By Beth Runkle
I began my marriage as a bitter, reluctant, and selfish wife who hated most aspects of the military life. Regrettably, I often made those feelings known to my husband, who was serving on active duty. My complaining added to the marriage struggles we faced with three moves during our first year of marriage and then three deployments. I remember telling my husband this military routine was not what I signed up for, and that I resented the backseat position of my career behind his. I kept and often voiced my critical spirit about the military for the first several assignments. My husband viewed this criticism of the Air Force as a rebuke of his role as provider and husband.
When my husband and I got married, we didn’t know Christ. During the early deployments, my husband began to have spiritual conversations with some believers in his unit. He spent some time in the desert learning more about the Bible and the gospel. Upon his return from the Middle East, we became involved in a church family and Bible study on the book of Genesis and surrendered our lives to Christ.
FamilyLife® introduced us to the biblical blueprint for marriage, which began to transform us. We started leading marriage and evangelism-focused groups. Although matrimony was hard, I learned to trust God’s sovereignty and ability to heal our marriage. If God had united me with my husband, He must have a plan and a kingdom purpose for our union. God taught me to desire oneness in my marriage and to be my husband’s helper.
I learned that the Hebrew word for “helper” used in Genesis 2:18 to refer to the role of the wife meant “life-giving counterpart.”
This word was also a term God used to refer to Himself and the Holy Spirit. I realized I was more of a life-sucking counterpart to Bryan and asked God to change me. I also realized that my criticism of the military communicated disrespect for my husband personally.
The Lord also opened my eyes to see that serving in uniform was more than just a job but a special calling. Merriam-Webster defines a calling as “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action or work which usually involves helping people and may be accompanied by a conviction of divine influence.” I realized that Bryan saw his military career as a true mission and that my pessimistic view of my husband’s calling was hurting my marriage. I asked God to change my attitude about the military and serving those in our midst.
God answered this prayer vividly when my husband moved into his first command position. The Air Force selected Bryan for command of a brand-new unit. We viewed this role as an assignment for our family to minister to these young service members and their families as unto the Lord. Previously, I would not have wanted to serve as a supportive command spouse. The Lord gave me new eyes to see this as an opportunity to extend Christian hospitality. I noticed that if God had allowed me to marry this man, who the military chose for command leadership, we could serve the Lord just like missionaries do, but while serving on active duty.
This new perspective didn’t just transform me; it changed the outlook of our kids. We all embraced the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the families in our unit. In America’s self-consumed society, our selfish desires frequently had to take the back seat during the two years of ministry to our squadron. I think my children are better people because of the times they had to spend the evening in the car driving meals to a family in need, cleaning someone’s home who was recovering from surgery, or unpacking someone’s household goods for them.
God had given us this opportunity to put others’ interests above our own and speak life to others. I formed many relationships that moved into spiritual conversations and mentorship with spouses of military members. Praise God – I could join my husband in his calling and make it a joint calling to minister to those in the military in all of the places we called home during his 25-year career.
As we continued moving, we kept hosting Bible studies and investing spiritually in those in our midst. My support also enabled my husband to influence those serving in uniform. My husband was a leader who was a genuine servant and a man of impeccable character and integrity. I saw that I was no longer simply in my husband’s shadow but was genuinely serving the families around us in a joint mission for the Lord.
I’d encourage each military spouse to see that since you are married to someone serving in the military, you have a joint calling to serve the military. You, too, can be on mission with God while the military moves your family around. Here are a few practical tips to help embrace your spouse’s calling:
Have a positive attitude. You can choose to be miserable in any assignment, but you can also stop complaining and see God’s opportunities for you in each new location. I formed the most significant relationships in the most remote base communities.
Recognize you are not in control – God is. God even outranks the military! Even when things don’t seem good, trust that God has a purpose.
Embrace the hard. The military lifestyle is fertile ground for true spiritual transformation in your life and those around you.
Look for ways to be involved in the military community where God has placed you. Reach out to other military families and embrace them as your mission field.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Military spouses can sometimes be too independent. Ask others for help when needed.
Stay plugged into God and His Word. We must renew our minds (Romans 12:2) to dispel the lies.
Manage expectations. Your spouse wants to be home for all the events and dinners, but sometimes a duty to the nation gets in the way. Lower your expectations and be pleasantly surprised when he can be home.
Pray for your spouse and your marriage. Satan will try to divide you. Recognize this and pray against it and for the protection of your commitment to one another.
Beth and her husband serve with Cru Military® and lead the Central U.S. Region. Beth disciples and conducts Bible studies for female cadets and young military spouses, most of whom are from Generation Z, so she understands the concerns of the new generation of military wives. Having come to faith through a Bible study, she has taught Bible study for 22 years and is a women’s ministry speaker in various venues. She is completing a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership degree from Gateway Seminary with a concentration in Ministry to Women.