"I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
A year's absence is not a complete "lost" (though I can't imagine any woman has watched her boy leave her side for a war zone and not had the "What if..." thought cross her mind) but it is a loss nonetheless - it is the loss of a year together, a loss of sharing that year's sweet spring, that year's long-dayed summer, that year's crisp autumn, a loss of 365 suppertimes, read alouds on the couch and washing dishes elbow to elbow, a loss of 260 "Welcome home" hugs and kisses after a day's work. And the pain of all that loss could be lessened by staying outside the love - by not weaving our lives into another's so we cannot be hurt by a separation. But this is not why God gave us hearts - to be only kept safe. Our hearts were given to reflect God's heart and to fellowship with Him. When I open my heart to love another human being - not in an idolatrous way, but in a devoted and sacrificial way - that love, desire for their welfare and delight in their presence, that connection of my good with theirs - opens a million avenues for joy and pain that I cannot have apart from love. And in each of those avenues, Jesus wants to walk with me and show me more of His heart. He wants to reveal His incredible grace in love's joys and His tender mercy in love's pain. It is because I want to experience that tenderness of the Lord that I would choose the pains of love rather than the ease of not caring. I want to love, lose, mourn and be comforted in His presence - rather than to withdraw to myself and keep my own comfort. I want to see Him do through me what I cannot do on my own.
After Caleb's first deployment, when I started to know and care for him more, I thought how glad I was that I hadn't known him during the former deployment until he came back - because of how much harder it would have been to care. As it was, I passed many weeks and months without a thought or concern about his welfare while he was gone. I had not loved him - or even known him. And when I said those words later, after I thought I loved him, I did not love him still - I loved myself, and was only glad to spare myself the pain. Now I can say that (though I do not wish to change anything about God's perfect plan for our lives) I would gladly have gone through that deployment too, knowing and caring about him, giving to God a hundred times my anguish for his safety, writing to him and encouraging him, and allowing him to bear the burden of my own concerns. Why? I love him. I want our lives woven together, even if the strands of my life must now touch strands of his life that hurt, and his mine - and he has loved me in the same way.
Yes, I'm also idealistic and proud and want to be a hero (can I deny it? I'm just stinkin' proud of my soldier and being his support as he goes out to serve) but I write here what I want to be most of all true about the life of love I am entering into with a man who will not always be here. And I think this vision of experiencing God through sacrifice should be true of other loving relationships besides marriage that exist for God's glory.
"No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
(1 John 4:12 ESV)