Being a military spouse is not for everyone. We endure many unique struggles and sufferings. I have found that living out my faith is the most reliable way to thrive in – and not merely survive – our lifestyle.
The Three Theological Virtues of Faith: which is trust in God; Hope: looking forward to the fulfillment of His promises; and Charity: Love for God and our neighbor, are guideposts to living out my faith.
Through the Three Theological Virtues come another set of three, the Moral Virtues, which have been strengthened by my faith and the faith of those around me. These are the virtues of Patience, Courage and Humility.
1. The Virtue of Patience
We all struggle with this virtue, military life or not. The different levels of patience within the “Mil” lifestyle are staggering, and they’re usually layered on top of each other in the broader context of stress. Some obvious examples of times when we need patience are deployments, temporary duties (TDY), and permanent change-of-stations (PCS). These are the times when our lives are disrupted from what is “normal” to a new situation altogether, either temporarily or permanently. Some situations that aren’t talked about as much are the small, daily sufferings we must go through. Dealing with Tri-care, Finance, traffic at the gate, and just waiting to finally be able to see your family again are some of the smaller opportunities to practice patience.
I have found that in these moments of smaller struggles is when I recognize the opportunity to practice patience. Living in a farming town, I am constantly stuck behind tractors. As annoying as that is, I take that moment to offer up the momentary delay in prayer as an act of patience and I thank God for the opportunity. When the moment is gone, the tractor no longer irritates me and I linger behind it longer to train myself not to be in a constant rush. With this discipline in hand, I am able to use the concept of taking the moment of discomfort in waiting for my husband to return from a distant place and offer that moment to God so he can transform it. Now, since I am not perfect, I am still learning to take the moments my kids need my patience and recognize them for what they are.
2. The Virtue of Fortitude- Courage
It takes a lot of courage to sign up for the military. I think it takes just as much to marry into it. Being a military spouse means leaving your family, friends and sometimes even a career behind and following your heart. This is an act of courage, and an act of faith. Have faith, and trust that God will provide you with a “military family,” friends and a purpose (not just once, but every time you move, or every time you are the one left behind). Every move takes a piece of your heart and leaves it with other people. It takes courage to marry someone knowing it is possible that they might not come home from an assignment, or they might come home hurt.
Every move and all time spent apart is an opportunity to act courageously. I have found that taking a step out in faith when it comes to moving, new situations and friends, makes a huge difference in the outcome. If I do not step out in faith, I tend to have people in my life that will not help me grow as a person. When I am courageous in my task I find
myself surrounded by people who challenge and support me in my faith and are also true friends. The moments when you overcome difficult situations during a deployment/TDY are huge acts of courage that show your faith and inspire others to do the same. Even in the hardest moments at the end of the hardest days, we can find the resolve to get up again and fight the next day, and again the next day. This is the courage I see in myself and the courage I see in others. In my perspective, this courage is an act of Faith, again trusting God with the outcome of our lives.
3. The Virtue of Humility
Being a military spouse can come with a dose of pride: pride of your service member, pride in serving in the “silent ranks”, along with a multitude of other occasions and reasons to be proud. While we say these things, it really takes humility to thrive in this lifestyle. Most people outside of military life are able to decide for themselves what they will do and when they will do it. If it doesn’t suit them they find something else. The military life doesn’t work that way. We as spouses have very little input in the places we get stationed and the timing of the deployments.
The fact that we as spouses are not in control of large moments in our life gives us the opportunity to practice the virtue of humility. Being humble in these moments, accepting them for what they are and having faith that God will provide what is needed. There are many opportunities to practice this virtue in the lifestyle we live. When virtue is not practiced, life is bitter, stations are miserable, and you want to be anywhere other than in the moment. The fruit of this virtue is to blossom where you are planted. Meeting God humbly in the moment and receiving the graces that come from the joy of this virtue.
There are other virtues that apply to military life, including Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Obedience. Patience, Courage and Humility are the three that I have seen in action, within myself and as a witness to another’s acts of virtue. When we know how to recognize the need for virtuous actions it is easier to follow through. Each virtue is only true when it is tested, and this lifestyle is a heroic test.