|The pendant I wore almost every day while Gabe was deployed. |
St. Michael, Patron Saint of Paratroopers
Being alone in a home designed for two is even now quite normal. I sit here on the couch I covered when Gabe was deployed which is on top of the rug I purchased while he was gone (I was so proud) next to Samson who was for the majority of the 15 months my only earthly salvation from lonely nights and bitter tears. We are watching Grey's Anatomy; hearing the theme makes my heart curl up... Gabe and I watched most of season 2 just before he left then I finished it on my own - it kept the house from an eerie silence and helped me pretend he was still there. I am typing away on the laptop I was so excited to receive because it meant I could more easily keep in contact with the love of my life. There are so many little reminders of that period in our marriage. It was over a year ago: he came home to me March 16, 2008. We have now been together for as long as we were apart (a few days longer actually). And yet... there are reminders.
Beth and Levi are fast approaching their one year anniversary of his homecoming (YAY! :-D) so she's been posting old blogs and pictures, etc. (they are truly a blessing to read again - thank you, B) which of course has caused me to go back and read some of my old writings as well... It's truly incredible how much God has done with that situation. There were times (and I am sure there will be times as well) in which I could not have honestly said that I believed any good could come of our circumstance. Times in which not only my faith was tested, but my entire worldview. Often I felt weaker, not stronger as a result. The experience was not a happy one nor was it one I would choose to forgo if I could. I am so grateful to have been there. So grateful to have been counted among the unsung heroes (some of which I still have the pleasure of knowing) and to now have a unique appreciation for the man I married; his simple presence is more than a lot of men can give and that alone is worth my affection.
I have also learned a lot the past couple years. I have questioned everything I once thought unquestionable. I have looked God in the eyes and angrily interrogated His very existence. I have taken a discouraged step back and examined love, marriage, friendship. Deployment (and homecoming) was a traumatic event for me - one I am still working through in many ways - and it forced me to be honest with myself. I am a failure in so many ways: not the wife I want to be or the friend or daughter or sister. But perhaps the most important lesson I've learned is that I am not the Christian I want to be, rather the Christian God wants me to be. The lesson that until I am pursuing that objective with everything in me I will have nothing significant to offer any other area in my life.
God has taken frustration, hurt, desperation, isolation and turned it into something beautiful. So many times during that period I cried out to Him, begging His deliverance, pleading for some sanity. So many nights I wrestled with my convictions and lost battles to the dark. So many mornings I awoke unrested and dispirited. Yet God had a plan. Like He did for His people so long ago, God took my weaknesses and the many shortcomings which made a tough situation even tougher into His hands. He allowed me to break and I assumed it meant He no longer cared. But then He gently soothed my writhing spirit and started working with the pieces. I am still a work in progress (as one Christian put it a "Recovering Pharisee") and I still have some scars from the breaking, but now I can see that He has never stopped with this plan of His. He has never forgotten that I belong to Him even when I have not been sure of it myself.
"Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:18
"Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Cor. 12:9
Someday Gabe and I will tell our children about our experiences. We will probably have many additions to the long list we have now of situations God has used to prove over and over His profound love for us. I will tell them how difficult it was and how it took me nearly losing my faith altogether in order to understand it. I look back on that trying time with sweet sentiments and a solemn appreciation.
"'Who knows what you would have reached if you had crossed the brook without ever leaving home? You may be sure the Landlord has brought you the shortest way: though I confess it would look an odd journey on a map.'" Pilgrim's Regress, C.S. Lewis