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Her Favorite Christmas Present

Her Favorite Christmas Present

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  —  Hebrews 11:1

It was her favorite Christmas present, she said. Perhaps it was his, too, but he was still recovering from long months at sea and was needing to catch up on sleep. As they stood before us they still had that “newlywed glow” about them, even though most of their wedded life had been spent apart due to military duty. So when they were telling us about their first Christmas together there were smiles going back and forth between each other, and eyes sparkling with the chance to tell what was so very special about their first time of giving and receiving gifts as husband and wife.

He knew that he would be going underway shortly after their wedding, and a Navy friend recommended keeping journals while apart. He thought that might be a good idea to try, so he went to Barnes & Noble and purchased two leather-bound journals—one for each of them. Journaling is not a lost art . . . just check out the many choices of journals to purchase—and what some are writing on “blogs.” What he didn’t expect was that his submarine duty would not allow for any email. Combine that with no telephone, no letters, no texting, no internet and you can tell how this would challenge the growth of communication with any young couple. The journals became the only way that they could “share” their thoughts, events, and feelings throughout the months apart. They gave each other their completed journals for Christmas, after the long-anticipated reunion, and those journal-gifts became treasured exchanges which gave insight into life during their time apart. His journal became her favorite Christmas present . . . and most likely her journal was his favorite, too.

Perhaps a married couple experiencing deployment is the closest picture of a Christian’s faith. I’ve heard it described as such.

Just as she had to believe that he existed—somewhere in the sea—she had to trust his character and have hope in his promised return. She had to believe that when she was “communicating” with him by writing daily in her journal that he cared about her and what she was going through—and loved her deeply. She could look around at their apartment home and its furnishings, his personal belongings in the shelves and drawers, their wedding pictures, memories of times together as they got to know each other and grew in love, and could remember discussions of their hopes and dreams of life together. She felt his presence even though she had no idea what or how he was doing each day—or even specifically where he was.

The same was true with him. His days were so jumbled in submarine service, with no sunrise or sunset, that the journal became his connection with a daily routine and with an unseen wife whom he counted on to believe in him. The oneness in their Christian marriage was growing, even though apart and totally without contact. He would have preferred to have had email, but without it he used his writings to convey what God was teaching him through his daily Scripture readings, through his prayers and their answers, through his training on the submarine, and through the discipline required to perform new tasks in a new environment.

Does that not sound like what we do as Christians? We have faith in an unseen God who is evident all around us—whose presence is real even though we cannot reach out and touch Him. We know His character . . . . we know that He loves us . . . . we trust Him to forgive us and care about us as we grow in grace. We know that He wants to hear from us in prayer—to hear what we are thinking, feeling, and learning from His Word. We know that He has promised to return, and we cling to that promise. We know that life as we see it now is only a foretaste of life to come and we have hope.

Communication studies would teach us that as a couple grows in oneness they will trust each other more. They will learn to share more than just information (”What is the checkbook balance?”), more than opinions (”I don’t like minivans!”), more than emotions (”That really makes me mad!”) and will actually continue to grow closer by seeking to understand and seeking to be understood. They will be transparent with each other—transparent enough to share the other’s hopes, dreams, lessons learned, fears, needs, beliefs, struggles, disappointments, prayers and understandings of who God is personally. When sexual intimacy is impossible, a couple can encourage each other in emotional intimacy and spiritual intimacy just as they would when together. The oneness that they always hoped for can be real—perhaps through the struggle to survive the deployment.

Each day now that they are together, our couple is reading from each other’s journals. This reading time has becomes a springboard to discussions about their time apart and what they experienced. Certainly they would have preferred to have been together—certainly they would have preferred to have had emails or telephone communication—but it wasn’t possible. Perhaps what they had—commitment and faith—is now stronger and they have confidence in each other to face future deployments which are a part of their military life. Perhaps they have new confidence in what God can do to see them through the challenges ahead. Perhaps their love has been tested and found to be true.

Perhaps their story might encourage you to try journaling while apart—and trusting God to teach you through the trial.

Questions to Share:

1. How do you communicate while deployed? (emails, letters, telephone?)

2. Regardless of the means you use, are you striving to get beneath the surface level of just sharing information to sharing your true feelings?

3. Are there any changes that you want to make as a couple concerning how you communicate? What would you like to improve?

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