Aubrey’s Story #11: Haiti and Chaplains’ Wives

Six weeks after Jeff left for Haiti, Aletheia and I found ourselves waiting with the other families in the Squadron (1-73 CAV, 82nd ABN), excitedly looking for Jeff to appear through the door. Suddenly, he was standing there, tan and handsome, holding Aletheia and me. Burying my head in his uniform, I desperately wanted to believe I had changed. But my idealism of finding the perfect motivation to stop was slowly crumbling. And, as I clung to Jeff, I never wanted to be alone again. I knew I couldn’t be trusted.

I began a feeble attempt at asking Jeff in round about ways, what he thought about a Christian struggling with addiction. I was running out of options and ideas of what on earth could make me stop. Not even a miscarriage was strong enough to make me stop. I can still picture him sitting in the living room, shortly after his return from Haiti, and I in the kitchen, asking something familiar to the, “I have a friend…” strategy. It must have been so obvious. But I was growing desperate.

Here is how it went down:

Me: “What do you think about a Christian who is addicted to smoking?”

Though I can’t remember what his answer was, he said something extremely gracious and life-giving, like “Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient enough to pay for whatever sins we ask Him to forgive.” I, myself, whole-heartedly believed you could be a Christian who desires to stop smoking but is struggling to quit. Obviously smoking and bulimia were very different, but I needed somewhere to begin my journey for help, and that was my very first attempt.

I did believe, without hesitation, that there were certain addictions that you could struggle with and still be a Christian. But I had never encountered, or heard of, someone who had “encountered the cross” and then after a time became addicted to something later on in his/her walk with Christ. Or, if I had heard a story like that, it ended with, “…and then, after a time, they walked away from the Lord.” It always seemed to me that deliverance from any addiction came with hearing the gospel story. Any addiction vanished upon the magic wand of “And then, I became a Christian.”

I felt like to admit to Jeff that I couldn’t beat bulimia was, in essence, admitting I was not a Christian. And because I wasn’t ready to admit I was not a Christian, I wasn’t ready to come out with my bulimia addiction. And I was not ready to admit that I was not a Christian, because I knew I was. I knew Jesus was mine, but I was despairingly confused. Why doesn’t Jesus help me? And so the evil mind game would begin again. Am I a Christian? How could I be a Christian and then fall into bulimia? How could I be a Christian and not get out of bulimia?

Here is where I laid my own trap. I thought I had outgrown the gospel. I thought it was a thing for unbelievers, or new Christians. I had left my “first love,” and with it, the unspeakable joy that propels one into a life overflowing with love and good deeds. A clear evidence of this was where I would allow myself to start reading my Bible, if I had been “good” for a few days. It was never the gospels. It was never the Psalms. I would always go straight to some “killing sin” passage. I even started reading, underlining, highlighting, and making notes in John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. I was on a foxhunt for freedom. And the dogs I was racing after were chasing after the wrong scent. It was the scent of “Do this!” and “Try harder!” In my earlier years of bulimia, I oftentimes imagined myself right on the fox’s tail. But as the years were beginning to wear on, I was starting to catch on that my hunting dogs had been tricked.

Apart from Jeff, there was really no one else I could think of who I could ask for help. I was a Chaplain’s wife. And with it came the inability to confide in anyone, or so I thought. I feared telling my fellow Army Chaplain wives, and I feared telling anyone from our Squadron. I was supposed to be the one that others could go to for questions or prayer or help or whatever I had hoped I might be able to contribute as a Chaplain’s wife. The layers of pride that had slowly, unnoticeably formed were beginning to be striped away.

The Lord, again, showed Himself faithful and humbled me by richly providing me at the time with a group of amazing Army Chaplain wives. I, myself, needed a Chaplain’s wife…or many, in my case. On our street and around our block were a total of 6 amazing woman, all Chaplain wives. They reached out to me and loved me. Again, I am not sure how much they knew. Each of them had their hands full of children, and, on top of that, a majority of the time they were living with deployed husbands. So reaching out for their help was never really a valid option in my mind. Looking back, I so wish I would have. Now, being very much in a similar season of life as they were at the time, I would be filled with joy to share someone’s burden, despite the fact of having a life filled with children. I robbed those women of the blessing of getting down in the trenches with me.

Though they do not know it, their presence in my life, even without knowing my “secret,” kept me hoping, kept me longing for the joy and freedom they had. I knew that their Jesus was my Jesus. They made Him look beautiful to me. Our neighborhood was such that there were playgrounds on almost every corner (seriously). It was amazing. I lived at those playgrounds during the time Jeff was in Haiti. I was at the playground always hoping a Chaplain’s wife would come out with her kids. I found such rich blessings through their children as well. More often than not, their kids would walk down to the playground, and the company and conversation of those kids ministered deeply to me. I even hosted a little music class for some of the Chaplains’ kids at my house. And again, it was a saving grace to be allowed to sing and laugh with them. Just thinking about it makes me even more excited for my own children, and how they, even at their young ages, can be a blessing to others…even in something as simple as a conversation with a hurting adult. I would love for those kids to know how God used them in my life someday. But some of them are still quite young…and I myself am not sure when I would want Aletheia to read my story.

All that to say, if you find yourself in the company of someone who is struggling, just the simple act of smiling, conversation, and building a relationship with them is a blessing beyond what you can imagine. They treated me as a believer. They spoke His truths to me by both their actions and their words. They didn’t act like they had it all together.

They were a community of women who were laughing their way through long months without their husbands, while constantly caring for their children. And when I write laughing, I mean laughing. They laughed so much. And their laughter was so beautiful to me. It wasn’t the kind of laughter that comes arrogantly in the face of danger. It was the rich laughter that comes when sharing that you told your children at 5PM to please retreat to their rooms for the night, that you are done for the day, and you would start afresh in the morning. It was the rich laughter that comes when sharing heartaches, and seeing the silver lining. It was the rich laughter shared over decorating Christmas cookies, and the sprinkles and the icing and the dough smothered all over someone’s kitchen floor. It was the rich laughter that comes with praying for the timing of your period, the desire to get pregnant, and your husband’s R&R. It was the rich laughter shared as you talked about walking your eleven-year-old daughter through the beauty of her first period alone, and how your husband left when she was a little girl, and would come back to a full-grown woman.

These things were beautiful. They spoke of sacrifice. They spoke of birthdays missed and holidays spent alone. But, then again, they weren’t alone. These woman created memories together, and they invited Aletheia and me into their homes to share in them. And they loved us. And doing life with those women, and their children, was a shower on my desert-thirsting soul.

It was not the season for me to pour into the fellow women in my husband’s Squadron. I always dreamed of “my impact” and “my contribution.” But I had nothing to give. And for that season of my life, I received. And I received from those fellow Chaplain wives. And while they were powerfully ministering to their husbands’ battalions, in a way I thought and longed I would, their biggest ministry might have been to the lonely Chaplain’s wife down the street, who was always playing at the park. They were Jesus to me.

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