I Left My Lung in NY

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.


Separating From Your Spouse

On Saturday, my husband and I did not wake up together.

I told him I wanted to sleep in after not sleeping well this past week.  He, on the other hand, was up before seven.  I knew he was up right away; not only am I a light sleeper, but he was also staring at me sleep!  Grumpily, I commanded him to find a new place to hang out until it was time for me to wake up. I did not arise until two hours later, and by the time I was ready to see him again, he was playing an hour-long game on his computer (his way of relaxing).

So, my husband started his morning playing video games, while I started mine reading a book (my way of relaxing).

Henry Cloud and John Townsend, most known for their Boundaries series, have written much about the four stages of growth: boundaries, separation, distinguishing right from wrong, and maturing into adulthood.  Although I’m not a scholar on psychology or on marriage, I have seen these stages of growth affect marriage as well.

In the beginning stages of marriage, boundaries are essential to making the marriage work.  The couple are so used to being two separate humans that they do not know how to come together as one.  The husband and wife need to establish boundaries within the marriage as well as outside of the marriage to protect their unity.  One boundary that we’ve established is to not talk about our spouse with anyone else without letting our spouse know (even if it’s as simple as “My husband made me lunch today”).  We’ve seen secrets destroy relationships, and we didn’t want to let anyone come in between ours.  Even when I write about my husband on this blog, I let him read it first, so that he does not think I’m telling you things that he doesn’t already know.

As I’ve written in my post about the lovey-dovey phase, in the beginning stages of a relationship, we have these tingly feelings that make it impossible for us to separate.  I firmly believe that God gave us those feelings so that we could establish our unity right from the start of our relationship.  My husband and I, without a doubt, are a team.  Everyone knows that; we’ve made sure they do!

Because I personally had been so protective of our marriage, I had a difficult time letting my husband do the activities he enjoyed before he met me.  We don’t have the same friend group (as much as we enjoy each other’s friends!), and we don’t always have fun doing the same activities.  Since I’d become a Christian, I’d always believed that I would be doing everything with my husband, from waking up in the morning, to going to work, to resting together after a long day together.  But now that we don’t work together, serve together in all the same ministries, or even have the same interests, I’m rethinking what it looks like to be a team with my husband.

If we don’t give ourselves time to do the things we enjoy, we will become bitter and resentful of each other.  If I don’t let my husband play video games to relieve stress, he might get grumpy and see me as a tyrant.  If my husband doesn’t let me write, he might end up as the antagonist in my next novel (that was a writer’s joke!).  If we don’t let each other hang out with our own friends, not only will our friends wonder what happened, but we’ll also feel like we’re trapped within the bubble of our own marriage.  Even if we enjoyed doing the same activities, we also appreciate just taking a minute to spend time alone.  We are a team, we are one unit, but we are not the same person.

Now, I am not suggesting that our goal is to eventually grow apart from each other.  Our goal is to still be a team, while appreciating the differences that we have from one another.  I will never be exactly like my husband, and my husband will never be exactly like me.  The way that God created me, the gifts that God has given my husband, the paths where God has led us both, have shaped us into the people we are today.  We both have different passions that help us each minister to the body of Christ in unique ways.

We can still enjoy activities together, like going for walks, trying new restaurants, and visiting our families.  We can still make mutual friends and spend time with them.  We can still serve together.  But we can also communicate about what it looks like to be separate within the boundaries we have already established as husband and wife.