When my husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage, one of my students gave us a very peculiar congratulations card. On the front it had a figure of a dog dressed in a tuxedo. He had a frightened expression as he looked at the following message written in big letters: "Another year married to the same man! Poor thing, how much you have suffered!"
At that time, the card seemed very silly, but today, 15 years later, while my husband and (celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I remember that message and believe much could be said about the message it contained.
Ever since I met my husband, I believed he was one of the best gifts I have received from God. Our union began a long list of more gifts: three sons, a pretty daughter-in-law, and most recently a beautiful granddaughter who has come to fill our lives with love and delight. But I should admit during those 25 married years, we have confronted many difficult situations and suffered.
For 16 years my husband has been a church administrator; he has served as secretary, dean of educational institutions, and now is president of the Venezuela-Antilles Union Mission. Each of these administrative positions has demanded strength, dedication, and almost unconditional surrender, not only on his part, but on ours as his immediate family. I have rejoiced in the benefits of seeing my husband grow in the service of the church. I recognize that through the responsibilities that he has been assigned to, he has developed skills, abilities, and solid criteria that have contributed to his spiritual and professional maturity. All this good could be summed up by saying, "Thank you Lord, that you called my husband to work for You, and You have prospered the work of his hands."
But also the years of administration have meant a lot of sacrifice for me. One of them, perhaps the most difficult to bear, has been the frequent times of being alone as his responsibilities take him far from home. The distances in our country and the Union territory are very great, so that we were deprived of his company for days and sometimes weeks at a time. This made our children feel insecure. They would get fevers or some type of illness that seemed life-threatening and the worst thing was, "daddy wasn't home."
it never failed that the greatest "tragedies" in our family happened when my husband was traveling. Enrique, our second son, has always been the most active of our children. He broke his arms, legs, got hurt, suffered tonsillitis attacks and all sorts of sickness while his father was traveling. I remember one night when I tried to console him by stroking his hot forehead, he asked me, "Mommy, why do I always get sick when daddy isn't home?" Today Enrique is tall and handsome at 21 years of age; he is studying at the Adventist university in Puerto Rico. Recently my husband and I went to visit him for a weekend. The night before our departure, about three in the morning I heard Enrique moaning as if in pain. I went to his bed where he lay sleeping. I stroked his forehead and he recognized my touch, Taking my hands in his, he asked, "Mommy, why do you and my daddy have to go?" It was then that I noticed how hot his head was—another fever. Even today, at 21, he gets sick when separated from his dad.
It hasn't been easy to educate three boys without their dad's company. They have asked questions, demanded lots of attention, and missed the games they could have played with their dad. When nighttime came, I always asked Jesus to bless their daddy, and the boys asked so many questions that it made me sad. Many occasions, I went to bed with a bitter taste on my lips because I felt it was unjust for the children to be deprived of their father's company.
With the passing of time, through prayer and Bible study, I gained spiritual and physical strength to fight against these depressive thoughts that vaulted around me, the product of loneliness. At the feet of Jesus in prayer, I understood that the church Wasn't to blame for our separation. The urgency of preaching the gospel made the work increase. We have been stretched to the limit because we lack workers, so that the few we do have carry various obligations at the same time and this costs sacrifice. I know that everyone is touched by a portion of sacrifice and this was what I have experienced.
I resolved to do something about this, to avoid falling into the error of closing myself in with sad thoughts. I didn't want the children to grow up with negative feelings against the church administration or if in the future they would feel that it wasn't good being a preacher's kid, or that the administrator wasn't good—that would be a tragedy.
Positive Coping Mechanisms
I made a daily schedule for myself: time to read, to write, to do some manual work with other ladies in the church, and everything I could to keep myself and the children occupied. We began a plan of missionary work for our vicinity. The children chose a family across the street from us—to play and study the Bible with their three children. The night before this activity, we prepared little loaves of bread, cookies, or something from the refrigerator that the children selected, The next day we had a small worship with songs directed by our oldest son, who was learning the guitar; Bible games, prepared by son number two; and a short Bible story that I illustrated with flannel figures. After that they had play time and ate the refreshments of cookies and little breads. I know, without a doubt, that they liked the last part best, but this project led that family to love the Lord and some of them are members in our church.
Keeping Sabbath Special
The times most difficult for us were Friday night and Sabbath afternoons. We carne upon a marvelous idea. One night at wor ship, I asked the boys to each think of friends or families they would like to invite to welcome the Sabbath in (sundown worship) and eat Sabbath lunch with us. We wrote all names on little pieces of paper and put them in a small hat. On Monday night, one of the boys chose a paper and told us the name of the person or family chosen. The children prepared Bible games and different activities with my help and in this way we didn't feel so lonely.
Near the date when my husband would return home, we prepared cards and big cardboard posters to welcome him home. His arrival was like a festival and we fixed special foods. The children could hardly wait for him to sit down to give them some surprise from his trip and to tell them about what he had seen and done. Many church members sent along detailed reports for the children and this made them feel part of a big family. With time, our children felt proud to "share daddy" withthe church members and this was their "quota of sacrifice" being apart of our family's ministry.
God Has Blessed
Today we are happy that our oldest son is part of the group of young pastors working in our Union's territory. Although he has much to learn, something is clear in his mind, "being part of the ministerial family is a privilege, although it costs a sacrifice." The other two sons are also preparing to serve the Lord and they share the same sentiments.
Loneliness can be our greatest enemy, but if we learn to accept the price of evangelization and the direction the church merits in this time of emergency, we can live without drowning in negative thoughts. Let's remember that our husband wants to be with us and our children just as much as we want to be with him, Let us take advantage of every moment to look for ways to be useful in the service of God.
When you feel so alone and sad, lift the telephone receiver and call a girlfriend, a sister in the church, some child from the children's department. Look for a young person to help, prepare a recipe and share the dish with someone. There are thousands of ways to dispel loneliness. Jesus knows, ask Hint to show you what it is and do it.