I am so forgetful. My husband leaves the country on a somewhat regular basis to go plant churches, but every time I am surprised. I’m doing great, rocking along with life, kids, work. Then comes Day 5. I don’t know what’s magical about day 5, but I can tell by the wave of blue that washes over me…..Hmm, he must have been gone 5 days. It’s like clock work. In the beginning when he first started working with e3 Partners, I would be in a total state of funk the whole time he was gone. (not my most productive or pleasant experience) But after a year or so, I began to realize there is a wonderful side benefit of him being gone: it makes me realize things I could never connect to in his presence.
We didn’t marry one another in our early youth. We were real adults by the time we chose to join our lives together, so we had developed a pretty strong sense of ourselves as individuals, before we became one. I’m thankful for that, and it allows us to pursue passions and interests in life freely, without fear or hurt. So in light of that independence, what has developed over time is sweet to see; I do depend on my husband for a million little things that I miss when he is gone. Things like having my “middle of the day check in person”. I think everyone has someone they check in with daily, and he is mine. It’s so strange when he is gone and I have no one to text a quick thought to, or ask how their day is going. It’s not that I couldn’t ask someone else- I just don’t want to. He’s my person for that.
Another startling realization is that while I usually assume I care about housekeeping for myself, I actually enjoy keeping the house clean for him. When he is gone, I do so much less in terms of fluffing and straightening and washing and folding. Not that he is the kind of husband who demands I keep the house to a certain standard- quite the opposite really. But he is the kind of husband who will notice how I’ve worked hard to clean and thank me for it. Or comment on how good the dinner was and thank me for cooking for him. He is an appreciator. And when he is gone, I assure you, most of the expressed appreciation travels with him. Children are simply not good at spontaneous gratitude for things like a clean house or folded laundry. So my house gets a little trashy while my husband travels, because he takes some of my motivation with him apparently.
I think this is one of the reasons God calls us to fast. When I remove something from my life that I regularly use, engage with, enjoy- well, it gives me a space to become aware of what needs that thing fills, for good or bad. You might recall I had a shopping fast for 6 months last year. Talk about eye-opening! It was so good to get in touch with my discontent, selfishness and insecurity- so God could do some work in removing and refining. Loved it. And hated it all at the same time. While my husbands travels don’t really count as a true fast, in that I’m not voluntarily removing him from my presence, I have found that the principal is working much the same. I see good purposes he fills in my life. I also see how dangerously close I teeter to making him the object of all my affection. Or as we like to call it in my church, idolatry. The line between loving ones husband and worshipping ones husband can be thin- and when he is gone for a time, I get to reflect on that. Do a little heart check if you will.
So, here is some encouragement for you. Try a true fast. Choose something in your life you enjoy or regularly engage in, and create a space to examine and become aware. God has so much to teach us and show us about who He is- but often we can’t receive it because we are too full. Full of shopping, food, internet, tanning, exercising, ministry, TV, tweeting, texting, reading, swimming. It’s a lot. And, in the event that a non-voluntary “fast” is thrust upon you, as in your plumbing goes out. Or your husband leaves the country. Or your baby goes to camp. Or your second car dies. Well, take some time to let the absence show you something about your heart. For good or for bad.