The biggest takeaways from my 9 years of marriage have been monumental in strengthening my relationship with God and my husband, but none quite so much as the lesson that came in year 2.
We had just moved to North Carolina where my husband was stationed at Camp Lejeune, as an 0811, field artillery cannoneer. To be clear, my husband is a bright man. He was certainly offered a comfy job in the Marine Corps. But… That’s not who he is. He wanted action, and hoped for combat deployment. So he chose the MOS where he got to “pull string, go boom!” And he enjoyed parts of it. But it was the first time he had ever lived away from family, let alone states away.
The hardest part for me wasn’t so much being apart from family as it was being in the completely foreign context of military life. Most of the military people we encountered in Jacksonville had children (an experience we weren’t ready for), or were divorced, or had some other degree of relationship crisis going on. There was plenty of drama at all times. Whereas back home, my friends were just finishing up their undergrad studies, and I was essentially a stay-at-home housewife.
Emotionally, that put me in a pretty vulnerable place where I was feeling like a failure not having completed my bachelor’s degree, and unable to locate a steady job. I mean, if I was going to spend my time at home not working, shouldn’t I at least have a couple kids to fill my time, or to, at the very least validate my unemployed status?
Well, that’s not what God had in store for me at that time. I had begun to really cling to my husband, to the point that I experienced depression every time he left for a training or field operation. I had turned him into an idol and he had become my most important thing. I didn’t want a job, because I was afraid of having to work on days he was home, and missing time with him. But the pressure I placed on myself and my husband to enjoy the time we spent together became exhausting. Two imperfect people learning what it means to be married while nearly 850 miles away from family who could help guide us through those challenges was incredibly difficult.
What God began to show me was that my husband couldn’t save me, but Christ could, and I had to prioritize Him in my life, ahead of my husband if I was going to be able to love my husband with respect and submission as the Church is to Christ.
My husband knew the statistics that 50% of military marriages end in divorce– a fact that had been drilled into his head while he was at boot camp; he could just expect me to cheat on him or leave him– and we both knew the statistics that couples in church tend to have a higher rate of marital success. So he really pushed for us to get involved in a church. And since he was away often, it was really me getting involved in the church.
Through that decision to commit to church membership and involvement, I got plugged into a military spouse’s group. I started meeting other godly women and gained support and encouragement from them. My eyes were opened to not only my need for Christ, but my desire to know Him more deeply and fully. And as a relatively “new” Christian and newlywed, I was starving for more wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God, my faith, and marriage.
I would wake up in the mornings usually around 4-5am to see my husband off (sometimes I even made him breakfast) and then I would sit down at the kitchen table in our little rental farmhouse and read through the Gospels.
I would pour over the Scriptures for hours at a time, filling composition notebooks with insights, questions, and prayers. Looking back at them now, I’m so thankful that Christ has grown me in spiritual maturity! Seriously, some of the things that bothered me were so petty or immature.
This was also the time period I started writing down my “irks” with my husband. We didn’t fight often, but I had noticed that every little thing he did had the capacity to annoy me into insanity. I chalk that up to my own unrealistic expectations now, but at the time, it would build and build until I exploded. Writing down the little things got them out of my brainspace, and allowed me to pray and sleep on it. If when I looked at my list of “irks” the next day or the next week, I’d had time to calm down and discuss it rationally, rather than through emotional outbursts. I didn’t perfect this technique then, and I’m still working on it, but this trick helped diffuse many disagreements.
But the intentional and diligent practice of putting Christ first through prayer and Bible study each morning had an enormous impact in my relationship to my husband. I stopped feeling depressed when my husband had to leave, I had faith God would protect him from harm, and I had faith, even if I couldn’t see it evidenced yet at that point, that God could and would turn my husband into a spiritual leader for me. And that made all the difference in the world.