There are many things in this world that carry with them the seeds of their own destruction, and right now, a few of them stand out in my mind.
I am too slow to learn many things, and my own inadequacies seem to be pressing me from every side these days.
Most noticeably, I need help simply to support my family. I’m actively begging for money. That is a humbling thing. But even more humbling is that I can look back along the corridor of my life and see the decision points where I could have changed some things, and maybe achieved a better outcome.
I am also very aware of times when I could not be a friend to some dear, dear friends at some of their deepest times of need. And there are other times, when I have “been there”, for Beth, especially, that maybe I shouldn’t have been.
After Beth decided that she wanted to join the army, but before she had actually gotten to that point, there were several times when she would have “failed”, if I hadn’t been there to encourage her.
I wanted to be a good husband – to help my wife achieve her goals. But it is clear to me now that we could have avoided that whole deployment issue, which pained me greatly, and perhaps now this leukemia, which pains her greatly, if I had been less helpful to her at certain moments.
Before she enlisted, she was walking to lose weight. She and I were walking quite a lot that winter of 2001-2002, until she twisted her foot, and she couldn’t walk. She was despairing about not getting to enlist, so I encouraged her, and once her foot healed, we walked some more. She barely met the Army’s weight standard.
Later, she twice failed to meet the Army’s medical standards because of her blood pressure. She would get excited when having her blood pressure taken. It would go up too high, and twice she was rejected because of it.
I saw the anguish this caused her, and I worked with her to understand how her BP was responding, and how she could consciously relax and bring it down; after she had asked for the waiver to take the test one more time, she passed it, and was accepted for re-enlistment.
I have admired her courage and determination, but I cannot now bring myself to tell her, “what you did in Iraq was worth you having leukemia now.” I did not want her to join the army, but I helped her to do it because she wanted it. I wonder what life would have been like now, if I had not helped her then.
* * *
After Beth had joined the army, and when it was looking inevitable that she was going to be deployed to Iraq, and when I was in the depths of despair, a good friend scolded me that I had not exercised my proper role as a husband. No woman should be in the military, he said. Her place is with her husband and her children. Now that she is there, you must live with the consequences of your decision.
* * *
I know that he was right about that. Still, I did what I did.
Paul is a man who knew how to be single-minded. He said to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). And this was a big risk. Later in that same letter, he said, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile … If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:16-19).
Paul was putting all his eggs in one basket. In the Christ alone basket.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” … “he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 9:30; 2 Cor 10:9-10).