Jeff and I got married when we were fairly young. That is to say, he was fairly young, and I was practically still in diapers. Alright, okay. He was 23 years old, and I was twenty. Hardly unheard of. But all the same, pretty young.
And lately I've found myself thinking...how developed is one's personality, really, at that age? Likes, dislikes, preferences. How one responds to stress, or conflict. Personally, I feel that I'm quite a different person now than I was at the tender age of twenty. Oh, many things have remained the same, such as my fascination with cookbooks, love of reading, and adoration of certain kinds of music. I have maintained the same belief system.
But as I've grown and matured, things have shifted a bit. Quite a bit. The way I respond to conflict. Whether I stand up for myself in a tense situation - or don't. The way I view people. My worldview has expanded, and yet become more focused. And I'm a mother, for heaven's sake. I've been through a lot now which I hadn't back then. Those experiences in and of themselves are incredibly shaping.
And here's the thing: as I look around at the adults around me, sometimes I just feel so blessed to find that I still like my husband. Even speaking apart from LOVE here, I like him. I liked him back then (obviously!), and I like him even more now. I like the person he has become.
I like the way he fathers our children. Oh, I'd seen him interact with kids before we got married. His only sibling is a brother 14 years his junior, and I had seen how they were together. I can truthfully say "I always knew he'd be a great dad." But really, how can you know, at age 23, whether a guy will drag himself out of bed at 3 am to go cuddle our wailing toddler? Whether he'll have a "sixth sense" about when a certain boy is running in circles beside his bed, desperate to use the toilet but too sleepy to know what to do about it? How he'll react to a vomiting child, an annoyingly affected phrase repeated over and over until we all want to smash our heads into the wall...a sick wife? How can you really know, when it's all yet to be experienced?
I like the way he serves our church. I mean, I always knew he was a good guy - polite, well-liked by my parents (and all the other adults I knew). But how could I know that he would get up early on the first Saturday of each month to organize and cook for a men's breakfast? How could I guess just how tender his heart would be for those hurting in our church...how sympathetic, yet also practical and so wise. How he'd recognize the multiple parts to any story, be utterly vulnerable with the other elders in our congregation, get to potlucks early to help set up tables and chairs? How could I imagine that he would spontaneously suggest we head to the hospital to pray with an ailing member of our body? How could I see that far?
I like his sense of humor. The way he encourages me to find ways to laugh in so many situations, no matter how maddening they may be? How he reminds me, when things feel sour, of all the sweetness which our life holds? How could I have known that his occasionally cheesy jokes would mature into such a good-natured mentality, which adds such depth and richness to our times together?
I like the way he supports me. His heart for homeschooling - how he encourages me when I sometimes feel so frustrated about the transition of doing school with two elementary ages, (essentially) two toddlers and a baby in the mix. How he's always willing to brainstorm ways to help things go more smoothly? And even how, when I was going through a particularly dark time recently, he broached the idea of looking into a charter school? I knew he must've been worried about me to suggest such a thing, and he passionately believes in homeschooling, but he loved me enough to make the suggestion. (Don't look for any changes in our home educating soon, though.) How could I have known, in those tender early years, how he'd encourage me in my interests, stick up for me with the children, and defend me when I've come under attack? How could I have guessed that I would've known I could always, always depend on him?
And I like the way he loves me. The way I'll catch him grinning at me at the most unexpected times, affection written all over his face. How he finds me attractive even when I feel my most repulsive. That he loves the way I look in sweat pants? The fact that he loves my body, whether the size of my jeans is double digit number or a single. How could I have known, gazing at him under the stars as he proposed, or standing with him in the front of that church, or even moving across the country with him when I was 24, how tender he would be with me, how sweet, how ardent, how faithful? How could I possibly have guessed that the lanky teenager I fell in love with, the one with the piercing blue eyes and the oddly-colored pickup truck, the one who took me on my first date when I wasn't (quite) 15 years old...that he would be the love of my life - and what's more, the person I liked best in the whole wide world?
And I know...we've grown together. We've shared experiences that have bonded us, built our marriage into what it's become. And yes, there are ways that we're still those starry-eyed sweethearts on our wedding day on that hot summer day in Kansas.
But still. Oh, still. Sometimes I feel so blessed that I could burst. Because not only have we chosen to love one another, not only does he still make my heart flutter and my pulse race, but truly, amazingly, wonderfully...
I still like him. I really, really do. And what's more, I like him better now than ever.