today. If you can trust God to come through for you, living in the moment rather than praying for what you want down the road you realize He is blessing you more and more every step. As we concentrated on walking in unison and finding ways to make each drag easier on each other the load felt lighter. We needed to remember that God has us equally yoked, and that pulling as a team kept us from injury. Don’t ever forget that God is with you every step of the way, and that he has given you an amazing partner to share the weight of the journey.
The finish line is the truck and for marriage it is Heaven
Making our way around the final corner every lift of my boots felt like walking through drying cement. My hands were burning, blisters formed at the base of each finger, my throat was raw from breathing the harsh cold air. For a hunter seeing your truck at the end of a long and strenuous drag out, it’s a bit like seeing the pearly gates. And on this drag we did actually have to make it past two not so pearly gates which is ironic. Making it for the long haul happens so rarely in this day and age. And a lifetime marriage means the finish line is both of us meeting our Maker in heaven, still married. I sadly wonder how many couples who are my age will make it to their golden anniversaries. I do have hope though and that comes from the Lord, and from the great role models that God has placed in mine and my husbands lives. Like our Pastor Alan Damron and his wife Sarah who will be married for 41 years this December. Now that is the kind of trophy that both Christopher and I pray we’ll receive one day. The effort and the endurance that is takes to stick it out for a lifetime. We are blessed for this example in our lives and the advice we receive from them. Like how marriage is a never ending game of who can out give the other, who can serve one another the most, and that marriage requires sacrifices, compromise, and a love that does not waver. Marriage needs a lot of mercy, compassion and forgiveness from two imperfect sinners who will spend their lives loving and serving our Holy, sinless, and perfect God.
I am grateful for a successful hunting season, but even more blessed to have Christopher by my side through every season of life. The seasons of change and chaos, the seasons of fear and doubt, the seasons of hope, adventure, and joy and laughter. I praise God for my hunting partner, my life partner, and for giving me Christopher to love for a lifetime.