We met years before I ever remember him. It seems like he gradually came into my life, and then suddenly he was there, integrated, and had been there for ages. He was four years younger than I was, and so the husband-hunting section of my brain didn’t even register him as an option.
He attended the youth group that I had graduated from and was volunteering with as a leader. Because he didn’t have a car, my family often picked him up and drove him home from church events. He spent the night on our couch, and I would sit up late at night with him and my siblings, talking about God and life and anything else that came to mind.
I grew to appreciate his perspective. I liked the way that his mind worked, and the conclusions he came to. I enjoyed the easy banter we had. I knew that I was excited to see what God ended up doing in his life.
And then, one day, we were watching a movie with the youth group. There must have been at least 20 people stuffed into a small living room. We ended up squished on the couch together. And suddenly, I realized that he had muscles. Like, manly manly musicles. And they were very attractive. This sudden flip shocked me.
Over the next months, I repremanded myself for being attracted to an 18 year old. But I had had plenty of crushes in the past, and so I decided that this would pass like the others did.
It didn’t pass.
One night, he was staying on our couch, and my siblings had gone to bed. He reached over and held my hand. At 22, it was the first time in my life that someone had held my hand. He told me that he liked me, and I admitted to liking him too. Looking back, it seems like such a middle school scenario.
We decided that we wanted to date. He was my first real boyfriend, my first real kiss. He holds just about every milestone in my life as my first and only.
But our age difference created tension with my family. My parents had concerns about our relationship, and I felt caught between respect for them and the excitement of this budding love with someone I truly wanted to be with. I desperately wanted them to love him the way I did. This underlying tension continued for years, and it has taken time and prayer to heal the rifts that it caused.
We found encouragement other places, with mentors at church and Christian friends who encouraged us in our faith. We spent most of our time together volunteering at youth events. A few years into our relationship, we both knew that we wanted to get married. But though we were in a much better place with my family, they still felt that we weren’t in a good place for marriage yet. It was starting to become obvious that we needed to get married or break up, the relationship felt stuck with no good resolution. We decided that we needed to separate.
I felt that it was the right decision, even though it was incredibly painful at the time. I decided to take my brother up on an offer to visit him in Guam, and a few months after our breakup, I was flying to the other side of the planet for 6 months. We had decided that if either of us felt God’s leading with another person, that we were free to pursue it.
The entire time that I was in Guam, he kept in touch with me. Even without the romantic aspect of our relationship, our hearts were interconnected as friends. I spent a lot of time praying about other young men that I was meeting, but God seemed suspiciously silent on the issue.
When I finally came home from my travels, I had concluded that some decisions God leaves up to us. I needed to be able to choose a path that my life would go down, and be confident in it. I had spent too much time fearing that I would miss God’s perfect will for my life, and it was causing me to second guess everything that I did.
We slowly started spending time together again, going out in groups and seeing each other periodically. We had decided that if we were going to be together again, we would be engaged and get married quickly. So we really just needed to decide the time frame for that before we moved forward.
One Sunday afternoon, stopping by his apartment on my way home from a quick trip to New York, he proposed to me out of the blue, and I said yes. We were married less than 3 months later on a hot July day amidst family and friends.
I still find myself wishing that our love story was prettier. That we had made different choices, that it wasn’t so discouraging and painful in places. I have seen other couples who progressed neatly from milestone to milestone, but for us it was a dark and twisty road to where we are now. I have also struggled feeling that we don’t “fit” together well. Our personalities, physical appearance, and upbringing are very different. At one point we were told that we looked wrong together, and my mind fixates on that at times. As a teen I remember visualizing my husband, and it is hard to tear down that hypothetical ideal and embrace the flesh and blood man that God gave me.
Regardless, God has always been faithful to us. Every year that passes, I learn more about how to rely on God and how to love and respect my husband. He is the man that I needed in so many ways, and I am so grateful to walk through this life at his side.
I think that my advice to young women would be to trust God enough to let go of what they want so desperately. We know, deep in our hearts, what the right thing is to do. But it is easy to convince your love-struck mind to ignore God’s prompting. There may also be a time in your life when you just have to choose a path and move forward, and I would encourage you to do that confidently. Know that God’s will for your life is to trust and obey him, but sometimes he leaves the choices of where and who we end up with to us.