Our family is facing my husband’s first longterm deployment this year. I say “long” knowing that six months is not as long as it is for some. But six months qualifies as long for us.
Before my husband entered the military a few years ago, we had spent our entire adult lives serving shoulder to shoulder in local church ministry. The longest we had ever been apart was maybe a week or two. Chaplaincy has changed all of that.
For months now I’ve known roughly how long he’ll be away. But today I actually sat down with a calendar and counted — 194 days! I looked at that number and thought, Wow, that’s a long time. But you know what? Surprisingly, I didn’t feel the least bit panicked about it. Strange to say, I had an incredible sense of peace.
I remember the first time we had to be apart, at the outset of this career transition. We were facing thirteen weeks of separation, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. Talk about panic! I was filled with fear.
I retreated to the bedroom after asking my husband to take the kids out for ice-cream. I needed to be alone. I needed space, not just to have a good cry, but to wail if necessary. I had to emotionally wrestle my way toward some semblance of acceptance.
You see, I’m a problem solver who can usually find ways to work around unpleasant roadblocks. I’m good at the mental gymnastics it takes to convince myself that a crumby situation is actually a golden opportunity. But that time, I felt helpless. I couldn’t turn the thing around. There was no alternate route, no silver lining. My crying session was really just my frustrated, adult self throwing a major temper tantrum.
Looking back, those thirteen weeks were not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. They weren’t pleasant by any stretch of the imagination, but they didn’t crush me. God’s presence was so real, and His grace gave me a strength I didn’t know I could experience. In the end, those dreaded weeks were nothing like I imagined they’d be, because God can be trusted to keep His promises.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.Psalm 29:11 NIV
So, this surprising peace that I have right now — I’m hoping it’s evidence that those thirteen weeks toned my flabby faith somewhat, that I’ve learned to trust a little more this time around. I don’t know the ins and outs and ups and downs that lie ahead. There very well could be more tears and tantrums, but I think I’m more willing to rest in God’s promises this time. And maybe these 194 days will stretch and build my faith muscle even more. Who knows…I could be in the best shape of my life after this!