As we enter the Christmas season, I look back at my first year of marriage wondering how I ever made it without my wife by my side. This is my second Christmas away from Danielle, yet my first as her husband. This Christmas season will be my second in the past three years deployed away from home and fourth in the past 10 years. I love doing life with my wife, and I never WANT to be away from her. However, I wouldn’t change these two seasons of separation for anything. Without the first, my wife and I may not be married.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was previously married. During my second year long deployment, I began to suspect my ex was cheating. After I received a picture documenting a kiss between her and someone at a bar in Austin, my heart sank and trust was completely lost. As the deployment continued, signs began to point towards an ongoing affair and illicit drug use. During my 30-day post-deployment vacation, she would sneak out in the middle of the night, make cash withdrawals, and not contact me for hours. She denied the affair for months while we went through counseling. After I finally found proof of the ongoing affair through divine providence, I made the difficult decision to file for divorce. The news of her infidelity and addiction to drugs while on the other side of the world devastated me and shattered any trust and belief I once had in love.
Fast-forward four years to January 2014. I was deployed to Afghanistan and Danielle and I began developing a relationship through phone calls, facetime, and letters. As we learned each other, I began to fall for her. I had questions about how she would handle the deployment and the separation. However, I trusted the Lord knew what I needed and knew she was in my life for a reason. That period of separation, that exile, was beneficial for both us in so many ways. The 9-month deployment was essential for me to trust in love again.
This brings me to my first point for the single ladies out there:
Every exile has purpose.
Merriam-Websters dictionary defines exile as “the state or period of forced or voluntary absence…” In Jeremiah 29: 1-10, the prophet writes a letter to the exiles in Babylon encouraging them to make the best of their situation while in exile and cautions them to not give any credit to false prophets. He then prophesies that the Lord will fulfill His promise and bring them back to Jerusalem. He goes on to say in verse 11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
We know that verse. It’s on coffee cups, signs, posted in offices on pictures and any number of products. If we read a little further in the Scripture, we see even more depth to God’s promise in verses 12-14. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
As I sought the Lord during my 9-months of exile, He answered and used that time to shave off the calluses around my heart. He used that time to help me see who Danielle was on the inside, far beyond her external beauty. The exile was a forcing function that helped us maintain our purity and build a relationship on a foundation of trust, communication and our relationship with God. He used the exile to restore me as someone who could love Danielle fully, not as a wounded victim, but as a restored warrior and victor over destruction and disappointment. Every exile has purpose and at the end of the exile, God gave me His best.
This brings me to my second point:
God doesn’t need your help, He needs your heart.
In Song of Solomon 8:4, Solomon writes, “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” Earlier I wrote the deployment was beneficial for both Danielle and I. We both believe one of the things we learned was patience. After awhile, Danielle was looking for an assurance from me that we were headed somewhere. It took patience to fall in love with someone 7000+ miles away with no formal commitment. She would hint around about engagement and I could not even talk about it for the longest time. I could not give her the assurance she needed in the flesh. I needed to see how the deployment went and how we interacted in person when I returned. I didn’t feel a release to even discuss engagement or marriage until I returned. I needed to see that she was going to trust her heart with Him before He would entrust her heart to me. She would later admit she reluctantly bit her lip, went back to her prayer closet and said, “Lord you deal with him, because I can’t handle this anymore! I know what I want!” If I weren’t walking with the Lord, I would have missed what God was doing.
In Proverbs 11:22, Solomon writes, “A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.”
My wife is beautiful. There are times I look at her pictures and am stunned and speechless I get to be married to such a beautiful woman. But her outward beauty isn’t what made me fall in love with her while I was deployed. I learned what she was made of and who she really was through our conversations and through observing her use of social media. Who she was on the inside was evident in the way she dressed, the pictures she posted, and the words she said. Her heart for the Lord was clearly evident and as someone who was married previously to a couple of gold rings, there was nothing more sexy to me than Danielle’s discretion and heart for the Lord. Danielle’s pursuit of Christ through our exile drew me to her, not tight dresses and push-up bras.
This leads me to my final point:
The right man will be drawn to your heart, not your selfie.
Rachel Simmons at the Slate writes:
“The selfie is a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self. Earlier this week, the first three women to complete Marine infantry combat training, along with a fourth who completed most of the hurdles but was injured before her final physical fitness test, posted a jubilant selfie.* (Nancy Pelosi tweeted it as “selfie of the year.”) If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.”
Erin Ryan counters Simmons’ assertion with a different perspective reflecting how disturbing our incessant self-promotion truly is when she writes:
Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises…. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.
Narcissistic-gram and other social media sites have infused our culture with a “me, me, me, look at me!” mentality. Meanwhile, we keep our head down looking for validation through likes and favorites on a screen rather than looking up to the one that made the fingers typing on the screen.
Danielle’s heart for the Lord supplemented her outward beauty and shined through her eyes drawing me to her like a moth to a flame. In fact, selfies, duck-face, and incessant self-promotion made me run the other way on many occasions in other potential relationships. When we were dating, Danielle’s use of social media promoting and celebrating others and her love for Christ furthered the assertion that I was courting someone worth pursuing.
So ladies, I encourage you to trust Him. If you’re searching for your spouse, call to the Lord. He made you. He loves you. He knows you inside and out and knows exactly what you need. He is currently preparing His best for you and your perfect complement even during a time that may feel like the longest exile ever. The right guy will be drawn to your heart and who you are on the inside if you just work on developing it. He has plans for you and will give you so much more than you can even imagine if you just wait. He will chase you down with His blessings. Seek Him and He will be found, and in the process, Mr. Perfect-for-you will appear when you least expect it.
The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.
Illustration © Copyright Linda Neptune. http://www.lindaneptune.com/
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