When my husband retired from the military, we celebrated the end of twenty-five years of fast-track jobs, frequent trips from home and year-long deployments. We had settled into a suburban neighborhood and had enjoyed becoming more active in our church community. All seemed well.
Finished with the military but not his career, Steve attended job fairs and built his profile on social media sites. We adopted a dog and began taking long walks together, talking and praying through the fall and winter, asking God for “the right job at the right time.” With early spring came the COVID pandemic, and suddenly the job fairs stopped and the market dried up. We kept walking and praying through this new, slower season of life.
This quiet season was a gift. Steve spent hours in the garage crafting projects from wood, a hobby he had always wanted to pursue. After we enjoyed a family trip to Colorado in June, Steve began questioning how he would provide financially for a son going off to college, a daughter in Christian private school and other family needs. Our prayers became more urgent.
Within a week, a friend and consultant from our church connected Steve to a position that quickly led to an interview. The position was a perfect fit for his background and skill set – with one huge caveat: Steve would need to work overseas for at least a year. We were completely blindsided. Hadn’t we left separations behind with the military?
With each step of the hiring process, it seemed as if the doors swung open in his favor. By July, the company sent an offer, giving us two weeks to give an answer. We told God that if this was the job He was providing, we would go forward boldly. But if not, we asked that He’d make that clear by providing another job.
When the two weeks of deliberation were up, he took the job. The company had given him a starting date in August — just after we dropped our son off for his freshman year at college. Saying goodbye to both my guys within the space of two weeks felt more than I could handle.
Just as we had prayed about the right job at the right time, we again asked God for His perfect timing for my husband’s departure. Despite the company’s projected start date, my husband was stalled waiting for his passport renewal.
Three days after we left our son at school, my mother-in-law was hospitalized in intensive care. Quickly, we made plans to drive up to Pennsylvania to see her, wondering if it would be the last time. But graciously the Lord’s hand was on her, and after a few frightening days, her body began a slow but steady recovery.
As he waited for his passport, Steve began his new job from home. We marveled at how God was allowing Steve to be present for both mundane and significant aspects of our lives.
In October, we attended his dad’s 80th birthday party as a family. In mid-November, we moved out of our home for two weeks and stayed in a local hotel while our main floor was redone after a water leak in a front window. We took turns driving kids to school and activities. We enjoyed our couples’ Bible study and the friendships we were forming there.
In mid-December, the passport finally came. Though we had five extra months with my husband, the idea of saying goodbye just before Christmas was crushing. We prayed again for God’s timing. The next day, the company told him to fly after New Year’s. Again, we praised God for caring for us so well. My husband was able to pick up our son for his extended Christmas break and spend over a month with him at home before he left.
Although I saw God’s timing in all these shared moments, it was far more difficult to see his timing in the months that followed Steve’s departure. The kids’ schedules felt overwhelming without back-up. After dealing with our dog’s needed surgery – and his stubborn resistance to rehab – I also had to deal with conflicts with neighbors over a rotting fence. The new flooring had not been done properly, so I had to move most of our stuff alone – and move all of us into a hotel for a week while the floors were repaired – all while juggling school and activity schedules. Where was God’s beautiful timing now? Why did God leave me alone to confront each of these issues while stripped of my husband’s defense and protection?
As I cried out to God, I began to see that the heart of waiting is to wait for Him. The end goal was never to be the situation’s resolution or eradication. The end goal has always been drawing closer to Christ. Psalm 62 says, “For God alone my soul waits.”
I would be dishonest to say I’m not eager for Steve’s time away to end. I miss him every day. But I can say with the Psalmist, whether during five bonus months with Steve or many grueling months apart, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).