Since my husband has been out of town for a while, I've noticed something. In his absence, I grow more crazy, madly, deeply in love with him. Sure, we're all familiar with that old notion of absence making the heart grow fonder. But I don't think fondness is the word I'm looking for here. It's much too sterile. I've spent a good portion of my coffee time trying to think of the word I would replace it with, but most just didn't seem to say it all, and the rest were meant for private conversation ; ). And then I realized that the thought is a complete sentence, a completely good sentence, without the adjective at the end. Absence makes the heart grow. Yes, yes, it does.
Honey, this is for you. And all the people who don't know yet how incredible you are.
You see, in your absence, I become acutely aware of all the things your presence affords me that I take for granted. A bath with the doors locked, football practices in 100 degree heat without a four year old and three year old throwing ballpark dirt in my hair, alternating shifts at the role of juice bartender, and someone who knows what to do when the car won't start.
It's hard to do everything on my own. Marriages are partnerships for a reason. But there is grace in the doing. My appreciation grows. I am not becoming more fond of you as I notice all the little ways you are usually here, quietly doing. I am becoming insanely, wildly grateful. For every meal you plan and cook. For every wrestling match that tires out little boy bodies. For every "yes" to my chorus of "Will yous?" My heart aches to tell you how much I love you for those things. Each and every one of them. But alas, Skype is no medium for such lists, so I tuck away the tingling gratitude and feel the tug. The heart grows.
But you know, after a few days of you away, more than all the stuff, what I am reminded of is the great and inestimable value of the presence of you. The presence that centers the swirling planets of this family. The presence that glues me to reality. The presence that settles my manic states into calm and clarifies the vision when my blinders fall off. I grasp to find somewhere to land myself in the evenings and realize how those moments with you in prayer are not just moments. They are soul signals. They are smoke detectors of my heart, where in your love and your leadership, we sniff out where the day has gone off track and work to put out the fires. And they are gold star moments. In them, we see together God's will for our family unfolding and we see the effort the other has made to bring us all there, and we gold star one another. Those moments are vital to my existence. And I think God gives us times to sacrifice them with great purpose and tender mercy. Because in articulating what we miss, we remember what we have. And I have you. And you take my hand daily, and lead me down the path to heaven. And on the path to heaven, the heart grows.
And then there is this. I am strong so often. I am capable so often. I have borne so much and survived. People who love me notice. They affirm this strength, and I am grateful for their encouragement. But most people do not see the sinking moments. The stretches where it all becomes too much and this weary soldier needs to rest. And most people do not get to witness the awesome reality of you--soft, gentle, and supple. You, open, ready for my sinking in. You, my soft place to land. Your forgiveness and your mercy. Your care and your concern. And your passionate, generous, life-giving love. But I do. Over and over again, I do. And seeing how much I need it in this short time away makes my heart ache. I feel the stretch. The growing. My heart grows with such ferocity, it pounds harder. Reaches up into my throat and makes a lump there. Spills out of my eyes in sweet tears. Fills up my fingers so they tremble. And rocks my body back and forth in response to its rhythm.
This is no fondness. This is deep. And rich. And fierce. This is love, life-giving, soul-building, utterly precious married love. With its focus sharpened and its need revealed and its gratitude pressed down and filled up to overflowing. This is grace and gift from a Father who knows my deepest need. And in missing you, I cling to Him. And the heart grows. All because of a brief absence.
And then...and then, she said...there is the return. All that love contained, built up, steadily pounding fresh, released. A partnership renewed, a decision remade, a future full of hope. It's going to be good. Oh so good. Are you ready, my love? Because I am. And I am waiting.