A Real Love Story: Yours (A Message From One Bride to Another)
My husband is gone a lot. As a US Army Ranger, his job requires it. Sometimes it’s for training, other times it’s for deployment. Right now, it’s because he’s in the Mountains Phase of Ranger School. I will likely hear from him again in 3 weeks, and hopefully see him in 6 weeks, but it’s not for certain.
Over the past 2 years since he joined the Army, we have spent a total of 14 months apart from each other so far, with many more separated months ahead of us. Sometimes I will go for so long without seeing him or hearing from him that “My Husband” almost seems like this mythical creature to me. It’s surreal to be so married and so alone at the same time. I remember one night I was at home thinking about these things, even to the point of feeling discouraged and sorry for myself, having a private little pity party, when it started to rain outside. It was really coming down all of a sudden, and all at once I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t getting wet. There, in the torrential downpour, I was dry, warm, and fed because my husband, Joshua, was out there somewhere working very hard to make sure of it. At that moment, our entire cozy apartment felt like my husband’s embrace, and I felt very close to him.
A little over 9 years ago, when we entered into this sacred relationship called Holy Matrimony, we became a living metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His Church, as all such marriages do. I’ve always understood this on some level, but since we became a military family, we live this in a whole new light. I spend so many of my days as the Bride waiting for her Groom to return, and the case is usually that, like the Church, I do not even know exactly when he’s coming back. I just know that, eventually, he is. That’s one of the reasons why my faith grows stronger the longer we live this way. It’s not as difficult to believe in the reality of an invisible, inaudible God when I so often find myself needing to believe in an equally real, invisible, inaudible husband. And just as I know that Joshua does exist, that he loves me, and that he won’t be gone forever, so my heart is able to more deeply understand this mystery about Christ, the eternal Lover of my soul. The truth is that nothing we are used to now is permanent, and every time my husband comes home and I find myself in his arms again, I feel all the more assured of the reality of Heaven and the impermanence of anything and everything else.
There is a reason why so many military marriages do not make it, though. This is not an easy lifestyle, and not everyone has received the grace to see it this way. For some, while our husbands are gone, it is easier to create a different reality and start living a different life, as if the Husband creature is truly mythical. As if marriage itself is something we made up. Many are unfaithful. Some give up. Or some, even though they hold on, they create such a prideful independence for themselves that when their husband returns, there is no room or role for him to fill, not without bitterness or resentment. Honestly, I understand very well why these things happen. I do get it, and only pray that God continues to grant me the grace to sustain in His truth, because I know that living by any other reality can only result in much worse pain and emptiness than this necessary loneliness of being faithful. I’ve learned that even this loneliness is a blessing, because it opens up for me the gift of uniting intimately with Christ and His own loneliness on the cross, to know Him deeply in that space. United with Christ’s suffering, any pain that comes from faithfulness can bring life. But the pain that would result from trying to avoid this loneliness would only bring devastation. So even when Joshua is away, I’m ready for him. I make sure he has a fresh toothbrush, sharp razor and plenty of shaving cream and shower gel. His side of the bed is never undone, except to wash the bedding. And I do things for him that I know will bless him when he gets home. For example, (and I can tell you this even though it's a surprise, because he has no internet access and won't see it) he has this pair of really old pajama pants that I got him for Christmas a long time ago when we were still engaged. They’re his favorite. He says they’re the most comfortable things in the world, and he loves them because I gave them to him. He rarely wears any other pants around the house (except for Ranger panties, of course. Hooah.). These pants are so old and worn out that they aren’t even pants anymore, just shredded, threadbare shorts barely hanging from the exposed waistband. I know they’re not going to last much longer and he will be devastated when he can’t wear them anymore. So I’m learning how to sew. And in a few weeks, I will be going to a particular sewing class where I will be guided in making him a brand new pair of pajama pants myself, because I know that’s the only thing he will like enough to be able to move on from the pirate pants (though I know he will always keep the pirate pants in his closet). I get to pick out the fabric and everything, so I intend to choose the type of material I know he loves. You see, he’s not home right now, but he’s real. And I still live like it. My prayer is that even when we are apart, though we are having vastly different experiences and will each change in our own way, that God will grow us each in ways that compliment each others' growth, and that though we are separate in body, that since we are both still in Christ, we are still growing together in His love.
Just so you know, my man does his part in being this living metaphor for Christ in His Church as well. He does it so well. A couple of days ago, he had an 8 hour pass from Ranger School to stock-up on supplies and do laundry and whatnot. He’s lost almost 20 lbs so far, and was so exhausted he could barely keep his eyes from crossing all day. I can honestly say that I can’t think of any profession in the world where men work harder, experience more difficulty, and are tested more than the US Army Rangers. With his laundry home, I saw for the first time that on the inside of his hat, Joshua has written the words, “For Her” in black sharpie. When he saw me looking at it, I twinkled my eyes at him and said , “Me?” “Of course. For you,” He said.
Please remember us in your prayers, as we continue to live this story. Pray for his strength, and for mine. If you recognize any of this as real Love, I pray you also recognize that it is not just our story, but yours too. After all, our little living metaphor is only a small glimpse of Christ’s intense Love for you, and the sacrifices He has already made so that you may live. We can’t physically see Him or hear Him right now, but as surely as I did not make Joshua up, no one made Jesus up either. You could say that He made us up. He is more than real, and He will be back for us. I don’t know what’s taking Him so long, just like this past week when I was expecting to hear from Josh and it took so much longer than I was expecting. Days longer. I didn’t know what was going on and I felt I was in the dark, until all of a sudden he called while I was doing the dishes and next thing I knew I was running out the door to go pick him up. Later, he was able to explain to me what took so long. Someday we will understand everything that we don't today, but for now there is plenty to remember Him by, and look forward to. There is plenty of light when we know where to look, and He always finds ways to make Himself known. For our part, we can choose to find ways to reciprocate the Love He gives by knowing Him and His will. We can choose not to live by any lesser reality, but instead, to say with all of our hearts, “We proclaim your death, oh Lord, and profess your resurrection, until You come again.”