I tend to overthink, overwork things in my mind. And back then I thought that love and marriage meant knowing someone completely and being known completely. And I didn’t think I could ever be married to someone who didn’t know me. In short, I was looking forward to spending a lifetime with someone who fully understood me. Now this makes me laugh out loud. Because, 5 years into this thing called marriage, I anticipate I’ll still be “getting to know” my husband for the rest of my life. And as for being understood … well we can’t take all the mystery out of marriage now can we?
And so, that Summer of 2003, I knew I liked Jon, I knew we could be good friends, and I knew he would make an excellent husband but try as hard as I could I could not get him to fit into my relational mold. There were just too many things about him that didn’t jive with the idea of marriage that I had stuck in my head. And to top it all off we were just too different! Ironically, one of the passages I marked in Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman, a book I read that summer, still stands out to me today:
To the Christian who has prayed for years to be led to the right partner and who believes that the one he marries is indeed God’s choice for him, it is reasonable to conclude that the personality given is the one that best complements his own, the one that meets his needs in ways he could not himself have foreseen or chosen. It is the very differences themselves that open our eyes to what we are and, if we pray for the spiritual insight and understanding that Paul prayed for, we see them as God sees them and appreciate the glorious imagination of the Creator who made them.
Now, this means a lot more to me now than it did back then, but the one thing I understood at the time was that if you trust God to pick out your spouse and allow him to work it all out in your life, well then the person he has for you is bound to be the “perfect fit” regardless of whether or not you can work it all out in your head, regardless of whether he/she will every fully “get” you, regardless of how you feel 10 minutes/5 years/60 years into your marriage. How nice to trust someone else to do all the overthinking/overworking for you.
So this was the epiphany I had going into our multi-family camping trip that summer. And, in case we didn’t hit it off so well, I took my Elizabeth Elliot book collection along with me for some quiet reading, which Jon claims he found slightly unnerving.
But my pile of “dating” books (as he called them, I assert that they are not) couldn’t have been nearly as unattractive as the result of camping in the mud for 3 days. Yes, it poured all night, and many parts of the day, that we were camping. My parents have been using the same tent for as long as I can remember. It leaks now, and it certainly leaked then! After 3 days of camping in the mud, soggy clothes, no make-up and frizzy hair, I figured if he was still interested in me he must be something special.
But we had a good time in spite of the rain and I felt our “old” friendship coming back. We played lots of card games with our families, got reprimanded by the park ranger on several occasions for being loud after curfew, took the kayaks out on the water and went on a motorcycle ride.
Jon’s parents bought him a motorcycle for his birthday and he had been asking me to go out for a ride with him for several weeks now. I had politely refused on all occasions because I was certain it would just be awkward. But he kept bugging me and other people started making comments that suggested they thought I was scared, which I was not. So to prove them all wrong I finally conceded. But requested that he not go too fast (I didn’t want to have to hold on to him that tight) and that he stay in the park. He did neither. I still had fun and managed to enjoy the ride without wrapping my arms around him too tightly.
Word traveled fast about the motorcycle ride and I found this note in my work inbox the next day:
Although I appreciated my friends’ concerns, I just wasn’t quite ready yet to take the next step. But after that camping trip I did start to see Jon in a new light. I wrote in my journal:He’s very thoughtful and giving; and the things that used to really stand out and annoy me don’t seem to matter as much anymore.
August 8, 3003
August 8, 3003
August 10, 2003
Jon is knowledgeable. People like to listen to knowledgeable people because they know stuff and are interesting. Like reading a good book.
Jon’s good at talking and I like to listen.
And so, what turned out to be a cruddy time to go camping ended up being an ideal time to get to know my future mate. I considered that week in 2003 a real turning point in our relationship, but it was just a sample of many more pivotal moments to come, not the least of which was an October weekend in Connecticut and my first Coast Guard football game…