Right before Christmas break, we got news of the news we have been dreading to hear – Matthew is deploying. We’d been expecting it for a few months but to get the final word that it’s really happening still left me in……shock. And in lots of tears.
Let’s be real. Dealing with deployment is stinkin’ hard and it is just about as difficult as you’d imagine it to be to hear that someone you love is going off to fight for your country. Matthew and I have been through quite a few transitions in this last year – Ranger School, Airborne School, his move to Fort Drum, starting his PL (Platoon Leader) time with his battalion – but deployment definitely takes the cake. Sometimes I have so many thoughts and feelings that I don’t know what to do with myself. Sometimes I find myself spontaneously crying a lot or wake up crying or fall asleep crying. In short, I’ve been a hot mess. But I adamantly believe that God allows all things to happen for a purpose and despite the mess, I am determined to figure out what God’s reason for this season of life is.
So here’s a few things I’ve learned about myself and about dealing with impending deployment over the last several weeks.
Knowing isn’t the same as experiencing
No matter how much I mentally prepared for this moment, actually hearing Matthew say the words “I am deploying” still hit me like a ton of bricks. For awhile, I felt so frustrated with myself because I was taking the news poorly. “Common Christine – you went into this relationship knowing this was the path he was going to take. You knew this was coming sooner than later.” There are even people I’ve shared about deployment with who have said to me, “Well what did you expect? Since you knew this was going to happen, you just need to suck it up and deal with it”. A lot of people have simply said (I believe with the best of intentions), “Just trust the Lord and give it over to Him”. Great, I totally agree but….practically, in this present struggle….how. do. I. do. that?????? There is a huge divide between knowing how to respond or knowing what you should do compared to how you actually live out that knowledge.
And you really just don’t know until you get there. There is no way to prepare yourself to go through something like deployment. There is no way to prepare yourself to mentally prepare yourself for any challenging situation until the Lord brings you to it. And then by His strength, He will bring you through it.
I am a human being with imperfect feelings.
It is quite impressive the range of feelings I’ve in such a short period of time. Sadness, despair, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, confusion – just to name a few. Sometimes all my emotions get me into trouble. I’ve really wrestled with how I should feel about this whole situation because knowing all the things I know about dating vs. marriage and emotional boundaries and all that jazz, I couldn’t figure out if it was a sin to care so much or be so sad over someone I am dating, but not married to. Is this wrong? Normal? Acceptable? I have felt uncomfortable being honest with people about how I’m really doing in fear that they’ll judge me for feeling the way I do or just feel sorry for me.
In times like these, I am really thankful for the sisters that God has put in my life. Again, having a sister tell me “It’s ok to be sad, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re trying your best to figure it out and I think God see that,” was all I really needed to hear to remember that God is so gracious to me even when I am not gracious to myself. God gave us feelings for a reason and they aren’t always going to be perfect feelings. I am not a robot. I am a human being and part of that is learning and growing as I make mistakes, work through my feelings, and figure out how I can master my emotions and take my thoughts captive so they ultimately all point back to Christ. But…..I am still getting there :)
It’s ok to not be ok. Sometimes.
It’s the strangest thing. I never realized how much I hated feeling or showing weakness until dealing with my feelings about deployment. People know me as Christine-the outgoing, extroverted, always busy, always has it together-Christine. And for some odd reason, even in a situation would understandably make anyone bonkers, I still feel the strong compulsion to convince everyone that I am ok. Even to convince myself that I am ok! But sometimes (and lately, more often than not), I am really really not ok. I am sad and scared of potentially losing someone I care about. I am frustrated that I don’t even know when or how often I will get to talk to my best friend. I am worried about what the next 9 months will hold and the new set of challenges our relationship will have to go through. I am, very honestly, frustrated that our relationship always seems so much more difficult than everyone else’s and I wish that we could just be a normal, boring couple. And sometimes, I am just sad and I can’t explain it and I just need a second to cry.
And that is ok. Until….
I stop trusting in the Lord. Until I let my sadness become a result of my lack of control over the situation. Until I let my anxiety undermine God’s sovereignty and good plan for me and for Matthew. Until I let sorrow or worry drown me in a sea of my own self-pity. I am slowly and painfully learning that yes – there is a time to grieve, but there is also a time to pick myself and speak truth to myself about God’s overwhelming love for me. He would never allow anything to happen outside of his plans, He would never give me more than I can handle, and He is always in control no matter how seemingly chaotic life is. I am learning that I must fight for joy daily instead of letting sadness or anxiety overcome me because I must remember that my ultimate joy and hope lies in the Lord.
Expectations are the worst.
And boy, do I have a lot of them. First – I have a lot of expectations of myself (as you can probably tell from the rest of this post). I have expectations of how I should handle this news. I have expectations about how I should support Matthew. I have expectations of how I should be the most perfect girlfriend and sister in Christ at all times.
Then, I have a lot of expectations of Matthew. I expect him to respond to me and comfort me in a very specific way when I am feeling sad about deployment. I expect him to prioritize time with me over everything else since our time left together is short. I expect him to share all his feelings with me because I, as an external processor, share all my overflowing feelings all the time. I expect him to acknowledge all my feelings and tell me it will all be ok and cry with me like they do in the movies.
Lastly, I have a lot of expectations about our relationship. I expect us to deal with all our conflicts flawlessly and immediately. I expect us to hold our heads up high and brave through deployment without wavering. I expect us to acknowledge each other’s emotional state and always put the other person first. I expect us to read together and pray together every time we talk like the godly couples do. Or else it means that we are failing.
All these expectations lead to disappointment and more frustration when they aren’t upheld. Frustration leads to anger, anger leads to selfishness, selfishness leads to fighting, and fighting leads to sadness. All because of expectations I shouldn’t have had in the first place. Too often, I think of myself first and how Matthew should attend to my needs first (and even if I attend to his needs, I expect him to acknowledge me for being so wonderful!) instead of thinking about how much more challenging this all must be for him. I’ve become so inward focused and all of my expectations have become so, too, and that draws our attention away from thinking through how our relationship can glorify the Lord in our present circumstance.
His power is made perfect in our weakness.
It’s easy in the day to day to forget how desperately we need the Lord. One thing I am overwhelming thankful for through all of this is how much it has reminded me to cling to Christ with all I’ve got. I have become so self-sufficient and sinfully comfortable with life that God has become more like a bonus than the real prize. But in my weakest moments, when I am all cried out and I still feel like I don’t have a single thing figured out, God reminders me that He is enough and that I can do nothing by my own strength. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Ok let me super clarify that I am still working through all of this and still need to process through this to remind myself of what God has taught me on a daily basis. But God’s mercies are new every morning and every morning is a new opportunity for him to teach me something new through my hardship. Praise God for his grace that covers me when I forget to trust in him. Praise God for his grace that restores me when I fail to respond in a way that glorifies him. And praise God for his grace and his love that heals me when I feel most broken.