Absence Makes the Heart Grow: A Marriage Letter

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Seth, here. Amber has hitched a plane to the Holy Land, and while she’s gone, I’ve sneaked in herr to leave her a little marriage letter. Would you consider joining us in writing marriage letters this month? 

*****

Amber,

We left early Saturday morning to beat the ice and snow to the Tulsa airport. I dropped you off a full day early there at the airport hotel, extending your already eight-day trip to the other side of the world. By now, you are somewhere between here and Jerusalem, and I’m high-centered in the ice-covered Ozarks with four cooped-up boys. And you are well-acquainted with this truth—being cooped-up with four Ozark boys is nothing short of chaotic.

Yesterday, Jude made paper shreds at the table while Titus emptied every Lego from the Hobbit universe onto the floor. Ian found several boxes of Hot Wheels (where did those come from?) and raced them around the house while Isaac played “Fur Elise” twenty times in the living room. I worked in the kitchen, choosing to ignore the boys’ systematic destruction of a once semi-clean house. They were quiet—save and except for Isaac’s butchered rendition of Beethoven—and there were no indications that they were maiming each other, so I didn’t think twice. I put up the last dish, walked from the kitchen to the dining room. My mind swam in a sea of anxiety as I discovered an origami wasteland, enough Hot Wheels to cause a Manhattan traffic jam, and all of Lego Middle Earth exploded across the floor. In the background, Isaac played the soundtrack—ba da ba da ba du da na nuh—over and over again, ad infinitum. 

In a less dulcet tone, I carped “BOYS!” and the four filed into the room. I spread my arms wide, eyes incredulous, and said (with great deliberation), “I… am… not… your… maid.” And in that moment of channeling the great mommy cliché, I came face to face with this frightening proposition—you’d been gone less than twenty-four hours, and I’d already lost my ever-loving mind.

We stood there for a moment, each staring each other down. That’s when I broke. It started as a little chuckle at first, and then roiled into a full-blown laugh. How could I expect boys to be anything less than boys? No one was bleeding. No one had been cut. We weren’t on the way to the emergency room to fish an eraser out of a little-boy nostril. And so, I took a deep breath, gave them my best semi-stern look and said, “let’s clean up together. I’ll help.”

The truth is, when you’re away I teeter in the liminal space between sanity and insanity. Things break (we’ve already sacrificed one closet door to the cause, by the way); dirty clothes pile up; and only one room is ever clean at a time. I’m out of my element without you, my teammate. We do well together. The critical word in that last sentence is together.

But the other truth is, your times away are worth all the crazy, cooped-up, rambunctious mess. When you’re away, when you’re chasing your creative wild-hairs or pushing into a new culture, you spark alive. You love experiential learning more than just about anyone I know, and I’m sure you’ll return full of sensorific stories. You’ll be a new woman, one who knows what it means to be filled to overflowing. I like that about you.

When you’re away, I wind the evenings down praying for the return of the woman filled with life. I pray that you’ll see what needs to be seen, that you’ll experience what needs to be experienced. I pray that you’ll gather stories. I pray that you’ll gather a people to your heart, too. I pray that you’ll gather, and gather, and gather, and that you’ll return and spill your love for every tribe, tongue, and nation into our family.

Yes, when you’re away, I hang on by a gossamer thread. I suspect it’s the same for you when I’m on the road. But if there’s one thing fifteen years of marriage has taught me, it’s that we both need these spacious times. The traveler needs the new spark; the homebound needs the insanity that pushes one toward deeper, more fervent, more fastidious prayer. Two days in, I’m already more fervent.

Rich Mullins sang, “the other side of the world is not so far away.” That may be true, but when you’re there, I feel every mile of it. I’m already missing you.

Insanely and fastidiously praying,

Seth

 

 

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