Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest
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Known for openness about their marriage on social media, Harold and Rachel Earls have co-authored a book, called “A Higher Calling.” Hear the unique story of how God brought them together.
Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest
Bob: The average age for marriage today is 29 for guys and just a little over 27 for women. That means Harold and Rachel Earls were well below average when they became husband and wife.
Harold: I think some people question: “Should you get married young?” or “…get married later?” if you have a choice. One beautiful thing that came from that is that we were so young that we could really form and craft our future and our identity in each other and God. Rather, when you get older, sometimes it gets harder to merge those two lives together. We actually had that going for us, because we knew what was on the other side.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll meet Harold and Rachel Earls today and hear about their incredible marriage adventure. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. This feels like it should be a screenplay to me; you know?—
Ann: It would be a good screenplay; yes!
Bob: —a love story that we’re going to hear. I think some of our listeners go, “I already know this story, because I know this couple, because I’ve been watching them—
Ann: And they’re beautiful.
Bob: —that’s right—you watch on their YouTube channel; you see what they’re doing.
They’ve got a book out now called Higher Calling. We’re glad to have them joining us on FamilyLife Today. Harold and Rachel Earls, welcome.
Harold: Hey, thanks for having us. Only if Channing Tatum can play me. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, Rachel, who would you pick?
Rachel: I call Rachel McAdams.
Ann: That’s a good one!
Bob: Okay! I can see this as a nice movie. You’ve already thought this through; haven’t you? [Laughter]
Rachel: I don’t know!
Harold: We have.
Ann: Maybe these guys will be stepping down, because you’re pretty amazing.
Harold: I don’t know about that; I think Rachel for sure.
Rachel: Our acting ability—Mmmm.
Bob: The Earls family blog has been online for—
Rachel: It started back in 2014 when it was just Rachel Earls.
Bob: It started with your viral video about having a boyfriend, who was at West Point—
Rachel: Yes, it did!
Bob: —and just grew out of that.
As I’ve said, you guys have written this book. Harold, you, up until recently, were in the Army. You went to West Point. You just completed a tour at the Old Guard, guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns; right?
Harold: I did; I was the Commander of the Guard, actually, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Your book is kind of a memoir, both about climbing Everest, which we’re going to get to—
Dave: Just a small, little—could’ve done it last week. [Laughter]
Bob: —little weekend jaunt you took.
I think we want to go back. I was fascinated in looking at your book at how quickly you guys knew, “This is the one.”
Harold: Oh, yes.
Bob: So tell us how you met.
Harold: Where to begin? My best friend in the whole world, Tommy Ferguson—they’re cousins [Tommy and Rachel]—he was always like, “Hey, I have this awesome cousin. She’s a redhead; you have to meet her.” For me, I was like, “Hey, man; I am just not into redheads.” But he showed me a picture of her; I was like, “Man!”
Dave: “Now, I’m into redheads!” [Laughter]
Harold: “I’m into redheads!” [Laughter] From there, I talked to Tommy. He’s like, “I’ve paved the way. I already talked to her; she knows who you are.” I shot her a friend request on Facebook®.
Bob: You had already been set up by Tommy.
Rachel: No; I did not know anything at all. I was going into my sophomore year of college. I had just previously had a breakup the year before. I’d been spending my time healing and pursuing God, and falling in love with Him all over again. I remember, that night before, I’d been writing in my journal. I was praying to God, saying, “I know there is a great guy out there for me, and I am okay if the timing is not right now; because I’m so happy. But could You give me just some sort of sign that maybe he’s out there?”
Sure enough, the next day is when I get this Facebook request from Harold Earls. I was like, “Who is this person?” I saw our mutual friends on Facebook were just my family members. Tommy had not told me anything at all; so I was blindsided, if you will.
Ann: But did you check him out?
Rachel: Oh, I did! Yes.
Bob: Of course, you checked him out. [Laughter]
Rachel: I did. After I saw that message, I was like, “Okay; pictures.” I noticed military and baseball. I was like, “What is going on here?” I start calling my mom, because my mom is the knower of all things family. I’m like, “Mom, who is this person?” She denies this; I’m like, “Okay; I guess I’ll figure it out for myself.”
We start messaging back and forth and pretty much just instantly hit it off.
Harold: Very, very quickly.
Ann: What was it that you thought, “This could be the one”? What was it?
Harold: To give you some context, the first time we had our first phone call, we were on the call for over six hours.
Dave: The first phone call.
Rachel: First phone call.
Harold: First phone call—six hours.
Dave: You didn’t think you were going to be on a long phone call.
Harold: Not at all; not at all. I was thinking maybe 30 minutes.
Ann: We did this. [Laughter]
Dave: Six hours?
Harold: Yes; I was actually walking around the baseball field at West Point. I’d walk around the bases, walk around the bases, walk around the bases. It got really late at night. It’s like: “Okay; now, curfew at West Point; I’ve got to go back.” I go back to my barracks room and lay on my barracks bed.
I’ll never forget the depths of conversation that we had. I think that’s when it really revealed itself to me—that I’ve never been so open and had such deep and emotionally-revealing conversation to myself and about someone else before. That, for me, was like, “Oh, my goodness.” I’ll never forget, at the end of the call, I actually was like, “I think I’ve found you.” I literally said that out loud.
Ann: Oooh! That’s a good line.
Harold: That seems crazy; right?—like someone that I have technically never seen before in person, but just through the connection that we had—“I think God just revealed who I’m going to marry.”
Bob: I find it interesting. You’re hundreds of miles away from one another. You’re a student at Florida State University; you’re at West Point when this is happening; right?
Bob: You’ve seen a picture; but you go, “I’m going to pick up the phone and call this person I’ve never met before, who’s 1,000 miles away.” I’m thinking, like, “For what?!” If this goes somewhere, you can’t really go anywhere right away.
Harold: That wasn’t the plan [to call her]. I was Facebook messaging her back and forth. My best friend, Tommy, actually got on to my Facebook and started sending messages as me.
Ann: Come on!
Harold: I had to expedite the process a little bit more—
Rachel: Oh, yes!
Harold: —I had to call her, essentially as: “Hey, I’m so sorry; he got on my Facebook. That wasn’t me saying ridiculous things.” [Laughter]
Rachel: I was like, “Hold up a second! Is this a big prank?! What is going on?!”
Bob: I think we need to have Tommy on FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]
Harold: Yes, really. [Laughter]
Bob: A six-hour phone call—when you hung up from that phone call with a guy, who just said to you, “I think I’ve found you,”—and this is like four in the morning; right?
Rachel: It was two in the morning.
Ann: You’re probably 20 years old?
Rachel: Yes; we were 20; yes.
Bob: What are you thinking?
Rachel: I thought the exact same thing—like “Ditto!”—like: “I know!”
You have to understand a little of the background, too; it wasn’t just a phone call completely out of the blue. I had done a little bit of research—then talking to Tommy and his mom—understanding who Harold was/knowing that he had a relationship with God—and knowing also the type of man my cousin Tommy was—I knew he had to be a good guy himself, so I had a bit of that background information.
Harold: I think it’s so important—you actually mention it in the book—that it became clear that we were running in the same direction of life. I think that, when you see that—and you find a partner, and you look to the right and say, “Hey, I’m going this direction, and so are you,”—that’s when it really was revealing to us. From talking to our family and her friends, and learning where her heart was/what her passions were—how she pursued the Lord—that’s when it became evident to me that: “This is different than anything I’ve ever been a part of.”
Bob: I have to share one of my favorite all-time quotes, because you just illustrated it. Tommy Nelson, who’s a pastor in Denton, Texas—speaking to singles one time—he said, “If you’re single, your job is to run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can. While you’re running, if out of the corner of your eye, you see someone running in the same direction at the same speed, take a second look.” That’s the path both of you were on.
Bob: Tell us about your faith story and how faith became real for you guys.
Harold: Tommy/we [he and I] actually love this saying that Andy Stanley says: “Become the person that the person you’re looking for is looking for.”
Dave: I have preached that saying.
Ann: —many times.
Harold: It’s beautiful. It’s essentially saying the same thing, as Bob, as what you just said.
For me to learn that—I’m very grateful for him as my best friend, because I think we learned that at a young age—we realized that iron sharpens iron. We worked very hard to become the very best versions of ourselves. That took time; that took years. I know that, if I would’ve met Rachel two years earlier than that, we never would have hit it off; because I wasn’t the man that God wanted me to be and needed me to be for her. That was how He was working on me all along.
Rachel: Likewise, meeting Harold—I think, in my previous relationships, it was obvious we weren’t running the same race; we weren’t really both after God. Until, to know Harold, feeling like we were equally yoked was this big eye-opening thing of: “This really could be my person.”
To rewind a little bit about my faith journey. It happened when I was in sixth grade; I was going through confirmation. My grandma had just died at the same time; it was the first time I had dealt with death. I was questioning everything. I’m learning about God, but here my grandma’s dying. I went to this confirmation retreat; and in the chapel, there’s these glass doors overlooking the lake with this cross in the middle of it. They had sort of like an altar call, where you could come down and pray. I’d never done anything like that in my life, but I decided to.
In that moment, I felt God’s presence. That was when I chose, and I just gave my life to God. It was kind of that child-like faith in the beginning. Every step of the way through my life, through all of the obstacles, leaning on God, knowing that He was there when it sometimes felt like nobody else was.
Ann: How has your faith made a difference in your relationship?—in your marriage?—in your future?
Harold: For us, it’s the foundation; it’s the bedrock; right? If you have nothing to build on, as a relationship, it’s going to crumble away. But we know that we always have that foundation. We always know where our hearts are at. It makes it so much easier to overcome when you do have those adversities.
Rachel: Right; it’s that common ground that everything comes back to. The answer to everything at the end of the day is: “God.” And also, how do you love somebody?—the greatest example of that is Jesus. To be able to live that out through your marriage, we have Someone to look up to.
Dave: You’re on that phone call.
Harold: You can’t get over this phone call; can you? [Laughter]
Dave: I just want to hear what happened next because I’ve never—I mean, we [Ann and Dave] didn’t say that after the first phone call, but you know—and you both know; right? And there’s this faith component, which is the foundation. Did you fly down there that night and get married the next day? [Laughter]
Harold: Almost!—not quite. One, at West Point, you can’t get married until you graduate West Point. So no matter what, we had about a year-and-a-half we had to wait, thanks to the Army. [Laughter]
There was definitely big anticipation for actually meeting her in person for the first time. I had plans to go and see her. We had planned for—I think it was about two months from that date—to actually see each other in person. Unbeknownst to her, I was actually scheming behind the scenes, and had coordinated with her friends, and was planning on going down and surprising her.
Rachel: My friends had invited me to this beach weekend. I was going to go with them and their parents to go to the beach. I’m like, “Oh, this is fun.” I start packing my bags, picking out my bathing suits—sending pictures to Harold, saying, “Which one do you like better?”—so cringey to think about now. I’m driving over—it’s like midnight—to my friend’s house. I’m wearing my pajamas. I get over there, and our other friend wanted to introduce us to a guy that she had met. She said she was going to bring him over.
Harold had also told me that he was in the city that night with his friends, so he wouldn’t be able to call me until really late. Well, it was really late; and eventually, I get a call from Harold. I’m like, “Hey!”; then, literally, walks through the door my friend and this guy that I’m supposed to meet. I’m like, “Hey; I’m glad that you called, but can I call you back?” He starts acting real strange, and I’m not liking this. He’s like, “No, don’t call me back; talk to me now,” type of thing.
It was the first time that I was like, “This feels weird.” Then he says, “Why would you call me back when I’m already here?” and opens the door and walks right in. My friend had picked him up from the airport. It was just after midnight; I’m in a big camo t-shirt, Nike running shorts.
Ann: That’s fitting, though—a camo t-shirt? [Laughter]
Harold: Nothing’s changed for her now!
Ann: What did that feel like?—was it awkward?—was it sweet?
Harold: No, not at all; not at all. At first, before I came to the door, it was the first time that it didn’t go according to plan; and I was kind of panicking. I was like, “No this is not how it’s supposed to work!” [Laughter] I’ll never forget—when I opened the door—it was like overflowing, the amount of emotions. I think you definitely cried at some point.
Rachel: I did not cry! You say that every time. My body was shaking; I kept saying: “What?!” “What?!” “What?!”
Bob: And that’s your first IRL—first In Real Life face-to-face meeting.
Harold: You’ve never heard that before?
Dave: Is this like a military term? What are you doing here? [Laughter] MRE [Military: meal ready to eat]? [Laughter]
Bob: This is Twitter; you just say: “It’s IMHO, IRL” [“In my humble opinion, in real life”].
Dave: You are so cool, Bob.
Bob: I try to stay up with all of these.
Harold: LOL [Laugh out loud], Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: How long from that first meeting until you said, “Okay; we are getting married”?
Rachel: There [were] a couple things between then. It was that night when he looked at me and said, “You’re my girlfriend!” [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, he didn’t ask?
Rachel: No; he didn’t. I said, “I am?!” Then, he very cutely said, “Wait! Do you want to be?” And of course, I said, “Yes.” [Laughter] As he was going back up to West Point that weekend, I had this diamond ring that I wore on my right hand that my grandmother had given me. He actually switched it over to my left-hand ring finger, and he told me he liked the way it looked.
Dave: That’s a good way to save money. [Laughter]
Harold: That’s what I’m saying. [Laughter]
Dave: You don’t need to buy a ring; I like that idea!
Bob: Were you thinking you were getting engaged right then and there?
Harold: No; in hindsight, it would’ve been smart. I would’ve saved me some money. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s what I would’ve done.
Bob: From that ring ceremony that we have right there, you guys are talking, from the very first, like: “I think you’re the one.” When did you start planning out your future?
Rachel: It was probably about six months later when we got engaged, I think; another time when Harold came down and surprised me. [Laughter]
Harold: All about those surprises. [Laughter] I will say—the interesting thing with the Army is—it’s kind of a good thing and a bad thing—it took out a lot of that unknown for us. We knew/we knew once graduation happened in May, we were going to get married. Then I was going to serve for five years—which is really a nice thing, actually—having that stability and that purpose, if you will, that a lot of people struggle with.
We had the benefit of being young. Some people question: “Should you get married young?” or “…get married later?” if you have a choice. One beautiful thing that came from that is that we were so young that we could really form and craft our future and our identity in each other and God. Rather, when you get older, sometimes it gets harder to merge those two lives together. We actually had that going for us, because we knew what was on the other side.
Bob: Everything you’ve described here feels like it’s been scripted.
Ann: —a fairy tale.
Harold: Channing Tatum—I’m telling you! [Laughter]
Bob: There had to have been times—during your dating/ during your engagement—where you thought: “I’m not sure she’s the one,” “I’m not sure this is going to work,” “There are things I learned about you that I didn’t realize, and that’s given me second thoughts.” Do you remember some of those?
Rachel: There’s one time—one. There’s times I was upset.
Harold: —Army/Navy game.
Rachel: Yes; but there was one time I really just had a doubt. The doubt wasn’t really because of us, but it came down to his family. I felt like, specifically, his sister didn’t like me. I knew how close that they were, and I didn’t want to come between his family.
We stayed up—it was the Army/Navy game for baseball—Harold played baseball at West Point. We stayed up pretty much all through the night, just talking through everything, when he clearly should have been sleeping, preparing for this game. That showed me that he was choosing us.
His sister and I ended up working things out, and we are on great terms now. I love her so much. That was the time.
Dave: We’ve got her on the phone right now. [Laughter] We’re going to make sure that this is all true. [Laughter]
Harold: She’s getting married in a couple weeks. I’ve got some questions for her myself. [Laughter]
Ann: One of the things I noticed in your book was you decided to remain physically pure. That’s a big deal.
Rachel: Yes; yes.
Harold: We did; yes, we did.
Ann: What made you decide that?—and did you take any harassment from buddies from that?
Harold: First off, I know that I would not have been able to be in that position if it wasn’t for, honestly, God being beside me the whole time. Then, I credit a lot to having a best friend like Tommy. He was the same as me in how he chose to pursue his life. I really do feel that iron sharpens iron, and we can hold each other accountable. Without him, and without that type of friendship, I don’t think that I would have been the man I am today, especially in regards to remaining abstinent.
That was a choice that we had; I am incredibly grateful for that. I think it is such a blessing, just knowing that we both chose to do that. There’s a lot of beauty that comes from that—that I think that, at that time, when I was about 15, 16, 17, 18, going through those challenging years that any teen guy goes through—seeing what now is on the backend of that, I am honestly incredibly grateful.
Bob: Did the guys at West Point know you’re not sleeping with your girlfriend?
Harold: They definitely knew that.
Dave: You said, just a second ago, the benefits were worth it. What are those?
Harold: I think it’s a beautiful thing getting to discover that side with your spouse; right? There’s so much intimacy that comes with that. I think, when you’ve had other outside factors playing a role into that, there’s all of these other questions that could be going through your mind. I think the beautiful thing with us is now it’s so fun to explore with each other in that way, because we know that we have that freedom; we know that we have that protection in each other.
Rachel: Yes; it’s a safe place. Our pastor has talked about it before—not allowing anybody else into your marriage bed—even talking about a memory, because memories are still there; then, that brings up insecurity. You have no idea what that part of your relationship is going to be like—so to be able to protect that—I’m just so thankful for.
Bob: Did you have girlfriends wondering why you weren’t sleeping with your hunky West Point boyfriend?
Rachel: Yes; I did. [Laughter] But that didn’t really bother me; because I was like, “I’m not, and I know what I’m doing,” and “Why do you care anyways?”
Harold: We both knew what that moment was going to mean to us in our marriage. For us, because we were so passionate about waiting until we were married, I think it made it easier for us to do that, even though the physical connection was strong.
Dave: Take us to the wedding night, and I don’t mean explicitly.
Harold: I know. [Laughter]
Dave: I’m just thinking, “You waited; you paid a price to wait. There’s couples out there, thinking, ‘It’s not worth it.’” Again, I don’t want to know anything about your wedding night, really—
Ann: —the emotions.
Dave: —but in terms of remembering that moment in your marriage and your wedding, do you feel like, “Yes; this was worth the wait”?
Harold: We’re glad we did it. It’s interesting—when you kind of go into the intimacy side of marriage, I expected, immediately, “We waited 23 years; it’s going to be this beautiful thing right off the bat.” That’s just not life; that’s not marriage. I think we see movies, and we picture all these picturesque things.
Ann: That’s the problem.
Rachel: Yes; that it is the problem.
Harold: It’s just not like that; right? Now, knowing that, and going through that discovery phase together, it has been incredible. It is something we love continuing to pursue. I think I had it all wrong in my mind. I think about culture and what the media does, and what it portrays it into, is not what it actually is and not what God intended. I think it’s just like love: you work at it every single day, and it grows with time; so does your marriage.
Ann: Anything great takes time and practice.
Rachel: Yes, yes; amen!
Harold: Lots of practice—[Laughter]—lots of kids. [Laughter]
Bob: The storybook—we’ve described it in storybook terms; but I want to make sure that folks understand that, along with the storybook, there’s real life. You guys have conflict, and you’ve got a real marriage with real issues. The fact that you purposed to do a lot of these things right, and you pursued one another in honorable ways, doesn’t mean that now you have a ticket to a problem-free marriage.
Rachel: Right; no.
Bob: You’re very open about it, not only on your vlog, but in the book you’ve written called A Higher Calling, where you write about pursuing love, faith, and Mount Everest for a greater purpose. I do have to tell you, when my wife read your book, she said, “Why does anyone want to climb Mount Everest?” [Laughter] We’ve got copies of the Earls’ book, A Higher Calling. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to order a copy; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to get your copy of the book, A Higher Calling, by Harold and Rachel Earls.
Of course, this is Thanksgiving weekend. We don’t want to skip over Thanksgiving and rush into Christmas, even though there have been decorations in the stores for months now; but we do want to be ready for when the season arrives. FamilyLife® has a resource that we have been making available this month to those of you who can help support our ministry with a donation of any amount. It’s a resource called “The Twelves Names of Christmas”™. It includes a dozen kid-friendly Christmas tree ornaments, each one depicting a different name or title for Jesus—like: “I am the Light of the World”; “I am the Living Water”; “I am the Lion of Judah”; or “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Each of these ornaments displays that name and gives you an opportunity to, as a parent, to explain more about the One whose birthday we celebrate in December.
Again, “The Twelve Names of Christmas” is our way of saying, “Thank you,” this month when you make a donation to help support the ongoing ministry of FamilyLife Today. FamilyLife Today is entirely listener-supported. It’s folks like you who make this daily program possible, along with the resources available on our website. All that we do, here, at FamilyLife Today is underwritten by you. If you can help with a donation this month, we’d love to send you “The Twelve Names of Christmas” as a thank-you gift. We hope it will help your holiday season be more focused on Jesus.
We also hope you can join us here, again, tomorrow when we’re going to hear more about Harold Earls’ journey up Mount Everest and about some of the anxiety that created for both of them. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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