The bags were all packed. The three of us were ready to make our trek to the conference.
Having driven to the North Shore of Long Island, taken a ferry across the Long Island Sound, and driven another hour, we finally arrived at our retreat center in Connecticut, over 100 miles from home. Feeling welcome right away, I met some wonderful women who were genuinely happy that I was there even though they didn’t know me. I wish I’d been able to talk to them, but the three of us (me and the two women I drove with) were so tired from the long trek that we politely excused ourselves to go to bed.
I found my way to Room 217. I opened the door to my room and saw a private bed with a small wooden desk and an open window covered by cream-colored curtains. It was cozy, but it was unfamiliar.
Thrusting my bag off my shoulder, I had realized at that moment that I’d forgotten something very important.
I’d forgotten my husband.
My husband and I knew that I would be attending reNEW retreat (a retreat for New England Writing) and that it would be a great way for me to invest in my writing and get a sense of direction on where God was leading me. He has given me this gift of writing, and I wanted to share it with the world. This retreat, we were certain, would help me with that. But this would be the first time in our eleven months of marriage that we would be apart for more than a day. Separation for four days required a lot of trust and prayer from both of us.
Standing in that small monastery room, my head started to spin as the walls shrunk around me. It felt as if my lung had been ripped out of my chest and I was forced to breathe with just one lung, double the effort but half the results. Tears flooded from my eyes. I covered my mouth, conscientiously preventing my sobs from echoing through the paper-thin walls. I wasn’t even there ten minutes, and I already wanted to go home.
I knew I was right where I needed to be. But knowing that didn’t make leaving my husband any easier.
Tears streaming down my face, I remembered the blog post that I had written about how it’s healthy to get some space from your spouse every once in a while. It’s amazing that God used my own writing to encourage me. Glory to God!
My husband and I prayed for each other over the phone before I went to bed. What God led him to pray was exactly what I needed to hear, and exactly how we were able to survive being apart: “Even though we are physically separated, remind us Lord that we are always emotionally and spiritually connected.” Sniffling the residual tears away with a smile on my face, I hung up the phone and peacefully fell asleep.
As a follower of Christ, I believe that my husband and I are joined together as one flesh by God. In Matthew 19:6, Jesus tells His disciples: “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” No matter how much physical distance is between us, our hearts will always be knit together by the love that we have confessed to one another in the sight of God.
In retrospect, I had an incredibly wonderful time at the retreat. While going for a walk on my own, I started processing my third rewrite of the novel I’ve been working on for several years, finally developing a story line and a back story for each of my characters. Since I had my own room and desk, I was able to write 50 pages of my novel in the ample amount of free time I was given. During workshops and at meals, I connected with other women who shared my passion and encouraged me instead of competed with me. And during the whole retreat, I learned to fully rely on God and trust His timing, especially when my circumstances did not correlate with my desires. My husband also used his time away from me wisely by catching up with his friends from childhood. Overall, we survived, and our time apart just made us remember not to take our time together for granted.
It may be difficult to breathe with just one of my lungs, but I can still survive. And so can he.