Sometimes we speak of “the military life” as if it is something distant or disjointed– an affliction, a disease that we lament, something to grit our teeth and bear – or a holy accomplishment, a state of being to be revered as if those in it have risen in an invisible hierarchy.
Sometimes, we manage to make it both.
I am as guilty of this as anyone: Oh poor me. Look at how special I am.
When asked to reflect on the challenges that face me, an Air Force wife, I think of all the ways I might try to cultivate that deadly blossom of burdened loftiness. I remember the ways how with false humility I might seek to one-up both my civilian and military sisters with boasts of suffering, thereby infusing a sneaky scent of competition into the conversation. I reflect on the times how with a sense of wounded superiority I have thought: they can’t ever know what it’s like for me.
The pride I welcome in to bolster my shaky sense of worth erects walls, when really what I need – what we all need is humility. We need the humility of our humanity to crumble the walls, to clasp hands across the rubble of shattered arrogance, and search the messiness for the common ground of the challenges through which we all walk.
If I were to ask, Who here has ever been lonely? Raise your hand– what an indulgence of arrogance to think that the only lifted palms are those of fellow military wives?
Who here has moved to a new place? Who has had to deal with new grocery stores and libraries, new schools and churches, parks, gyms, routes– that overwhelming tangle of newness? And then, deep down, that secret, persistent wondering– will you find new friends? (And how can new friends fill your soul, warm your heart, and create community the way your left-behind friends did?)
Raise your hand.
Who here has kissed your man goodbye and felt the household sinking down on your shoulders, the management position which is supposed to be filled by two people and now suddenly you alone have to be enough, and you brace your back and hope nothing breaks–
Raise your hand.
Who here has been afraid?
The alert, cold-sweat fear of bump-in-the-night, and you’re alone in the house. The lonely, paralyzing fear of not-fitting-in with these new people, this new group. The deep-seated panicked fear that you’re going to get that telephone call, or you’re going to hear those words spoken to you, or the doctor is going to give you that helpless look. The haunting fear that maybe you really are going crazy– you can’t handle it any more– something is going to snap. The weary, numb fear that maybe it will always be like this, you’ll always be in this valley– you’ll always be afraid…
Raise your hand.
Who here has locked herself in her closet and sunk down and sobbed a prayer to the carpet– “Lord I can’t do this!”
Raise your hand.
How could any of us claim these things exclusively, as if only the military wife has felt the sting of these fears, hardships, and challenges (or only the pastor’s wife, or the abuse survivor, or the disillusioned intellectual, or the single mother, or anyone with whom we secretly feel we can’t identify because they are just too different from us?) Are we not all in a common sisterhood, women in a world racked by the curse? And we, we who claim the identity of Christ-follower, are we not made sisters by a faith that sweeps aside every division and supersedes every human label?
Don’t we taste the same graces, too?
The cold-cup-of-water grace of encouragement, help, or prayer from a friend when you are parched in an emotional or spiritual or physical desert.
The flashing, startling firework grace of finding a kindred spirit in someone unexpected.
The strengthening grace of worship surrounded by others walking life with us.
The scales-from-the-eyes grace of seeing renewed the beauty in the world around us.
The nurturing grace of intimacy with the man you love, and you carry forward that moment as sustenance, as life-giving memory for the times of famine.
The lightning-thunder-grace of hearing the still small voice of the Lord whisper to you– You are never alone– I will never leave you or forsake you.
This is the grace, sisters – that this life is both common and extraordinary. Wives to soldiers, sailors, and pilots share in the common and the extraordinary the same as wives to doctors, businessmen, farmers, and those who are not wives but are sisters, daughters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and friends. Every one of us tastes this common grace of being alive, and being alive is a risky, glorious business. We are daughters of the King, and we share His suffering and His joy. Grace to a military wife and grace to a civilian wife may look exactly the same– a hug, a meal, a card, a listening ear. Even when the challenges might look differently, there is no gap in experience which selfless love cannot bridge.
We want to think our stories are all unique– and so they are. But the Author spins the stories into a web, a delicate, lacy web of meetings and partings, and over that web the vibrations of grief and elation echo. So together we may all mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Together we may endure the trials, and together we may partake of the grace.
LOVE, Meredith McCaskey
If you’d like to read more from Meredith, check out her blog “Listening to Grace” here.