I went to Mommy group again today, and the topic was "Marriage." After the last meeting I wasn't sure what I was walking into. After all, I felt pretty out of place when the subjects of husbands had come up at the end of that meeting.
The time came for the presentation and our speaker took the podium. Although I'd been looking forward to the speech, I was also preparing myself to feel sad about little tips 'to put in place today' that would cause me to think, "I wish he was here."
A few paragraphs into her speech the speaker mentioned that her husband had spent most of the last 20 years in the military--at least part time. My ears perked up. As she went on she explained that her husband had signed up for the reserves several years into their marriage... and that she'd never expected for him to actually have to deploy to another country, especially in a war... BUT...
He did. Her entire speech was about what she had learned in her marriage because of her unexpected journey as a military wife.
I was immediately encouraged--For the first time in my five months here I was sitting face to face with another military spouse who knows what it's like to miss her husband and to have him in dangerous territory for months at a time. (Being away from base and that fellowship of sorts has been difficult).
She sat down, by me incidentally, and I quietly slid my military I.D. over to her... Her face softened, and she put her hand on my shoulder and whispered 'bless you.'
Then it was time to break into discussion groups. And... just as happened last time, it became a time to vent about the frustrations women face with their husbands... A question was asked point blank--what are some of the qualities that you respect about your husband... There was silence... and then there were some... "He never helps the way I want him to in the house, but he tries... I guess..." responses.
I understand these responses. I do. I've had them myselves at times. I don't pretend that I have a corner on the 'how not to be exasperated with my spouse' market (in fact--just ask me about bookshelves sometime! ;))
But what the whole morning made me think was this:
I am so singularly blessed to be in the marriage that I'm in. Even the challenges of Navy life bring me many blessings.
Because I spend so much time apart from my husband, I am afforded the opportunity to step back and examine our marriage and what I can do to try to improve it when we're back together. This deployment, I believe God has been bringing to light my inhibitions and fears. He's been showing me how much I hold back in life in general, and in my marriage as a result. I've had time to really look that square in the face and determine to change. It seems that each separation I make a discovery about myself in the context of our marriage. It seems strange that things work that way--that I would learn more about our marriage during times when we can't work together on it, but someone that's what happens. It's actually a comfort in some ways--"Being Married" doesn't just stop because he's gone. There is still work being done. Attitudes of my own to challenge, prayers to pray, revelations to be made.
Because we are away from one another, our time togehter is sweeter--often it is bittersweet as we prepare for separations, or come together after a time away knowing that looming in the future there will be more time to be apart. But it is sweet nonetheless. We touch each other more lovingly, fan the flames more passionately, speak more gently (at least sometimes).
When he is away I have time to reflect on all that my husband brings to my life and to our marriage... because suddenly it isn't there anymore. It is sad to miss him and all the little ways that he blesses me, but the flip side of that sadness is the realization of what all of those things are to me.
And when we come together again we have the joy of newlyweds all over again.... but deeper. When we got married we didn't fully know what we'd been missing in our lives before then. Each day we know a little bit more... And that makes the missing even more intense and the reunion even more joyful.
As I've said before... Distance doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. It's easy to drift apart during those long spans of time...
But God can work all things for good, and in our case, he is spinning even long separations and deployments into something that builds us into better people: better mates, better servants, better individuals...