If/Then

During my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan I attended a Bible study led by a friend and fellow military spouse. We were covering the book of Esther using a Beth Moore study plan.

Mid-way through this study Beth Moore, posed this question: “If _____________, then _______________. If (insert worst fear), then (what?).” I knew the first blank: If my husband comes home broken, missing limbs or suffering from PTSD- Then, what? I become a full-time care-giver on top of being a full time mom? Then I go back to work so I can support our family? Then I’ll spend my days at Walter Reed? Then what? I had no idea.

Then Beth Moore in her not-so-subtle Texas twang said, “God. God fills in the second blank.”

If (worse fear), then God.

I thought Beth Moore was crazy.

I spent most of my days during that deployment vacillating between not wanting to leave the house and not wanting to return. I didn’t want to leave because what if someone from the Navy needed to get in touch with me and I wasn’t home. And I didn’t want to return because what if the black government vehicle was sitting in my driveway awaiting my return. As the deployment dragged on I found myself forcing myself to leave the house for the sake of my own sanity and my young children’s, yet I could only stay out a few hours, any more than a few and I was terrified to drive home. I remember pulling onto our street and pausing where the blacktop meets the dirt, the place where I didn’t have a clear view of the whole driveway, and praying that only my mom’s car was parked there. If her car was there I could move forward up the driveway, if not I paused again and braced myself for the spending more time alone with 2 small children, in very large house, that reminded me of the large void deployment had put in my life.

It was a really dark year. A year, which I naively thought, would be my darkest. In a lot of ways it was; I got up at zero dark thirty to have some quiet time to myself. I went to bed late in the night because I was awaiting a call or an email from my husband as he started his day on the other side of the world. I was afraid all the time. The darkest part of this year was the unknown. Wondering everyday if my husband was in harm’s way and bracing myself for the news that I would have to meet him at a Naval Hospital somewhere. I wasn’t afraid of death; death is a darkness that has an end. It’s a done deal, but the physical and mental trauma of war are things you have to learn to live with, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to do that.

But here’s the thing-the thing Beth Moore had stressed during that Bible study I attended mid-deployment…If (worst fear), then God. It’s true.

My husband returned home a few months after that Bible study ended. The physical darkness of the deployment year ended the moment he stepped off the plane. However, it was not the end of the emotional darkness. The worries and fears I felt during deployment didn’t magically disappear. In some ways they worsened. I was constantly assessing noise level, debris on the roadside, sleep patterns, and work load to manage any triggers that may bring the darkness of war into our home. The irony was it was already there.

I struggled to adjust to life as a family as we were used to being apart. I struggled to let go of the ways that deployment caused me to be wary of everything. I struggled to be light and live in the moment. I would rather analyze all the ways in which the past had failed me and I would retreat into myself, trying to conceal my angst and anxiety. The unspoken unease that wafted around us as we tried to live life post Afghanistan was heavy.

Then God.

My worst fear came true. What I had written in the worst fear blank during that Bible study came true. My husband and I had been affected in pretty significant ways by his time overseas. When I realized my worst fear was playing out before my very eyes there were only 2 choices I could see: Succumb to the darkness or grab hold of the Light. Then God.

I am very fortunate that in the darkness, in the midst of my worst fear coming to fruition, then God. God showed up in the women in my community. I was loved out of the darkness by a group of women who knew the Light and shined it into my darkness. They invited me in, gave me purpose, taught me how to pray, took me out for coffee, babysat my children, brought me dinner, showed me how to let the Light in.

Fast forward to a year ago. I did another study on the book of Esther and I learned something almost as life altering as “If (worst fear), then God.”

God is the main character of the story of Esther though He is never specifically mentioned. He is the catalyst for all that happens. Wisdom doesn’t come from really smart people, it comes from Him, more specifically from having a relationship with Him.

Fives years ago I laughed, out loud, when I was posed with “If (worst fear), then God.” A year ago I paused because I know it’s true. He’s the main character of my story, the catalyst for all the light that has come into my life. It is through His wisdom, that I was surrounded with the right people at the right time who taught me how to lean into the Light.

20180704 - Independence Day-4
Photo by Matthew Stroup of Ad Hoc Fotography

 

5 comments

  1. Again, thank you for sharing your vulnerability in tough times and ultimately the only real answer to all of it. God bless you.

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  2. Jenny Lynne, thanks for sharing this! Boy, I wish I had time in NYC for a cup of coffee with you. It was interesting, my mother seemed most affected by my deployment. A few years ago, my sisters and I wanted to fix up a now-empty bedroom at her home as a sacturary / reading nook / coffee break room, but she refused. She said, “That’s where I used to go to pray and cry.” She used that same room just six months after I returned when my sister the AF officer went off to Kuwait. I thought it was kind of contradictory of my mother, who’s deeply religious and always says, “Leave it in God’s hands.” and “The years will tell what the days never knew” (she said she heard a past pope say that, but I believe he was quoting someone else). She wouldn’t take her own advice, though! Yours is similar: Let God fill in the blanks.

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