My husband has worked away for most of our marriage. By this I mean he is not home at night for supper, he can’t tuck our kids into bed, and I don’t get the opportunity to make his lunch. He is often living in a work camp or a hotel. A rough, conservative estimate would say that he and I have spent as many nights apart as we have together in our 9 years of marriage.
When we got engaged, I imagined our marriage would resemble the way things were in my family home. My dad worked at a local mill, five days a week, ten hours a day as long as I can remember, and we saw him nightly. I didn’t think I would ever have to figure out, alone, the best bed time routine for five kids ages 6 and under. I have learned how to function without my husband home every evening. I’ve learned to fix dripping faucets, leaky refrigerators, overflowing toilets, broken window coverings and bicycle chains.
My husband working away has introduced hilarity into situations that probably would not have happened if he was home on the weekends – like the time my family was celebrating a late Christmas together in February. My husband was gone, we had just had about 3 feet of snow fall, and the car battery was dead. I was wading through hip deep snow in -30 C, trying to get the car started in time to get us to my parents’ house by 11 AM. Meanwhile, my two toddler boys had dumped olive oil all over the kitchen. Knowing how busy I was outside trying to get us on the road, my girls had tried to clean it up – with a dry mop and some kitchen towels.
Picture a house, slick with oil, from front door to bathroom and oil-soaked clothes – you’d have it just about right. My deepest regret is that I couldn’t even take pictures of the absolute chaos because there was just a nice sheen to everything. There are no pictures of me skating down the hallway on my hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water, the first, the second, or the third time, before it was finally cleaned up. My brother kindly gifted me an enormous bottle of olive oil for Christmas that year.
Comfort and power in Christ…
There have been dark times of abject loneliness, too. Elisabeth Elliott’s words, “Refuse self pity. Refuse it absolutely” help me keep my eyes fixed on the goal of the upward call in Christ Jesus as I, single-handed, complete what feels like the Herculean feat of orchestrating bed time and making it to church on time. Pity tempts me on birthdays, wedding anniversaries, celebrations, and at significant events for our children, because their father isn’t present.
My greatest comfort must be found in Christ. Christ, who came to earth, away from the Father, to do the work set before Him. Christ, who reigns in heaven now, while His Bride, the Church, is here on earth. Christ is acutely familiar with the loneliness of separation. And He is greater than my loneliness and sufficient for all my needs.
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Learning to trust and give thanks…
His power is made perfect in weakness. I am weak at 3 AM when fear raises its ugly head and tempts me to lay in terror, thinking of where my husband might be and if he is safe. Christ’s power is made perfect when I can pray the Psalms in the quiet early morning.
“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” Psalm 91:5-6 ESV God has been gracious and kind as I have learned to trust that even if my husband’s whereabouts and safety are unknown, that God has gone ahead and prepared our story.
I have learned to thank God when my struggles threaten to overwhelm. I earnestly thank the Lord for my husband, knowing there are widows and orphans, single moms and single women who would love to have the gift of a husband and father. I give thanks to God for the precious gift He has given me in the man who cares for me and lays his life down each day to care and provide for me. More than this though, I have learned to thank God that this is His means of sanctification for me.
“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
Christ who strengthens us
Wives, we make a grave mistake if we think, ‘If only my husband had different employment then I could be more cheerful and thankful’. If Christ laid His life down gladly for our sake – we sinners, who but for the grace of God despised Him – surely, we can lay our lives down. We can set our dreams aside and joyfully take up what He has for us.
We can look into Scripture and see a Christ who knows our frame – our weakness, our frailty. He remembers we are dust and He has called us and equipped us for this good work. It is Christ who strengthens us.