Deployment is like fasting. Think of the beginning of Lent. The first couple of weeks I often have an energy, a vigor, a strong will for fasting, but as the days wear on, it becomes more difficult. The grace and energy that filled those first few weeks slowly dissipates, resolve weakens. Hunger sets in. Sheer will power doesn’t cut it anymore.I realize that I can’t do it on my own. All that I do, I am in need of Jesus – His grace, mercy, power, love. And even though I know this, and I learn it every. single. year. I need reminding, and further transformation. And each time, Jesus has to bring me back to this place where I stop depending on myself and finally cry out, “Jesus, Son of David! Have pity on me!”
Deployment has felt like that same process – the process of going in strong, receiving consolation, and then, slowly and gently, Jesus takes it away in order to draw me nearer to Himself, and remind me of my need for Him. Sometimes (often times) I’m resistant to this lesson. I want the comfort and consolation – which are truly a gift from God – but it’s time for the gift of struggle. And while struggle and growth may seem wonderfully romantic with hindsight or as spectator, it’s not very glamorous in the moment.
As Christians we know that fasting is good for us – it’s biblical, part of our living tradition in the Church. But when you’re hungry, it’s often not very comforting to hear “hey, you know what? You’re going to grow so much from this fast.”
Great. That’s nice. But what I’d really like right now is a steak. Thanks.
In the beginning, those sort of encouragements fueled my fervor and commitment: I will grow. I will come out of this deployment with a heart and soul that have expanded by the love of God. I do believe that! I do. I know God is doing His work in my heart and in my husband’s. But hearing “you’re going to grow” when I desire to be with my husband, when I miss his company or physically ache for his comforting presence on a hard day…it makes my throat feel tight, and tears sting behind my eyes.
I know it’s true. I know it’s right. But it doesn’t make me feel any less hungry for his company.
But, as always, our Lord works in unexpected ways. I can’t dwell on how others’ attempts to console me don’t satisfy me…or how they rub me the wrong way…because in a strange, little way those very comments that make me want to cry are the ones that are sanctifying me. Jesus is reminding me, “Ashlie, drink this water and you will never thirst…for my Body is true food, and my Blood true drink…” Jesus is the one that satisfies and nourishes.
And yes, in my marriage with Joshua, Jesus nourishes me through my spouse – He gives me counsel, comfort, love, a firm word when needed and lots (and lots) of mercy. Josh and I lead each other to Heaven. Even now, as Josh is away, he makes every attempt to stay emotionally and spiritually connected, but it is entirely different. So in this season, while Josh is physically away and we go stretches without being able to talk, Jesus is refocusing my sight and reminding me that our marriage is foreshadowing, a taste of Heaven. My desire for my husband is good, and it is holy and in this fast from Joshua…Jesus is renewing my desire for Him, for Heaven. In this fast, our marriage will bear good fruit.