“Why did the war happen?”
It’s nearly 10:00 o’clock at night and my son’s eyes are welling up with tears. It is another rough day in the throes of deployment preparation. “That’s a big question, bud.” I reply. As I am pulling his comforter up around his ears, I kiss him on the forehead and reassure him that everything will be okay.
He’s afraid. He is afraid that dad may not come home, afraid that the stress will be too much for his sisters, and afraid of the unknown.
If I’m honest, I am afraid of these things too. But I don’t have the luxury of entertaining fear. Not today. Today is the day for strength, to create a place of peace. I have the job of ushering in The Spirit of Jesus for my children. I remind them who is in control, and where our hope comes from. This is the practicality of our faith. We are not in control and the One who is, is faithful.
This conversation all started because of another typical meltdown in the car. I drive a mini-van, which I refer to as my swagger wagon. It is a 7-passenger magic unicorn on wheels that mysteriously fits all of us, and our junk, inside. Most of the contents are empty Chickfil-A bags, floor french fries, and broken dreams. Many times, we have to play an embarrassing game of “find that smell.”
Let it suffice to say that on any given day, one runs the risk of sensory overload when stepping inside the sliding doors. Tonight, on the way home from an evening at Vacation Bible School, the kids were hyped up and coming down from an energy high. They were shouting and playing loudly in the back seat. My oldest daughter got really overwhelmed and had a bit of a meltdown.
I try to remember to invite her into being calm with me, not joining in on her “crazy.” Sometimes it works, but not this time.
I snapped at her and added insult to injury. She was an anxious mess. When we got home, we all had a long discussion about how our behavior impacts others. We talked about how we are going to need each other and all of us will have to do our part to keep the peace while Dad is gone.
The conversation stirred up some intense feelings in our youngest son, so in a domino like effect, he started melting down too. He spent the next hour and a half crying on and off. My heart hurts.
There are different stages when preparing for a deployment. Before Dad heads out the door, everyone’s emotions are running hot. Everything and anything has the possibility of inciting an explosion. I’m in the beginning stages of walking though a mine field. This deployment hasn’t even started and I am already emotionally tired.
I want to rest in God's truth, knowing that He will come through. I long to be calm and peaceful. I imagine the imagery described in Psalm 23 and try to meditate on the meaning.
Psalm 23 says "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
The Lord is my shepherd. Jesus is the shepherd who will care and keep me. All of the things that I need, he willingly and lavishly supplies. He brings me to a safe place to rest and be nourished. He aids in my rest by reminding me of the assurance of my salvation. I can rest, knowing that I belong wholly to the Father. With this knowledge, He restores my soul. I am refreshed by the truth that I am not enough, but that Jesus certainly is. He calls me sweetly into righteousness. Not for my own comparison tendencies, but for His namesake.
This passage also tells me that I will not be prevented from pain or hardship.
While I realize that a deployment is not the valley of the shadow of death, it can totally feel like it. Deployment is a desert. It is dry and isolated. The nights are long and lonely, not to mention sleep seems to be a tough thing to come by. Some days, it does feel a lot like death. Because of the stress and chaos of family life, it can be difficult to find time in The Word. Because of kids and scheduling, community is also somewhat of a challenge.
For me, deployment feels like death by depletion.
Today starts the difficult, but noble, task of relying solely on God for His provision and His encouragement. I’m going to need it.