“You are my love, my protector, my hero, and no matter the distance, I will always wait for you.” — Anonymous
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,…” — Bible
What is it like to be 200 feet deep in the ocean while your new bride is 5,000 miles away for months at a time? How do you maintain a healthy perspective on life and sustain your hope and trust in God while on active duty in the military? Can a follower of Jesus thrive in his/her relationship with their savior while in the military?
Being on a Navy submarine, let’s face it, was not all that glamorous, really. The hours were long, the challenges daunting, but the food was good. Then add to the mix, a long-distance engagement, a wedding, a new bride and long periods of separation during our first three years of marriage. Yet, it was the “best of times.”
How could it be the best of times? Undoubtedly, through our faith in the Lord. Probably the greatest “casualty of war” in the military is marriage. Because of its very nature, the military is a “hostile” environment for marriage. Divorce and separation are very commonplace. Yet my spouse and I, by the grace of God and our faith in him, set our hearts on a holy union.
Our crew of about 120 men, having completed our three-and-a-half month cruise at sea, would return to the states. So glad to be flying back home, but that nagging question, “Will my wife be there to greet me at the airport?” For most of us, yes, you could pick out your wife instantly among the waiting 40 to 50 wives. But for two or three shipmates, there was no wife to greet them. They would ride the bus back to the base, their emotions racing, still no wife to greet them, then go home only to find it totally empty and dark.
It was so disheartening to observe first-hand these marriage breakups for the men I worked with so closely. But as for me and my marriage – not once did I ever doubt that she would not be there to greet me; all four times. I am so, so grateful and thankful for a spouse of great faith in God.
What made our marriage successful while on active duty? The first and foremost is having a steadfast relationship with the Lord. You can excel even in the most difficult environments if your heart is fixed on the Lord. I recall getting into my bunk on the submarine, the only quiet place on board, and begin quoting scripture verses regarding me and my new bride as I fell asleep.
Having developed a work ethic of “doing my work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men” (Colossians 3:23), set the work environment for the day. I knew that if my work was well-pleasing to the Lord, then the Navy would be pleased as well. And so it was. Having begun this habit of “doing my job as unto the Lord,” I continued this attitude of the heart throughout my career. The big result – significantly less stress at home, more quality time for each other.
Another factor is 1) who am I about to marry, and 2) what does the Lord think about this? Based on your steadfast relationship with the Lord, he is for you, not against you. He does not set you up for failure. Obviously, choosing the perfect mate is crucial for any marriage, even while on active duty and at sea.
My request of the Lord regarding a woman to wed? Lord cause her to love you more than me. I knew that if the Lord joined us in marriage, a marriage of three which is not easily broken, then we (the three of us) would weather the storms, even being gone to sea. God chose the very best wife for me, why would I ever think that there is something better out there.
Has it always been “smooth sailing?” Of course not. But by our declaration that the Lord is the anchor and hope for our marriage, we have indeed weathered the difficult times. We just celebrated our 43rd anniversary. Quitting was never an option.