Had I known all that I do now, I think many of my fears would have been abated, but hind sight is always 20/20.
However, as I have reflected, as I have thought about how silly my fears were I have come to one astounding conclusion: My then fiancee was quietly demonstrating his manhood as we approached our temple date...he was showing me the kind of father he would someday be...and I, clueless, had to watch and wait until almost 4 years later to truly understand the scope of what had occurred during our whirlwind courtship and engagement.
As I watched and tears came to my eyes, I realized I was sobbing because my heart was full of love for my own dear husband. I knew from his previous actions that should we be in a similar situation to Elder Christofferson's parents, he would do exactly the same thing. He would make the necessary sacrifices to ensure the happiness of me and my children...because he does it every day...because he did it while we were dating and engaged.
Let me take you back almost 4 years.
A few weeks before Jeff met me, he broke up with a young woman he'd been dating for a few months. There were other reasons that went into ending the relationship, but one of the biggest factors had been his schooling. He was approaching the hardest semester of his program...the "make or break" semester. Many in his challenging RSCET program ended up failing and repeating this semester, some several times.
Jeff knew that he emotionally, physically, and mentally didn't have the capacity to foster any "romantic" relationships as he completed this particular semester. He even quit his part time job, a job he quite enjoyed, in order to focus his attention 100% on school and this particular semester.
When we met, there were no fireworks, no instant attraction. I thought Jeff seemed like a nice fellow and he thought I was a show off but saw that I was kind and didn't discount the possibility of me being one of his many friends that he already had in our single's ward.
It wasn't until a few weeks after we met that I became smitten. Jeff knew that he needed time for fun, and had actually come to my apartment one night in pursuit of one of my roommates. He was intending to ask her on a date. They were running partners, he thought she was a nice girl, and he didn't want to be all work and no play. He figured it would be worth it to ask her out....however, she wasn't there that night. Instead, myself and my other roommate, a recently returned sister missionary that he had been friends with before her mission, entertained him. Eventually, my roommate went to study and Jeff and I were left at my kitchen table discussing everything from life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I became intrigued by him as we discussed what we saw for our futures, I became smitten when I realized that our dating goals were similar and that we both had similar outlooks on what made relationships successful or broke them. His blue eyes sparkled as he talked about his education and we shared jokes.
I finally had to end our conversation and kick him out of my apartment at 1 AM. I had an early call time for rehearsal the next day...I didn't want him to leave. I could have talked to him all night, but I couldn't. As he left, I went to bed knowing that I was completely twitterpated. This feeling made me nervous and happy all at once. He had made it clear during our conversation that he was focusing on school this semester and that dating someone seriously was going to be out of the question. I decided and resolved to try to keep my crush a secret in order to avoid being hurt, but my roommates were intuitive and figured it out and banded together to get Jeff to at least ask me out on a date...
Our first date was a small disaster....but that is a story for another day...
What came next is probably a small miracle.
For some reason, Jeff, who had resolved not to pursue anything, continued to call and ask to spend time with me...and I, who had been offended deeply on our first date, found it in my heart to forgive him and to pursue a friendship... and then, our friendship started to evolve and change...before either of us realized it, we were dating...no talk defining the relationship occurred...we just liked each other and weren't pursuing spending time with anyone else.
During this time, unbeknownst to me, Jeff, who had always made it clear that he wasn't interested in marriage until he finished school, decided that he was going to propose...
He went to a local jeweler that was located inside a store that many of his friends would frequent. He had it in his mind that if he ran into anyone he knew, it would be a sign not to continue in his purchase of the ring...Nobody came...and a simple, modest engagement ring was procured...he then made the ultimate sacrifice.
In spite of much of our time together being focused on him studying, he was struggling that semester. He knew he couldn't be engaged and in school...Jeff made the hard choice to withdraw from his big, hard class that semester and to focus the majority of his attention on me, our relationship, and our impending engagement.
I have to laugh at myself when I think of the conversation that occurred after he made this choice and made his sacrifice.
We went to a CES fireside together on Sunday, it was (surprise, surprise) Elder Holland talking about marriage. As we listened to Elder Holland, we wrote notes back and forth. As our conversation progressed, I started to become nervous and scared. I had been to this point before in relationships and had come out hurt, confused, and alone.
The next day, we didn't see one another, I was busy with school. We texted back and forth and made plans to go to steak night at a local sports bar that served a cheap steak dinner every Tuesday. Dinner was pleasant, but my fears bubbled beneath the surface the whole time. I knew I was falling fast and hard for this young man and I didn't want to be hurt, especially knowing how determined he was to finish this semester. I didn't want to ultimately be deemed a distraction and liability and left alone...Finally, I couldn't hold it in anymore and on the car ride home we started discussing my fears and feelings. We pulled into the parking lot of our apartment complex (we lived in the same complex a few apartments away from one another), and he held my hand as I cried and offered him his "out"...I told him that I loved him, I knew I loved him, it was terrifying me...But I loved him enough to know what his aspirations and goals were and that if I was in the way of him pursuing his goals, he needed to end it now before I got in any deeper than I was. He held me as I sobbed (UGLY SOBBED) into his shoulder and laughed. He quietly reassured me the if he had wanted out, he wouldn't have continued to pursue me and that he wouldn't have made the sacrifices he had made to continue to see me...I didn't understand the depth of those sacrifices until much later. It wasn't until after we were engaged that I would find out that he had dropped his classes.
He played this sacrifice off as a choice he had made because he was already getting poor grades and knew there was no way he would be able to recover with the time left in the semester...it wasn't until we had been married a few years that he divulged the sacrifice, sheepishly...and I couldn't have loved him more for it...
I could kick myself for doubting him as our courtship progressed knowing what I know now...
He was laying the foundation for our future relationship. He knew that one day, I would be required to make large sacrifices for him and our family, and he knew that this would be the first of many...he truly loved me... I sometimes wish I'd seen it sooner, but it makes me appreciate him and our relationship all the more now.
I, unknowingly, stumbled into a relationship with someone who understood what it meant to be a man, a husband, and, someday a father.
He knew and knows that true love means sacrifice. Some sacrifices, like repeating that semester of school, are big...He didn't ask for accolades or a grand gesture in return. He didn't make a big announcement. He quietly chose to make the sacrifice and trusted that I would bear with him through the consequences of that sacrifice...that I loved him enough to wait patiently as it took longer for him to finish his schooling...
Some sacrifices, like the ones he makes every day are small.
He comes home, tired from a day of work, or travel and snaps quickly and quietly into husband and daddy mode. I'm sure all he wants to do is hide in a corner somewhere to regain his strength and senses, but he walks through the door, accepts the eager hugs and kisses of our sweet babies, plays with them and meets their needs, kisses his tired, haggered wife- who probably not feeling so attractive after a day of housework and child rearing... and asks "What can I do to help?"
He could choose to sit in the corner- he knows I would let him for as long as I could stand it. He knows I would make that sacrifice of a little more of my sanity for him...but he chooses to sacrifice a little of his every day...
The big sacrifice was made so that he could demonstrate his ability to himself and to me to make the little sacrifices that we would need to grow together.
If I could give my girls any advice when it comes to dating in the future, if I could tell them how to know if a young man truly loves them, I would tell them to look to their father and his example.
True love means sacrifice.True love isn't selfish, and true love doesn't require rewards and grand gestures to acknowledge that sacrifice has been made.
I would tell them to look to see what that young man has sacrificed for them. Does he have a servant's heart? Is he willing to do whatever it takes to be sure that their relationship is being fostered to slowly grow and change into something more...can they openly express their fears and know that he won't use those fears against them? Will he, like their father, give up his own comfort momentarily in order to help them when they have no strength left?
They may not see it all at once, but their father really is a "true man"... He works every day to be more like his Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. He quietly gives them love, strength, and sacrifice.
He is the best father they could ask for...I know, and he knows, that one day they will, without meaning it, tell them they "hate" him, he knows that his sacrifices won't always go noticed, but he has faith that he will be rewarded later on with the same courtesy and love he has shown them and me. He has faith that God will reward him for his efforts to be a good provider and for the sacrifices he makes in order to ensure their happiness and his.
Should we someday have a son, I can only pray that he will be able to glean from his father's example to become as wonderful a man as Jeff is.
Happy Father's Day, Jeff.
I love you more every day, with every sacrifice big or small. I only pray I can repay you in kind for all the kindness,love, respect, and sacrifices you have given me. Your small sacrifices don't go unnoticed. I wish I remembered to say more often how much every little thing you do means to me. I couldn't ask for a better husband or father for my children.
I often tell you that my world doesn't work without you in it, and I mean that with my whole heart. Your small sacrifices allow me the chance to recoup my strength and make me a better person and a better mom. I hope that you can say the same about me, and if you can't, I hope that I can grow to become better so that you are made stronger and better by me.
I love you. Thank you for choosing me and for continuing to choose me every day. I will be grateful every day that you made that choice and continue to.