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September 17, 2015

my place in his arms

Last Saturday evening we ate something I tried to hoodwink my husband into believing was supper. Roasted kuri squash with feta sprinkled on top, and green beans cooked with almonds and butter. No meat, no starch—not really a full meal, according to either of our mothers, I'm sure. But it was our supper.

I put our plates on the table, and my husband spun from the laptop where he had spent the last five hours job hunting, to face his plate of vegetables. We quietly cut squash into bite-size pieces with the sides of our forks and discussed his employment search. (Last week we learned that his current job is ending, and that there is a 90% chance that we'll need to move to another place in the next six months or so.)

The squash was a bit too much for him to finish, because his beans ran out and he liked eating the beans and squash together. He left a few harvest-orange chunks on his plate and was ready to turn back to his job hunt. I said, "Let's hang out a bit longer" and then salt water started dripping from the corner of my eye, down my nose—only the first of many tears. He was probably wondering why I was crying. But he patiently put his arm around me and let me try to explain. 

I remember the first day he did that, I mean, the first day that he put his arm around me. It was for a picture, when he visited me in Asia the first time. My smile in those photos was one of the widest ever, because I realized that not only did this man come all the way from Europe to meet me, but that after a few days with the real-life me, he still liked me. He wanted me to be close to his side.

Five months later, he sat me down in a historic American park and put a fidgety arm around me. He asked me to marry him and be his helper-completer. In other words, he said I was the bone missing from his ribcage. And with tears, of course, I said yes to his proposal. I imagined our life, shoulder-to-shoulder, doing His work.

On the day of our wedding—the day of the gladness of our hearts—he covenanted his love to me. And then he patiently wrapped his arm around my shoulder time after time on the church stage and in the church basement, until his lips felt like rubber from so many half-smiles for photos coming from all directions.

Last weekend, he put his arm around me again and listened to what made me cry: that the relationships I have begun to make here will meet an early end. The shuffling and selling and sorting that a move brings doesn't delight me either, but it is the emotional expense that I fear the most. Beyond that, I fear that this might be the first move of various, until he finds the job that suits him best. I try to explain that I fear all this moving will gut me, like I just gutted the squash.

It was obvious that the thought of moving does not make him feel the same way as it does me.
He has worked long and hard in anticipation of this. It has been nearly five years since he moved abroad, always knowing that this was in preparation for the next step in his career. For him, the thought of working on new projects, even if that means moving to a new place, is rather exciting. 

I see moving from an emotional perspective, after having made many moves in recent years. He sees moving from a practical perspective, and knows that it will likely be necessaryEven when our points of view are different, I always like to be in my husband's arms. They're strong and manly, yet gentle and kind. As we sat together last Saturday and I explained my tears, and he explained his thoughts, I was reminded of this: his arms are not enough. To some this realization would be devastating, but for me, it was not: I know that I can rest in my eternal Lover's arms. He will understand and carry me.

Actually, not only can I rest in my eternal Lover's arms, but I must, if I want to rest in my finite husband's arms. My husband is doing an excellent thing—exercising his dominion over creation and providing for me. If I want to be a wife with a quiet heart, a faithful helper, I must rest my full weight on the strongest arms...and those arms are not my husband's. Expressing my emotions to my husband is appropriate at times, but more important is pouring out my struggle with the only One who can really ease my worries. The Almighty One can help me to block the impending goodbyes from my view, and keep loving locally, and keep giving my husband the encouragement and support that he needs to pursue employment.

As women we dream of the day when a man will wrap his arm around us, invite us to shoulder life together, and covenant his love to us. Getting married can be good and right, but in a sense it is easy, too! Fall in love? Sure! Receive a diamond? Yes, sign me up! Get a nice new white dress and have a party? OK, can do! But the true nature of our womanhood comes to the fore when we're roasting squash, boiling beans and watching our husbands follow God's calling and apply for far-away jobs. Is our trust in God great enough that we can help and support the man He has given to us? No matter how strong they look, husbands need their wives' strength. Wives need their husbands' strength. And most of all, we all need the Father's strength. Saying "yes" to marriage is easy, but giving constant, daily support to another is impossible with out the stronger, everlasting arms beneath us. 

Our unbalanced vegetable dinner is digesting. Our conversation doesn't come to a grand and glorious conclusion, except that we decide it is not helpful for me to hear the name of each city or country where my husband has applied for a job. (I tend to start imagining life in that new place, until the next city name comes up. After hearing 20 different city names, this gets emotionally exhausting.) Our future plans are unclear, but this much is clear: my work is to keep helping my husband. It is my Father's will that I stay at his side, no matter where he goes. I do not know my next place in a geographical sense, but I do know my place in His plan: to rest with my husband's arms around me, and the everlasting arms beneath me. Here, my soul goes from clamorous to quiet.

"A foolish woman is clamorous...." 

"...let [your adornment] be the hidden person of the heart,
with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very precious in the sight of God...."

"This is what the Sovereign LORD...says: 
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, 
in quietness and trust is your strength..."

"His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me."
—Solomon's wife, of Solomon

"Do you have an arm like God's...?"
—God to Job

"...nor did their arm bring them victory; 
it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, 
for you loved them."
—David, in the 44th Psalm

"My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him."
—God, via Ethan the Ezrahite


  1. Our hearts are aching abysses of nothingness that only our infinite God can fill. Marriage has only increased my longing to see my Savior -- because I tasted the sweetness of oneness with my earthly husband. Marriage increased my longing for eternal rest -- because I learned to rest in his arms. Like your other posts, you make me long for a real cup for warm drink with you, dear friend.

    The answers to your questions on my blog -- yes! and yes! Your comment gave my heart a squeeze; I laughed.

    1. You make me wish I could come to Chicago! :) Maybe one day!