The Sacrifice of Physical Separation

Photo of me in Hawaii while hiking with friends

During my nine years wearing a military uniform, I have been approached many times by people who wished to thank me for my service. They usually say “thank you for your service” or “thank you for your sacrifice for our country.” Many sacrifices are required of military service members and their families. One I am acutely experiencing right now is the sacrifice of being physically separated from your spouse for extended periods of time. For some reason I was convinced that this period of separation would be easier to deal with than previous deployments.  Leading up to deployment, Garrett and I experienced a special season of individually growing closer to the Lord and growing closer as a couple. For the first time in our five years of marriage, we were able to spend consistent time together. And what a gift it was! I was immensely grateful for that time together, and I thought those sweet memories would soften the sting of Garrett leaving for deployment in October.

However, once Garrett deployed, I spent multiple weeks feeling really really sad. A mentor and friend of mine helped me to process my emotions – Garrett and I had grown together as a couple, so when he left, there was a big hole in my daily life and in my heart. In the past, when Garrett or I would leave for a period of time, I transformed into a “strong, independent woman” who “didn’t need a man” to get along each day. This was my defense. I felt it necessary to transform into this woman in order to function efficiently and not be slowed down by feelings of sadness or loss. However, what I did not realize was that my transformation had an ugly side-effect – I ended up barricading my own heart from experiencing healthy emotions. These walls I built to protect myself from loss, emotionally isolated me from my husband and negatively affected our marriage in many ways.

But for this deployment, number five between the two of us, I did not want to transform into this independent woman. But I was worried. How could I survive the separation without my walls of protection?

Looking to the life of Jesus provided me with my answer:

One aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice for me that I often fail to acknowledge is his willingness to be separated from his Father in order to take on flesh. It is crazy to think how close Jesus and his Father were (emotionally and physically) and yet they were willingly separated in order to bring me into their family. The closer, emotionally, that you are to someone, the harder it is to be physically separated, as I am learning, so how great was the sacrifice of the Father and the Son! Jesus left his perfect home in heaven and his perfect relationship with the Father, in order to be born a man, to imperfect parents, in a broken world. Also, Jesus, after coming to earth as a man, did not build up emotional barricades in order to protect himself from the hurt of missing his Father or from the hurt of loving sinful man. In fact, the love of Jesus knew no bounds. He placed no qualifiers upon his love for sinners, despite the fact that he KNEW that those whom he loved would betray him and cause him great pain. Jesus never minimized his love in order to minimize his hurt.

And now, because of Jesus’ life on earth and death on a cross, because of his willingness to be separated from his Father in heaven because of his great love for us, we no longer have to face physical separation from God the Father! For “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18. When Jesus died on the cross, our sins were paid for by his blood. Then Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity (the Trinity being the perfect three-being relationship between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). Now, the Holy Spirit lives IN US, because we have been forgiven for our sins and now our bodies are holy vessels, suitable to be filled with a member of the Holy Trinity. For those who believe in Christ, we can cling to the beautiful promise that we NEVER have to be physically separated from our Lord!

In my moments of sadness over missing my husband, instead of trying to extinguish my sadness, I can look to God who is my “refuge and my strength, an ever-present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1. In my moments of loneliness, I can experience sweet communion with the Holy Spirit who even prays to God on my behalf – “in the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express” Romans 8:26. I can be weak – I do not have to seek personal strength and independence. I can have moments of sadness because of the closeness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice for me! May my husband and my small sacrifice of being physically separated for six months serve as a reminder to be grateful for Jesus – the God Man whose willingness to be separated from the Father in order to take on flesh has led to the salvation of sinners and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God!

Post by Brynn Gray

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