An Open Letter to {Christian} Military Wives

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Today we have a guest post from my sister, Melinda!!  I appreciate her thoughts here.  At the bottom I added a few thoughts of my own.  🙂

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I must open by letting everyone know that I am not a military wife. I do have some connections to the military though via family and friends. One of my brothers-in-law is in the Air Force (just began pilot training!), and quite a few of my friends are wives of Air Force men. (I live in an Air Force town so many of the people at my church are either Air Force or retired Air Force.) Since my husband is not in the military, I can only offer some observations from outside the military. Take them or leave them for what they’re worth.

I write because of the many blog posts I have seen written by military wives talking about the inherent difficulties and hardships they face. It’s true. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to have your husband gone on training exercises and deployments . . . sometimes for months (or years!) at a time. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to raise your children alone or to manage all of the household affairs by yourself.

Yet I also want military wives to be aware of how these posts can ostracize other women . . . other women who are going through difficult times and hardships and desperately long for encouragement. As Christian women, we should be seeking to encourage each other in all the hardships we all face.

For example, during the first 18 months of our marriage, my husband traveled a lot. He was gone (usually out of state) for two weeks out of every month. While many military wives may think that’s no big deal (and perhaps for them it wouldn’t be), let me point out several things. First, my husband was gone for 50% of the first 18 months of our marriage. Even my sister who married a guy in the Air Force can’t say that. Secondly, I still dealt with household issues and parenting all by myself for half of the time. In many ways, I envied military wives because many of them have a community from which to draw help. They live on base or there are even online communities for military wives. But what about railroad wives? I was on my own.

My point is not that military wives should stop blogging or writing about their unique struggles, but please do consider stop phrasing it like you have the most difficult experience of any other wife. In reality, God calls each of us to hard, difficult, challenging things. For some of us, it will be through husbands who are absent, whether in the military or some other job. For others it will be loss of employment, death of our children, or something else. The body of Christ would benefit from seeking to help and encourage other women in whatever difficulties they find themselves.

For those of us who are not military wives, I do encourage you to be considerate if you (like me) do know any military wives. When their husbands are gone, most would appreciate some help with things like babysitting their kids, running to the store, or making a meal. As their sisters in Christ, we should be ready and willing to help them while their husbands are gone. Yet, let’s not forget other women. Are there any other women in your church who’s husbands travel? Those women would appreciate the exact same things a military wife would. Are there women struggling through loss of employment? Whatever it is, let’s cultivate hearts and attitudes of ministry for each other regardless of our husbands’ vocations.

I wholeheartedly agree with what my sister shared.  I am hardly into our military career and I have seen this many times.  I’ve read the mil spouse blogs and seen the memes that say things like, “‘I’m sorry your husband had to go away for a night.  That must be so hard!’ – said no military wife ever.”

I get that.  I do.  Deployments are no joke.

But…at the same time…and I say this as honestly and lovingly as I can….any time you’re away from your husband…it stinks.  It stinks when he’s gone for one night and it stinks when he’s gone a week.  The challenges that a wife faces will be different when he’s gone for longer periods of time, but the plain truth is that it still stinks.  The wife is still missing her husband.  She’s still lonely.  She still has to take care of the house, the kids, the car repairs, the bills, etc, by herself.

The woman whose husband is gone for an overnight business trip has no idea what it’s like for the woman whose husband is gone for a week at a time.  The woman whose husband is gone for a week at a time has no idea what it’s like for the woman whose husband is gone for 5 weeks at a time (our longest separation so far).  The woman whose husband is gone for 5 weeks has no idea what it’s like for the woman whose husband is gone for a year.  But no one should roll their eyes at the person who has gone through “less” than what you have.  It all comes down to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Why do we get so caught up in our story and our situation that we have to compare other people’s real life stories and situations to our own?

Love for our spouses, or our abilities as wives and mothers, is not summed up in the amount of days spent together.  Or spent apart.

Bonnie

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11 thoughts on “An Open Letter to {Christian} Military Wives

  1. Lovely blog post! I agree, no one knows what hardships we are going through until they walk a mile in our shoes… which is never possible… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    (The only thing I might add, would be that while the soldier is deployed, not only are they away from their loved ones – they are also in harms way. So the spouse back home might be worrying about the dreaded doorbell, or dealing half way around the world with their soldier suffering from PTSD.)

    • Thank you for mentioning that! Most wives probably do not have to deal with the threat of danger or PTSD….but many do, military or otherwise. All the more reason to come alongside your sisters in Christ!!

  2. I agree with Sadie. With a deployment, there’s always that uncertainty of him being in harms way 24/7. But then it also strengthens your faith, because you know if something were to happen, it’s all in God’s plan. I don’t see how people without faith make it through deployments and keep their sanity!

    • That’s a good point and I would not want to downplay the safety threats. Granted, I have yet to go through a deployment, but I don’t want it to become a time of ostracizing my non-military friends, especially as some civilian jobs have safety factors as well. As you said, it’s a tremendous time to grow in faith and to reach out to the body of Christ…both to give and receive. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I’ve had lots of people comment to us “I don’t know how you do it!” or “You’re amazing!” and I just think that we each have our own reality to face… and my reality isn’t any harder than yours. My husband did work out of town during the week for four months, and that was tough… but it’s also tough when he’s here physically but studying so much he might as well not be here. I know other women whose husbands work out of town, and women who are military wives, and women dealing with other struggles in their relationships, and I agree that we need to encourage and lift each other up as much as we can. And pray that God indeed only gives us as much as we can handle! 🙂

  4. Bonnie, I respectfully disagree. I think we should know our audience and be considerate of them. For example, when Matt was deploying at the onset of the war, we were stationed at a small Air Force base on a very large Army base. Matt would deploy for 3 months at a time then, while my Army wife friends were birthing babies with Daddy on the phone (maybe), no Skyping then. My Army friends did regular year long deployments. I knew not to cry on their shoulders about Matt’s 3 months. Their trials were indeed more difficult than mine, and I was sensitive to them for that reason. I never felt ostracized because of it. If we think about it, we wouldn’t complain to a mom who is spending her nights in the pediatric oncology ward about how tired we are because our healthy newborn isn’t sleeping through the night. It would be insensitive. My cousin once complained to me about how her father was driving her crazy with all of his unsolicited advice. I turned to her in shock and said, “What I wouldn’t give to have my daddy here to drive me just as crazy.” My father, her uncle passed away when I was 15. You see, I think it is perfectly fair to consider the difficulties of others. It is then we should turn and be thankful for the shoes we are in and find the blessings in life, not turn to another and tell them that our valleys are the same. They aren’t and that’s ok. There are unique struggles that military families deal with that most of our civilian friends would never dream of having to go through. Soon enough most of you sweet young military wives will be living through these difficulties, and I will be praying y’all through knowing that it wasn’t a life Matt and I could handle and got out. So, when you find yourself struggling through a deployment, the umpteenth move, living far from family, wondering if he will come home the man he was when he left, please, cry on my shoulder. I will cry with you, and as Teara commented, God’s grace will see you through.

    • Thank you for commenting, Joy! I thoroughly agree with you. Perspective does make a difference. Definitely know your audience! My sister and I were referring to the times we have heard military wives say, “Don’t tell me about your problems, because mine are 10 times worse because my husband is in the military.” I have heard people say it…sometimes in those words, sometimes with other words, but the same message. Whether or not it’s intended, those words DO ostracize. How does that convey the compassion and love of Christ? Our point was that military wives should be able to share their struggles with the entire body of Christ and be ENcouraged….and civilian wives should be able to share their struggles with the entire body of Christ and be ENcouraged. To turn someone who comes to you away because you have it worse seems to me to be rather prideful.

      Also, there are civilians who move for the umpteenth time….who live far from family….who have to deal with radical changes in the man they love…who have no one understand what it is that they are going through. Are military family problems different? Absolutely. But military families are not the only ones with real, deep struggles. To ask someone who has gone through only a month long separation to not talk to you because you’ve gone through a year long one is so sad. In my opinion, the person who has experienced “more” could even be a tremendous source of great encouragement to that person! But never should someone look down on someone else because their problems are perceived as “less” than another person’s. Jesus didn’t turn away the demon-possessed, blind, or mute just because they were going through less than what He was to endure….crucifixion and the Father Himself turning His back on His Son.

      Again, thank you for commenting and I appreciate the discussion!

  5. Pingback: Encouraging one another | Homemade Mythology

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