It was a fall weekend, much like this, when a much younger version of myself met a much younger version of Nick. He had come on our youth retreat with a friend. He was immature then, even ingratiating. I didn’t like him, then I got used to him, then I grew to know him, and eventually I loved him. The years passed quickly, and that was (shocking to admit) 20 or more years ago. And time is tricky, you know. It bends and wrinkles moments and skin, it builds then devours memories of bliss and sorrow. But here we are, and our story continues to be made new. God works our partialness into wholeness together. Sometimes he is dragging me along through stress and unsureness, and other times I am holding him up out of depression and struggle. And it’s muddy, and tiring, but also hopeful and comforting, because whatever Time and the Enemy are doing to drown us, we are always pulling a life raft alongside…you know, the old “cord of three strands” (thanks, Solomon). And sometimes, what feels like the “little stuff” becomes the definition that carries you through when life threatens to overwhelm. And today I need to stop and focus on the little stuff that saves us, over and over.
Nick is a techie, an inventor, an ADD bundle of doing. So I was surprised after almost 14 years of marriage when he said, “I want to read your books. I want to know you better.” He had signed up for Audible, an audio book app, and he began to load it up with my favorites: Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, 1984, and more. He listened every day on his long commute, and he came home eager to ask about the lady in the attic, what happened to Piggy, or the modernity of Big Brother. We talked about culture, and society, or, while drifting off to sleep, whether Jane would find love. Let me tell you, ladies, there is nothing sexier than your man whispering some Jane Eyre to you. Seriously. More importantly, the talks built to something more than a run-down of the kids’ schedule, or a check-in about bills, or a momentary “hey” looking up from a pile of grading or sinkful of dishes. Somehow he knew that what we needed to break out of the mundanity we had fallen into required a sacrifice of time and interest on his part.
And I felt more in those moments, talking excitedly about books with my previously non-reading husband, than I felt in our wedding vows and 14 years of marriage, how much Nick loves me and wants to know me. This man of quiet love and daily honor spoke more words than all those books together. He made our love new and novel.
The story is not to tell you that love is easy, but it is simple. It is knowing what makes the other one tick and caring enough to learn it, or do it. And when the hard days come, and we are grasping for the edge of that life boat, the reminder that knowing each other and loving each other is a priority keeps our head above water. Not long ago, I attempted to return the favor of all the time listening to those novels; I versed myself in table and chop saw usage and took over a never-ending flooring project so Nick and I could have more time together. The differences that could separate us have become tools of intimacy, of knowing each other more each day. And I don’t say it often publicly, so this is, in my own way, a thank-you letter back to Nick for wanting to know me, even at my worst, and striving to do so in myriad little ways.