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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Mount Everest and Marriage: Braving New Heights Together

Mount Everest and Marriage: Braving New Heights Together

Capt. Harold and Mrs. Rachel Earls share their story of the challenges they experienced surrounding his quest to scale Mt. Everest, the most difficult of which were their marital problems. Our guests describe how dealing with those problems strengthened their relationship, and encourage couples to brave whatever heights they face in their own marriage.
Original Air Date: February 3, 2021


Harold Earls: Hey, honey, um, I wanted to leave you a, uh, a little voice note. Um, I, I’m leaving tomorrow to a, to go up Everest and, uh, I, I, I just wanted to leave you this in case, uh, maybe something, you know, not so good happens to me up there and I, um, I mean, I, I, I guess, if you’re listening to this, it’s, it’s ’cause I’m dead. Um, I, I really just wanted to tell you that I love you so much. I love you so much.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Oh, it’s difficult to imagine hearing a voicemail like that from your spouse and, uh, today on Focus on the Family, you’re going to hear one couple’s amazing story of resilience and of hope and helping each other follow their God-given dreams. Thanks for joining us today. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, God’s design for marriage works so well because, together, we can do so much more than we can separately. Of course, uh, that applies to having children, (laughs) but what I’m really talking about is husbands and wives helping each other, uh, follow their God-given dreams.

John: And that can run the gamut. I mean, for us, uh, Dena has always wanted to write a children’s book and I’m really excited to see what might unfold when she finally gets the time to try to do that.

Jim: Well, exactly. For Jean and I, uh, it was higher education. Without Jean, I don’t think I would’ve finished my MBA. She was such an encouragement to me. And, likewise, I was able to encourage her to finish her undergrad degree, uh, shortly thereafter, actually. Today, we’re talking to a couple who is an amazing example of helping each other accomplish some big dreams in their lives and I’m really looking forward to hearing their story.

John: Well, we have Captain Harold and Mrs. Rachel Earls with us today, and Harold is an active duty Army officer who most recently served as the commander of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Rachel is the host of a very popular vlog called “The Earls Family” and they have two little boys and a third baby on the way, and Harold and Rachel have written a really inspirational book. It’s called A Higher Calling: Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest for a Greater Purpose, and we have that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Harold and Rachel, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Harold: Thanks so much for having us.

Jim: It’s so good to have you.

Rachel Earls: We’re so excited.

Jim: I love your smiles and you just are the epitome of a young couple (laughing).

Harold: Well, I tell you, I must admit I have grown up watching Focus on the Family-

Jim: Oh (laughs).

Harold: … so it so great to be here.

John: Oh, wonderful.

Jim: Well, we love that story, absolutely. Now, uh, we’re going to get to your Everest story, but, Rachel, let’s face facts, right, having a baby is so far bigger than climbing Mount Everest (laughs).

Rachel: Oh, my gosh, it is, it is, (laughing) like, woo, this is my third Everest-

Jim: Yeah.

Rachel: … and it has not gotten any easier. I’m not going to lie.

Jim: That’s wonderful, and congratulations.

Rachel: Thank you.

Jim: You have your third on the way-

Rachel: Yes.

Jim: … and your, your, uh, other two children, are how old?

Rachel: Uh, three and one and a half.

Jim: That’s awesome.

Rachel: Yes.

Jim: Hard years maybe in terms of busyness, but great years to look back on.

Rachel: The best years of our lives.

Jim: Yeah. It’s all fun and, uh, man, Jean and I have 18 and 20-year-olds and we’re-

Rachel: Awesome.

Jim: … thinking back to when our kids were that young, thinking, “Will they get out of school, (laughing), will they ever graduate?” But it’s awesome to see, so thanks for being with us. And, uh, thank you so much for your service to the country. I really … I mean that. My brother’s a vet out of the Navy. I know you’re a West Point grad-

Harold: Yeah.

Jim: … uh, but, man, thank you for what you’ve done for our country, sincerely.

Harold: Well, I appreciate your support. I think it’s one of those things, service, uh, has always meant so much to me. I think it’s so important-

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: … for this country, you better believe it.

Jim: And we are going to, you know … that message you left, man, that was a tearjerker as I heard it-

John: It was.

Jim: … you know, and I’m so glad that you kept that and that we were able to play it, but let’s start way back.

Harold: Okay.

Jim: Let’s start … yeah, let’s talk about how you guys met. This was amazing-

Rachel: (laughs).

Jim: … the six-hour phone call. Was that after you saw each other or how did the six-hour phone call come about?

Rachel: Well, the six-hour phone call happened after a Facebook message first, actually. Um, so my cousin is Harold’s very best friend and-

Jim: So, there was that connection?

Rachel: … yes, that’s kind of the original connection, and I guess just told Harold about me. I still don’t know why (laughing).

Harold: So here, here’s how it went down.

Jim: Yeah, okay, [crosstalk 00:04:24] (laughing).

Harold: So, my best friend, Tommy, was like, “Hey, I got this cousin. She’s a redhead. She’s amazing,” and I was like, “Man, I’m just not into redheads (laughing).”

Rachel: He didn’t know what he was missing out on.

Harold: And now it’s … the funny thing is now, now I have a redheaded wife-

Jim: Yes.

Harold: … I have redheaded kids, and I have a redheaded dog, so God, God has [crosstalk 00:04:43].

Jim: [crosstalk 00:04:43] more auburn, I would say. Isn’t it?

Rachel: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: But that, I mean, that’s, for all the redheads, way to go out there.

Harold: Yeah. I’m a huge redhead fan now.

Jim: So, you pushed through that hurdle.

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: Okay, obviously it worked, six hours later, you guys-

Rachel: Six hours.

Jim: … are going, “Okay, wow.” So, you had that connection right from the start.

Rachel: Right away. It really was. It was that first phone call that, afterwards, we were like, “Holy cow, like-”

Jim: Yeah.

Rachel: “… I found my person.”

Jim: Wow, you knew it.

Harold: I’ll, I’ll never-

Rachel: I knew.

Harold: … I’ll never forget, I, I was laying in my barracks room, I had a top bunk, and it was probably 4:00 a.m. by that time, it was very late, and I just remember looking up at the ceiling, and we were finishing our phone call and we literally said to each other … and we, mind you, we haven’t met in person, and I was like, “I found you,” like-

Jim: Wow.

Harold: … “I found you.” I literally told a girl that I haven’t even met in person … but it was so clear, it was like this is her. I just found my person.

Jim: Yeah, that … it’s beautiful. I feel … Jean and I kind of had that experience too. We, we didn’t go out for a long time. We had friends that were trying to get us together. We finally both said yes. We go to an Amy Grant concert (laughing) at the Pacific Amphitheatre and then she struggled, she wrote like seven notes and tore each one up-

Rachel: Oh.

Jim: … ’cause she was trying to say, “Hey, I, I’m really interested.”

Harold: Aw.

Jim: I was already there, like, “Wow (laughing).” But it was very similar. It was just like we knew that we knew that this was it and, uh-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … that’s such a good feeling. Uh, let me say … and there, the serious side of all that, it’s fun banter, it’s wonderful to hear how you connected the spark-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … as we say, uh, but right after you started dating, Rachel, Harold, uh, your family had a really tough situation that threw you for a loop. What happened?

Harold: Yeah. It was, uh, about a month after we started dating, uh, my parents actually got a divorce, and to give you some-

Jim: Christian parents.

Harold: They are. So, I came from an amazing family. They still … they were unbelievable parents. I have just a sister who is so wonderful.

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: You know, I thought we were the iconic Christian family, you know, everything that I was so proud of. I thought their marriage was amazing, um, you know. And so I got a, a phone call out of the blue from my mom, who was in tears, and he-, you know, hearing that, you know, still so young in our relationship, um, but hearing of their divorce, I’ll never forget, I literally just broke down and the first person I called was Rachel and, and I just broke down into tears.

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: Um, but I tell you, there was a silver lining to all of that. It was incredibly hard for me, it was hard for my sister, but we built our relationship from the very beginning with that in mind-

Jim: Right.

Harold: … that you have to work at marriage every single day.

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: And so, by no means do we have everything figured out, we actually just celebrated five-year wedding anniversary, but we know that it is about working on love every single day. You have to choose love every single day, no matter what stage of marriage you’re in.

Jim: Well, let me ask, you know, because, um, somebody, an older couple with kids in their twenties, may be contemplating that right now, that they’re-

Harold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … you know, they’ve raised the kids … the largest, fastest growing divorce sector, if we could call it that-

Harold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … so what they call the graying of divorce-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … that, when you become an empty nester, you look at each other and go-

Harold: Yep. Yep.

Jim: … “I don’t know you, I don’t like you-”

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: “… and I’m done.” And it’s usually women-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … that are filing for divorce ’cause I think part of their purpose is over and they’re, they’re not sure who they are now.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Um, but that phone call, I want to come back to that, uh, speak to the parents of adult children that are contemplating that and what that communicated to you, if I can ask you to go even deeper and more raw, and maybe the obstacle that created? I mean, your world had to crash because of that.

Harold: Yeah. I got some really great advice and, and I want to be careful not to speak outside, you know, the scope of, of what we know, um, but we got some really great advice from someone’s marriage that we really look up to. They’ve a very strong Christian couple even today and, um, they said, uh, that, essentially, you are choosing to love your partner every single day and that you … what it really means when you have kids is to even put your marriage before your kids. And I think that we saw, and we were so blessed that, you know, our parents poured everything they had into us, but at the end of the day, they weren’t pouring into themselves and their marriage. And so that’s been a very important lesson for us, since we have two kids with another one on the way, is to make that time. It’s to find time to even have little moments in the house after they go to sleep or, if you can afford it, find a way to get a babysitter or a relative to come over, and be intentional with our love and to always grow the love side, not just, “Hey, I love you because we have kids together, but I’m actually in love with you.”

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah, I mean, that is … to learn that and to know that five years into your marriage, you are so far ahead of 99% of marriages. I mean, I may have learned that maybe two years ago (laughing). I’ve been married 33 years, 34 years, sorry, Jean (laughing). But, I mean, that’s awesome-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … that you were able to come to that conclusion and make something so positive out of that rubble. Uh, Harold, you and Rachel, you got engaged, obviously, and then, shortly after, you dropped some surprising news on Rachel (laughing) about a dream you had. I’m laughing ’cause I, I just love the way this works, you know, “Hey, you want to get married?” “Yes.”

Rachel: (laughs).

Jim: “Okay, by the way, I want to …” Fill in the blank. What did you say (laughing)?

Harold: I did try to ask the marriage part first before dropping the bombshell (laughing).

Jim: Yeah. You, you were from West Point. You’re covering your, you’re covering your checklist really well, so.

Harold: Uh, exactly, yeah. So I was, at the time, I was a cadet at West Point and, I’ll never forget, I was sitting in my barracks room and I wrote out my bucket list. Um, I’ve always been a huge dreamer.

Jim: By the way, that’s why you’re at West Point (laughing).

Harold: Right, right, exactly. Um, and so, at the very top of the list was to climb Mount Everest, and I started to realize, you know, I think the only time I really would have to do it would be right after graduating and getting married. And so, I actually called Rachel out of the blue and said, “I think I want to climb Mount Everest (laughing).”

Jim: [crosstalk 00:10:13] this is so good. And you said?

Rachel: I just wasn’t surprised.

Harold: Yeah.

Rachel: Like everyone thinks that I would be like, “What are you talking about?”, but that’s just who Harold is. You have to like have a deep understanding, like he is that big goal type of guy and he’s going to make it happen and so this is just the next thing.

John: Our guests today on Focus on the Family are, uh, Captain Harold and Rachel Earls and, uh, they’ve written a terrific book together called A Higher Calling, and we’ve got copies of it here at Focus on the Family. Uh, just give us a call, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: You know, I’m smiling from ear to ear because you guys, you are way beyond your years with wisdom. I mean, this is just, this is Harold. If you know Harold, (laughing) you know this is what he wants to do.

Harold: Yeah.

Rachel: That’s true.

Jim: You sound like a very, uh, mature married woman who understands her husband so well, and this is right-

Rachel: I know him better than he knows himself (laughing).

Harold: That’s probably true.

Rachel: [crosstalk 00:11:11] like it is true (laughing).

Jim: I love that. Uh, in fact, Rachel, in your book, Harold says that, while preparing for Everest, he was giving you, uh, the short end of the stick-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … even after you got married. Um, many spouses would not react well to that-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … and would’ve complained, but you, again, knowing him, continued to support him. So, women are screaming back at us right now, “Why?”

Rachel: Why did I support him?

Jim: Why did you do that?

Rachel: Well, I think it’s the, that ultimate goal of it’s my husband, right? I chose to marry him. I chose this life together.

Jim: What does that mean?

Rachel: Well, c-

Jim: Because you’re saying it, “I chose to marry him,” and him is just not a blank slate.

Rachel: Right, well, ’cause I, I knew who he was, right? So it was that option of I support him or I don’t support him and, if I don’t support him, this is going to separate us, you know. We, we’ve talked about divorce and how does that happen? Okay, well, separation starts to happen there, you’re not united any longer, and so that was really important for me.

Harold: Well, I learned, honestly, you know, we made a lot of mistakes early, but something that I learned about love through her and how she just responded to me is that it not only became my dream, it became her dream as well.

Jim: Oh, wow, [crosstalk 00:12:23].

Harold: She said, “If we’re going to run this race, we’re going to run it together and I’m going to run it beside you and I’m going to be your number one supporter, your number one teammate,” and that has taught me so much in marriage and how I want to reciprocate that back to her, right? She has dreams, you know, with YouTube. It’s like, “What can I do to be on your team? And if that’s your dream, it’s going to be my dream as well,” and that’s something that I just really admire about her, you know, very, from the very beginning.

John: Yeah.

Jim: And, and, Rachel, did you have to push through … I mean, climbing Mount Everest is a pretty risky endeavor, so it’s not like … you know, I mentioned my wife wants to write a book. Yeah, I can cheer her on on that-

Rachel: Right.

Jim: … it’s not like she’s going to risk her life writing a book, so did you have to push through some fear?

Rachel: Absolutely, and so many different fears. At the time, we were trying to figure out if we wanted to start our family, get pregnant, what did that look like? You know, I could have a miscarriage, then I’d be going through that alone. Maybe I would get pregnant, maybe my husband would die, then I’d be a single parent, all of those things. Like this is not a normal thing for someone to think about at 23, 24 years old right after you get married, um, so it was very challenging. And to not just be consumed by those fears all the time, I had to rely on God. Like I had to just give it all up to Him and trust that there was something so much bigger than I could see.

Jim: Rachel, I, I want to, uh, dig into that a little bit ’cause I, I was, you know, kind of kidding, but not really. A lot of women do go catastrophic on things. You know, we’ve, we’re coming through, hopefully, the pandemic and all those things, and Jean and I have friends that have really struggled. Uh, many of them don’t know the Lord and we recognize that, how much fear-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … has gripped them. And it typically will be the moms we know, that there’s just so much fear, fear about a job, fear about their kids’ surroundings.

Rachel: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: And I, you know, I’m hearing you say, you know, “We trusted the Lord-”

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … and that is right.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: But go a little deeper with that, with your fears.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: I mean, what did it mean practically to trust the Lord? I mean, there’s superficialness-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … to some-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … people. How do you go a little deeper to say, “God, he’s yours and I trust you?”

Rachel: Yeah. So I think what people might think, when I say I trusted God, is that I trusted God that he would just protect Harold, and that wasn’t what my prayer actually was, ’cause I was very aware that he could die, like that was a reality, you know. Um, and so I was trusting God with bigger than that, that, “Lord, if my husband does die, then you’re going to have to literally scoop me up and carry me because I will not be able to do this on my own.” Um, and so it was so much bigger than just like, “Let me trust that everything is going to be okay.”

Jim: Yeah.

Rachel: You know, it was just fully knowing I don’t have it all, you know, like I can’t be the only one, um, in this situation, um, it had to be me and God.

Jim: Yeah. Harold let’s get to the make-up of your group that went to Everest. That’s typically the key component, right-

Harold: Right.

Jim: … who’s with you.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: And being in the military, I know you deeply appreciate that. Uh, my sister-in-law actually attempted a climb of Everest and only got up to the fourth camp because of-

Harold: Wow.

Jim: … altitude sickness and other things-

Harold: Right, right.

Jim: … and you know that better than anybody, uh, what that means.

Harold: Sure.

Jim: But describe who was with you. It was kind of a historic group, right?

Harold: It was. So, we actually were the first Army team. We were putting together the first Army team to go and climb Everest. So, we had a combat-wounded amputee that went with us. He was an absolute rock star. Uh, we had a female. Uh, she was just an amazing climber. We had a doctor with us as well, and then we had a team of Sherpas helping us pave the way.

Jim: Huh. And what, uh, was it like getting up there and … describe that for the listener, I mean, going from the stage of the base camps and then where you [crosstalk 00:16:06]-

Harold: Yeah, I’ll tell you, so the first time I saw Everest … we worked our way out. It takes about two weeks just to get to the mountain, you’re traveling through Tibet, and I’ll never forget when I saw Everest for the first time. Our team got out of the … we had this like van that we rented, and we’re all giving high fives and we’re all excited, but, honestly, me, it’s like I was terrified. I mean, it was very dark, it was black, it was incredibly intimidating, um, and I think it became very real very fast that a good old Georgia boy who doesn’t have a whole lot of climbing experience was about to do something very dangerous.

Jim: (laughs). And you start asking, “Why, why am I here?”

Harold: (laughs). Right.

Jim: (laughs). I mean, that’s true. I mean, it’s a daunting task and it’s incredible. Uh, Rachel, when Harold summited, he accidentally gave you kind of a scare. What happened?

Rachel: Oh, my goodness. Woo, one of the scariest moments of my life. So, I was actually in Guatemala at the time. Um, I had just flown over. I was trying to calculate the time difference, when I thought he would summit and, and get back, and, of course, I had no service ’cause I’m out in this rural town. Um, and so I ended up using my friend’s phone, and this text message comes through that says, “Have Rachel Earls call this number ASAP,” and my heart just sank, like why would that message be coming through there, you know, like something terrible had happened. Um, and there was a, a call, a missed call, that came through. Like nothing was quite working, so I was trying to grab my wallet, go to the internet café, and just like waiting in that moment.

Harold: Well, mind you too, this was just a few days prior, I had actually gotten really sick, um, so I called Rachel right before I was going to make the final summit push. It’s about 30 hours straight of climbing, a very intense part, and I was-

Jim: 30 hours straight.

Harold: Correct.

Jim: From the top base camp.

Harold: From Advanced Camp.

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: You go sleep at a couple camps, but then you make the final push-

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: … and I was sick, I was throwing up, and I told her, “I don’t think I can go to the summit.” I remember I had tears in my eyes. It was a very intense conversation that we had. And the very next day, I was feeling better and I called Rachel and told her I was going to go to the summit and that terrified her because she knew … I told her that I was feeling better, but, quite honestly, I probably was about 80%, but-

Jim: Right.

Harold: … uh, I told her that I was going and she, you know … so I, I think her knowing that and then getting that text message really just added, you know, to all of that.

Jim: Yeah.

Rachel: Yeah. It was really that moment of I’m about to find out if my husband is alive or dead, um, and, thankfully, a message came through, “It’s your LOML,” love of my life, that’s something that we call each other, “and I just, you know, summited and I’m back.” And so just in that moment of relief, I remember I collapsed into my friend’s arms and just like … I mean, tears everywhere. I felt like I could breathe for the very first time.

Harold: Something I want to touch on is something called summit fever, actually, so and I, I definitely had a case of it. It’s not what you think, like that kind of sickness, it’s actually, you know, signifies that you want to make it to the summit so bad that you’re willing to sacrifice everything in order to do that.

Jim: Right. You, you blow by the signs.

Harold: Exactly, right, and I blew by every sign, every sign. I, I was still probably, uh, you know, only 80%. I lost my goggles on the way up.

Jim: Oh, my.

Harold: I mean, just a terrible incidence which is, obviously, you should turn around and come back, right, but for me, I was so fixated on reaching the summit that I was willing to sacrifice everything, including my, you know, lovely wife back home, just to reach the top. And I think there are so many truisms to life in that, that sometimes you get so fixated on your own dreams-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold: … or something that you want to do that you’re willing to sacrifice everything-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold: … whether it’s your marriage, uh-

Jim: Huh.

Harold: … whether it’s your kids-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold: … and I think there’s just so much applicability that I’ve taken with me, you know, into life.

Jim: Summit fever-

Harold: Summit fever.

Jim: … something you can apply to just about everything.

Rachel: Uh-huh.

Jim: Now you, you know, put the pieces together, you were thankful when you got back down, but getting down, you had some harrowing experiences, right, a near-death experience, actually, that made national news. What happened?

Harold: Yeah. So, my … this was above camp three, uh, we were coming down, and my Sherpa, and we were getting hit with a ton of ice, and he started holding his eyes, you know. I was like, “What is he doing?” He kept rubbing his eyes, kept going. Uh, then I noticed he was trying to put on his glove backwards and it was just weird. He’s probably about 20 meters in front of me. And so I worked my way to him and it turned out he was snow-blind, which is when, basically, your eyelids, you know, freeze shut or the sun, the reflection of the sun, can make you go temporarily blind. There’s two different versions. And so, uh, he was so cold that he was having a difficult time seeing because of the ice blowing in his face, and, uh, so I, I’ll never forget. We were just huddled together. Uh, there was a cliff face on our right and then, to the left, we were standing on probably a width no wider than a surfboard, but it was about 7500 feet straight down. And I was 23 years old, hugging my Sherpa with his face in my chest trying to warm his eyes-

Jim: Huh.

Harold: … alone on Mount Everest. I mean, talk about terrified, honestly.

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: You know, you, you think this machoism, that you would be … no, it was terrifying. It was terrifying standing alone … it became very real, death became very real. You climb past dead bodies, it is very real that death, you know, was near.

Jim: That experience is amazing. I just can’t, uh, fathom not-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … being there, what that must’ve been like, you know, being on something the size of a surfboard and you have a 7500-foot cliff and 70 mile an hour winds blowing.

Harold: Yeah, for sure.

Jim: I mean, that’s powerless. Uh, Harold, uh, after you returned home, uh, I think you had a summit party or something like that. I’ve never had a summit party (laughing), so I don’t know, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Rachel: It was actually on his birthday too.

Jim: It was on his birthday, no less-

Rachel: On his birthday.

Jim: … but at a summit party, (laughs) something happened, it wasn’t positive. What happened and how did you guys process this as a couple?

Harold: We actually struggled the most, to give you guys context, after Everest-

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold: … not during Everest. I would say that Everest actually brought us together because it was a mission, we had to do it, we had-

Jim: You had a goal.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold: Yeah, totally focused, but on the back end is actually when we really struggled. And so to tell you that story, we had this summit party, we had all of our sponsors, we had media there, family, friends, anyone who was involved. And so I get up on stage and I just start going down and I thank everyone, you know, and I have Rachel sitting front and center, and she’s just so proud of me and she looks up at me, and I thanked everyone, but I didn’t mention my wife, who had been my number one teammate, right? We talk about, you know, she ran that race with me. When no one else believed in me, she believed in me, and yet I didn’t even, you know, thank her. And did she expect me to thank her? No, but I think that was a such a lesson for me, um, you know, that I think that I took my wife for granted, right, and all that she had done for us.

Jim: Yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, I remember, right after that, Sergeant Major Burnett got up to speak and the first person he thanked was his wife, and I just started crying-

Jim: Did you?

Rachel: … because, I mean, hi-, it, it was his wife, so of, of course, you know, thanking her for the support, he wasn’t even on the climb, but I was more involved than just being his wife, you know. I did the social media, I got all his outfits ready, I just did all this stuff, so to just even feel like I wasn’t part of the team was kind of a letdown.

Harold: Well, I think it’s important to say, like, “I see you,” right?

Jim: Right.

Rachel: Yeah.

Harold: And that could be from saying thanks, that can be just the way that you look at each other, but that goes so much more than just say thank you at a summit party, of saying like, “Hey, yes, we had success in this, but I see you. I see the impact that you’ve had on our marriage and on, on my dreams as well.”

Jim: And but, Rachel, you were able to get through that and get-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … over that, it seems. I mean, do you ever, are you-

Rachel: Yeah, so-

Jim: … tempted, when something’s a little sticky, you say-

Rachel: Oh, he’s, he’s-

Jim: … “Harold, do you remember when you didn’t thank me for Everest (laughing)?”

Rachel: … he has learned … oh, my gosh, he’s grown tremendously. I mean, we were talking about it yesterday, just about-

Jim: (laughs).

Rachel: … how we have come so far in that area, where we … I mean, Everest really set the precedent of our whole marriage, of how we really work together as a team-

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rachel: … and how we lift each other up all the time, like really recognizing, um, each other. But I’m not somebody to just let something fly by. So it was that night, it wa-, (laughs) we stayed up til like 4:00 in the morning, but I just let it all out. You know, I told him how I was hurt, and we were able to talk through it and grow.

Harold: Well, I’ve always loved that about you, like she will say if something’s not right, which is so important in a marriage. I think the more that you start silencing yourself and you just keep those feelings internally, that’s when bigger issues really start to rise, you know.

Jim: No, it’s so true.

Rachel: Yeah.

Harold: It’s sometimes important … you got to do it the right way, but you need to tell them, like, “Hey, this is how I’m feeling. I’m hurt in this way.”

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah.

Harold: And then we always make a promise we don’t want to go to bed mad at each other, so we may stay up til 4:00 a.m., but it’s like, if that’s what it takes, we need to have those conversations when those conversations are hard.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah. And, in fact, you mentioned when you transitioned back, you had more appreciation for the little things-

Rachel: Yeah.

Jim: … expressing your love for each other. Just describe that because I think, again, people that have been married 30, 40 years can benefit from the lessons that you’ve learned.

Rachel: Yeah. Well, I think, when you face something like life or death, it obviously changes you. You know, you just see everything in a new light. I mean, when you, you played that voice recording at the beginning of this, you almost brought me to tears again because I think about it. Now we have three children. I get to watch my husband laugh with our boys, you know, play with them. Like there’s a very real possibility I never would’ve gotten to experience that, you know, so I just see it through new eyes now and I want to live in those little moments and know that they are so precious, um, and such a gift.

Harold: Well, you said something beautiful in the book and you said, “The little moments can turn out to be the big moments,” and we’ve found that to be so true in our life.

Jim: Well, and I think I might translate that into those things that are risky in life. Often, that’s where you’re going to find the most profound moments with God. So, Rachel’s trust in that dream you had, uh, we want to honor that. That’s an awesome story. And Rachel and Harold, uh, you have both illuminated the journey of marriage and dreams and the pursuit of them and how we can honor God through it all, and you’ve captured it so beautifully in your book, A Higher Calling, and I want to encourage our listeners, uh, to get a copy of this book, especially as a gift for that young couple in your life. And if you can partner with us and, and give a gift of any amount, I’ll send you a copy of A Higher Calling to say thank you for helping us encourage couples through broadcasts like this one. And, Rachel, let me say, as I thanked Harold for his service, uh, you’re equally a part of that as a spouse, uh, staying back, uh, during deployments, and I want to say thank you for doing that and being long-suffering in that way for our nation.

Rachel: I really appreciate that.

Jim: Yeah.

John: And, Jim, I’d like to mention our marriage assessment, which is free. It’s online and you can take it. Over a million people have participated in that assessment. It gives you a good idea about what’s going well in the relationship and what might need some more attention, if you will. Uh, take that free marriage assessment, donate as you can, and get a copy of the book by Harold and Rachel. It’s all at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Harold and Rachel, thanks again for being with us. Can’t wait to have you back here.

Harold: Yeah.

Rachel: Yeah (laughing).

Harold: Appreciate it. It was an honor.

Rachel: Thank you.

John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Cover image of the book "A Higher Calling" by Harold and Rachel Earls

A Higher Calling: Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest for a Greater Purpose

Receive the Earls' book A Higher Calling for your donation of any amount!

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