April 2011 ~ What does it feel like when your child deploys to a war zone? For most of us who have had to let our child grow up in such a way, we really can’t describe how it feels…..at least not in a nutshell. If I had to choose just one phrase I guess the only one that could come close to justifying all that encompasses watching a child go off to war would simply be life-changing. Your world view will change and you will find yourself wearing a brand new perspective.
The moment your child is gone from your view, your mind will automatically run right to “Will I ever see him again?” When your mind starts to run there, it’s amazing to see how quickly issues that were once considered of great importance suddenly have no significance. You no longer care that your son got a tattoo. After all, it’s just a Marine thing! You don’t even mind so much that he occasionally slips and says a new vocabulary word that might not be appropriate at church. All of the things that you nagged him about for years, seem petty and ridiculous, and you realize that you are so incredibly proud of him for what he is willing to do for his country, that the negative memories melt away and your heart just wants to burst with pride and love.
When deployment turns our worlds upside down, one of the first things we parents have to learn, very quickly, is how to deal with the fear. As mothers, we’ve been worrying about every move our kids have made since they were stirring in our wombs. It’s not natural for a parent if they aren’t worried about their kids. Any mother who tells you she is not worried about her children in some way can’t possibly be telling the truth.
We all deal with the fear differently. Many of us find that we even deal with it differently during each deployment. I know for me, during the first deployment, I could not get enough of the news. I had a news channel blaring on our television 24/7 and if I was not in range of a television, I found a radio to listen to, or I spent hours reading articles online. I figured if I knew everything that was going on in that war zone, then I would be able to somehow take care of my son. I didn’t give God much credit for being omnipresent because I thought I needed to know what was going on in the Middle East so I could pray specifically, giving God the vision He needed so He could do His job to keep my boy safe. I may have been more in tune with what was going on in Iraq, but I must admit, looking back now, it was consuming and exhausting trying to manage the war from my living room.
I was a bit smarter during the second deployment. I learned to let go a little bit more. I acknowledged that the news gave me feelings of fear and dread, and I noticed that if I didn’t watch the news, I wasn’t as consumed with worry. I found that it was better to keep busy and fill my time and my mind with other things. I still watched the news sometimes, and I still worried all the time, but it was all at a more manageable level. I was still telling God how to do His job, just in case He was busy with someone else’s world and didn’t have His full attention on the war zone which my son was inhabiting. I wasn’t quite ready to retire from my armchair general’s position.
During the third deployment, my son was sent to an undisclosed location. I had no idea where he was located. The only thing I did know was that he wasn’t in Iraq or Afghanistan. With the news reports being filled with images of those two war zones, and no coverage of all the possible remote locations around the world where our troops are deployed, I didn’t know what to worry about. I had no idea what type of picture to conjure up in my mind, so after awhile, I stopped trying to figure it out. I still had some fear, but it was at a far lower level and it made things a lot easier for me. I found that I was giving God a lot more of the responsibility and I was taking a back seat to commanding all the battle plans.
Back in the days of the first deployment, I really thought I was trusting the Lord completely, but three deployments later, I finally realized that when I was the one in control, commanding the war from my cozy couch, it was far more difficult. God knows better than anyone that I am a total control freak, and a slow learner, so He took me to a place where I had no control and showed me that it was better to trust Him and do it His way with Him in command.
If you are a parent and you are going through a deployment, whether it’s your first time, or you are now an old pro at watching your child leave the country, know that God is with your precious child. He already knows what is going to happen, and He has already given you what you need to make it through each day of this season in your life. Worrying about your child is not going to change one thing so let go of the worry and let God take care of things.
For those of you who are doubters, I know you are thinking to yourself, “Well, her son came back okay. What if my child doesn’t?” My son did come home, but not without injuries that have drastically changed the course of his life. We count ourselves blessed that he is living and breathing, but we won’t deny that we watch him face challenges every day as a disabled veteran. He is our child, so we face challenges every day along with him. Now I see that the deployments were just getting me ready for the rest of this life-long path, and I know God will give me what I need to make it through tomorrow because He is giving me what I need to get through today.