I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough. I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard. As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,
“You are a better man than me”
I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true. These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.
My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me. I hope they stay that way.
Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders. As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country. I’m not upset about that. Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years. Herein lies the problem. Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years. The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.
Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in? It is hard stuff to say the least.
I knew I needed to tell my kids. It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on. We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.
I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here. Neither of them cried. They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad. I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me. Again, no great emotion came out of them. I asked them,
“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”
Daughter – We are sad…
Son – Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not
Daughter – … but we can trust God
Whose kids are these?
Surely not mine! Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders. Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.
My kids are more mature than I am.
This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.
The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship. The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”. Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”. I believe this to be true. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am. This is one of those moments.
I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years. This is what I am doing right now. It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time. Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure… But all the time? Do I really believe that? My thoughts and feelings right now say no.
Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages. I know what the right answer is… and that is the point. I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.
Here are the hard questions in my heart. If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that? Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them? Where is His goodness in this? For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind? Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?
I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son? In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness. With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind. In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.
On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure. But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death. I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.
I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for. Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.
I want my family to go with me. I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.
I fear that my family will not be able to join me.
And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…
God is good
All the time
All the time
God is Good