by Dale Reeves
Almost thirty-six years ago on June 29, I watched Karen Mullins walk down the aisle at Mason Church of Christ located at 723 Western Row Rd. to become Karen Mullins Reeves. Shortly thereafter we embarked on a honeymoon that took us cross country in my little Toyota Corolla on our way to southern California where I would be speaking at a national teen convention. We didn’t attend much of the convention that year, but we got to see quite a bit of God’s majestic creation on our way to the Pacific Ocean and back to Ohio. Going out, we drove the southern route through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. On our return trip we traveled through Colorado, Kansas, and through the Illinois cornfields until we were back at our apartment where we would begin our life together.
One of the highlights of our trip out west was getting to enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon from the perspective of the North Rim. I did not know prior to our wedding that my bride had a fear of heights—especially obvious as I walked across Navajo Bridge that spanned the Colorado River below, in order to get some great photo ops. I also arose very early the next morning in order to capture some sunrise pictures as the day broke over the Canyon. And, then, on our return home, we drove up Pikes Peak (elevation 14,115 ft.) while Karen pointed out, “Dale, have you noticed there are no guardrails on this road?”
Guardrails. Extremely important, especially when walking on the limestone rim above a huge hole in the ground with your new bride—and even more important when returning with your spouse more than thirty years later.
Yesterday at Christ’s Church, we began a new teaching series called, “Breaking Bad.” In case you missed Sunday’s teaching on “Breaking Traditions,” the emphasis was on making sure the traditions we’ve grown up with don’t get in the way of the life transformation Jesus wants to see happen in our lives.
Tradition Vs. Transformation
Well, almost thirty-six years after our honeymoon, my wife and I flew out to Arizona for a five-day getaway before the crowds descend this summer—visiting the majestic Grand Canyon, the spectacular red rock formations of Sedona, Flagstaff, the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, and a few other national monuments. What has changed? And what has remained the same? What traditions continue? And what transformations have taken place?
A lot has changed in thirty-six years.
- Back in those days I was the one taking pictures on Ektachrome film with a 35mm SLR camera so I could show these slides in multi-media programs in my youth ministry presentations (remember those dinosaurs in the pre-digital age?) These days, my wife is the camera aficionado, as evidenced by her Canon 77D DSLR, tripod, selfie stick, and telephoto lens. She is the one always in search of the perfect shot during the “golden hour.” My job is to not complain about how many pics of the same shot she has taken, drive, make sure we get photos of each National Park sign, park the car, and scour menus to decide where we are going to eat.
- We were a whole lot younger (and I can say for me, thinner) in those days. Walking a few miles on a trail was no big deal for us as twentysomething kids. Today, we are much more selective in choosing which trails we will take (this time, on the South Rim), and in order to take them, we are looking for an awesome scenic payoff at the end of the trek. In 1985, my wife did not own a National Parks Passport book in which she could purchase stickers and get her book stamped at visitor centers. Now, she is all about visiting National Parks and National Monuments in search of the stamps. Karen collected postcards in the 80s and she is still adding to her collection today.
- Besides the aforementioned postcards and stickers, we now enjoy collecting Christmas ornaments, refrigerator magnets, drink coasters, and jigsaw puzzles celebrating where we have been privileged to travel together. We wish we had started these collections sooner in the early years of our marriage. (Newlyweds, are you listening?!?). And, the best part these days is that I can simply flash my lifetime National Parks membership card as we enter a park rather than having to pay each time we visit one.
- In 1985, we logged about 5,000 miles on my Corolla. Our air conditioning decided to stop working as we were heading through the Nevada desert. This year we flew to Phoenix, rented a midsize car (and got a slight upgrade to a sleek black Mazda 6), and put the miles on the rental. We also paid a lot more for gas this time around!
Some Things Stay the Same
- I am still in love with my wife, a beautiful companion God gave me to navigate this crazy journey we call life. With two grown daughters, two awesome sons-in-law, three active and mischievous grandsons, and a fourth grandchild on the way, I love watching how my wife serves, loves, and enjoys all of these people in our family. It has given me a deeper love for Karen than when I saw her come down that aisle many years ago.
- We still love standing in awe and admiring God’s magnificent creation together. As broken as our country and world are today, as confused and misguided as those who are far from God seem to be, this is still “my Father’s world.” The psalmist exclaims, “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:4, 5, NIV). And, if he has created such beauty for us to marvel at as we live out our human existence, I have to think that the descriptions we find of Heaven in Revelation 21, 22 are just a mere fraction of what our real heavenly home will be like. That causes me to yearn for God’s presence even more.
- Jesus is still Lord over all creation, and he wants to be personal Lord to each one of us. The author of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT). Christ has been a very real part of our lives together since the day we were united together in marriage, and he has taught us many lessons along the way in our transformative journey with him. His presence has been a constant in our relationship. His mercies are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness!
As you contemplate what God is doing in your life today, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the good things he has allowed you to experience in the past, what he is doing currently, and the places he wants to take you in your spiritual journey. What guardrails has he put in your life so that he can do his transforming work in you? Give him thanks that through Jesus he built a bridge for you across the great divide that sin had caused in your relationship with him. Celebrate his goodness. Whether you are enjoying something marvelous he has created or simply soaking up his presence in your alone time with him, “Be still, and know that [He is] God (Psalm 46:10, NIV).