“It's a darn good thing I love you! “
I've said it many times through the years, usually to a disobedient child, or forgetful husband, or someone else close to me who has made some sort of faux pas. Truth is, you don’t have to like someone to love them. When I am frustrated with a person, and my head is on straight, and I’m not too tired or hungry, I beckon the forces of love and remind myself of the eternal nature of my relationships, because generally, for me at least, love is the easy part. Like is a lot harder.
After nearly 4 decades of loving and liking the same man I can say that it matters just as much that we like each other as it does that we love each other. I think of love as the failsafe, the back up, the thing that gets us through when we can hardly stand each other, which thankfully is not very often. I like Dave! I like him even more now than I did as an 18-year-old all those years ago. I like how he has evolved, I like how he has interests of his own and doesn't depend on me for entertainment. I like and respect his intellect and his work ethic. I like the way he interacts with our grandkids and his Primary kids at church. I like how kind he is to my family - of course to our children, but also to my siblings and certainly to my mother when she was alive. I like how comfortable he is with my friends. I like how Libby and he go walking and fishing and to the gym together. Two of my favorite people on the earth, and I have complete trust and adoration for both of them. I like that he scratches my back at night. And I like the way David laughs at me, how he thinks I'm kind of funny which I really am, but few people know it.
I am so grateful that I also like every single one of my children. Not every mother can say this. Most mothers would say they love their children, but like is another matter. When our children were teenagers there was an ebb and flow to the like aspect of our relationships. With four children who were teenagers at the same time, there was almost always a time when I did not necessarily like one of them. They took turns having this distinguished position. It seems as a parent that my kids took turns being obnoxious, disobedient, disrespectful … pick any term that can be applied to the transitioning teenager … and one of the kids was going to have it at some point or another. It was easy enough to love them. God put that in my heart when they were born. But it took a lot of discipline, a lot of prayer, and sometimes some distance to keep the like alive. Then, just when I thought that even the love was going out the window, my kid matured, or the Lord stepped in, or I calmed down and the figurative well of mutual appreciation filled up again. If you can get through to adulthood, without addiction rearing its ugly head, then generally those kids turn into palatable, if not delicious, human beings with whom you yearn to spend time, space and conversation. That’s where we are now. I crave my kids. And their kids. Lucky me!
Let me add that it is also important in our relationships that we try to make ourselves likeable; that we at least entertain the possibility of enjoying some of the things our loved ones enjoy. I remember the summer Dave’s mom, Helen, decided she was going to like the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, she already “liked” them, but I think she made the conscious decision to follow them, to get to know the players, and to “engage” when the games were on TV. Dave’s dad, Don, was a Pirates fan (Dave and I both grew up in Pittsburgh) and those games were a daily ritual in the family room. So I imagine that Helen’s sudden interest in the team was an effort to learn to like something Don liked. I might be wrong, but it seems like a good idea. Last year, when we subscribed to a cable channel that carried the Pirates, I felt a connection to Helen as I too learned the names of the players, and followed the team with Dave and Kate. It became a bonding force, us cheering for our team.
My HOPE for today is that we recognize that there is a difference between Love and Like; that we use tenderness and consideration and good humor to make ourselves likeable. And I hope to remember that when the like grows dim, we can turn to love. I hope that we make a concerted effort in our relationships to nurture the Like as much as we nurture the Love.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.