He had been my husband six months, but we’d already been separated for two. It had been hard. Not just because we were newly married and living on opposite sides of the world, but because of the fear in my heart.
And now, we were together for just a couple days. This South Carolina girl had boarded a plane and flown to the other side of the world, flagged a taxi at the airport, and arrived at a hotel to wait for my husband to dock and meet me. My feet had been so swollen from the over 24-hour journey, I had to retrieve flip-flops from my bag at the airport.
I was already doing things I never imagined I would. And now, I had two full days with him before he had to get back on that navy ship and sail back into the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.
I held his hand as my steak sat going cold, “Grant, I just can’t. I can’t. I love you too much to let you go back.”
I was new at this marriage thing and this Marine Corps thing and I loved him so much. We had only been together all of 23 days during our long-distance dating and engagement. We didn’t have time like most couples do. And now, this is what our marriage was like. Deployment. We knew it was coming and we had decided to get married anyway. And it was worth it. But the ache was deep.
I loved him but I couldn’t keep him. I had to let him go. Again. I couldn’t control what happened out there in that ocean. Nothing should happen but anything could happen. The Navy and Marines would sail and be ready in case of a national disaster.
Please, Lord, no disasters.
As the tears streamed down my face, Grant squeezed my hand. “GraceAnna, you have to give me to the Lord. You have to trust Him. You have to love Him more than you love me.”
That, of course, had been the theme of our relationship from the beginning. Grant had told me just a few weeks into our dating relationship that he held me with an open hand to God.
I didn’t like that, exactly. It didn’t feel secure. I wanted to be held clenched in his fist, close to his heart. Not open and laid bare.
But I found that as soon as I held Grant too close, even then, my world began to spin. Those had been uncertain days when we had first started dating. I was putting my heart out there to a Marine who I had exchanged a brief “hello” with in high school. And we were dating from different sides of the world.
It was a strange thing, the more I handed my heart to the Lord, the stronger I felt.
I didn’t know that the hard lessons I was learning in those early days and in that steak restaurant in Singapore would be the ones I would keep going back to over and over again.
I wanted it to be over. I wanted Grant back. I wanted to have a home. I wanted security.
In Psalm 131, David tells the story of a child’s first great sorrow in life. He is denied what he so desperately longs for, his mother’s milk. His mother has been his solace and comfort from his first breath, and now she denies him the very thing that has made him feel secure and loved.
As a mom who has weaned three babies, I know this battle. My son, especially, I struggled with weaning him. He didn’t like it and neither did I.
The process felt cruel even though I knew it was exactly what he needed.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. (131:2)
There is sorrow until the child quits fighting, and instead of being angry, buries his head in his mother’s chest in sweet relief.
The child finds his comfort when he quits fighting for what he thinks he needs.
And there is a contentment there, when the fight is over, and the child trusts his mother and realizes he is weaned on her but is not weaned from her.
What lessons I have learned from this child. So often, I want to cling tightly to what I think I need or can hold on to. I want to hold so tightly to my husband. I want to protect my children. I want to order my life in the way I think it should go. I want to shield those I love from every heartache.
When I cling so tightly in my own strength, my soul is not at rest. I am full of fear. I feel the vast ocean showing me all the things that are out of my control.
But when I quit fighting, and look to Him, I find that He is right there with me in the storm.
“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters, yet your footprints were unseen. Yet you lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 77:10).”
God didn’t lead the children through green pastures to get to green pastures. He led them through the Red Sea. There were things they wanted to go around, yet He led them through them showing them every step of the way that He was there. In the day, there was the cloud, and in the night there was the fire. He was there. Always there.
And God often leads his people this way. The waters in Scripture often refer to uncertainty, chaos, and death. I can hardly imagine what Jocabed felt when she placed her darling boy into the waters in only a wicker basket. God saved her boy but she had to give him up to the waters.
Job, didn’t understand the trials God was bringing Him through but said in faith, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I will come forth as gold (job 23:10).
There are times when we feel like God is withholding something good from us, like a child feels when his mother is weaning him, but when we trust Him, we understand that He is holding us and caring for us all the way.
He is faithfully leading us like a shepherd leads his flock. And He will bring us through.
This past month and a half, I have felt some of the deepest painI have ever known as my sweet and precious niece went home to be with the Lord.
A song that has brought me much comfort and was played in church the Sunday she went to be with Jesus says this:
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.
C.H. Spurgeon in a sermon he gave on happiness said this, “The Christian trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour and believes that all is well.”
All is well. Not because the waters aren’t there, but because He is there in the midst of them.
I wasn’t very good at bidding farewell to Grant that day when he set sail. And that was just the beginning.
But I know this. No matter what, God never leaves His children alone. There is no night too dark, no valley too deep, and no mountain too high. He is there. He will bring us through.
And in this my heart finds peace.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Ps 131:3