Practical advice for the wife of a husband who travels
It was Sunday–my favorite day of the week. And I was alone, lonely, and stuck in the house.
We were on our first term of ministry in a foreign country. My friends were busy doing things with their families. And my family? My infant son was napping after a day of being cranky. My husband, at that time Field Director of an evangelistic team, was traveling. So what else was new?
As I walked around the house bordered by high walls topped with shards of glass, with only a tall metal gate for entrance, I cried out, accusing the Lord of injustice. Was it not for Him that I was living in a foreign land, struggling with an unfamiliar language while learning to be a mother? I wanted my husband, Jaime, to be there to share the burdens and talk things out.
I had some “rights,” I told God, and one was to have my husband with me.
Ten years later I faced a much better occasion for self-pity. My doctor was afraid a growth on my thyroid was possibly cancerous and needed immediate surgery. Jaime offered to cancel his trip to Spain–and I urged him not to postpone that long-awaited opportunity.
What made the difference? With the apostle Peter I had learned that God, “after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). God gives a unique grace to face any circumstance He brings our way. Even faced with a possibly adverse surgery, my husband’s absence did not bring anxiety or self-pity but a calm assurance that I could put absolute trust in God.
During the past 51 of our 54 years of marriage, Jaime has, at times, been away from home 50% of the year –a few days or weeks at a time. We have the privilege of being part of the Luis Palau Association, a traveling evangelistic team. His involvement as Vice President in charge of Spanish-speaking ministries took him around the world to plan and help facilitate crusades and festivals, teach at pastor’s conferences, and administer the different offices under his care. But most of that time, especially while our son was growing up, I stayed home.
Jaime and I talked about the different problems that could arise in his absence but there is always some unexpected decision to make alone. It is a comfort to know, however that no matter where he is located, he has been praying for me requesting that God would supply the wisdom I may need in his absence. There were many times I faced the challenge of being the only parent to discipline and make decisions for our son, the one to repair the house and work in the garden, the one in charge of the car, the only host for our many guests. Sometimes I was the one making financial decisions and preparing for our numerous re-locations, and infrequently make ministry decisions when I could not reach my husband.
What this lifestyle has taught me is the importance of setting a guard on my heart “for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23). and to discipline the various areas of my life so that in the future I could, with the wife of Proverbs 31, “laughs without fear of the future” (31:25).
Protecting the Mind
We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB)
When Jaime first began to travel, the horror stories of women alone would keep me from sleeping well. I found in that early stage that I had to be careful what I listened to or read. An extraordinary change came when we had our son. I began to sleep well. The apostle John explained the difference: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). I was learning more about God’s love, and my love for a helpless infant enabled me to displace the imaginary disturbance and trust the Lord.
Guarding my thoughts has become an essential habit I practice each time my husband leaves for a trip. At one time, I allowed my mind dwell on all the “fun” Jaime was having on his trips while “poor me” was home cleaning the house and running after a two-year-old. When he returned, I even found myself judging him for all the things my mind had conjured up instead of welcoming him with open arms.
During one of Jaime’s absences, the Lord showed me how some “became vain in their imaginations” (Romans 1:21 KJV), and He allowed me to see how the evil one or even the world could influence my thinking to such an extent that I was dishonoring my husband in my mind. The Lord showed me immediately the importance of not having vain imaginations but instead immerse myself in the battle with intercessory prayer for my husband and the team.
During one particular absence, in a crusade occurring in a certain Latin American city, our evangelistic team noticed a subtle opposition. We encountered enemies who were against mass evangelism and our team in particular. Everything the team did was scrutinized for anything that could possibly look like misconduct–and then, true or not, it was rumored to be true.
To save money, the local churches lodged our team in a clinic run by elderly missionary nurses. Rumors spread that the evangelistic team was cohabiting with the nurses. The crusade did result in many conversions to faith, but the hearsay was distressing for the team and diverted a share of their attention and energy.
When I heard what had occurred, the Lord showed me how much better it would have been if I had turned my “vain imaginations” of all the “fun” Jaime was having into an opportunity for victory. It would be a perfect moment to pray for possible disasters and even the appearance of evil that could be used by the “accuser of the brethren” to oppose the Lord’s work. Now when I feel the self-pity it is a prod to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18).
Rather than resenting the friends Jaime makes, I should pray that they would become friends who encourage him to walk in the Lord. If it comes to mind that my husband might face sexual temptation, I should pray not only that he will be faithful, but that nothing will occur that even looks like impropriety and even that he would “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV).
Cautious in Actions
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry”
(2 Corinthians 6:3)
One prudence we practice without fail even though it occasionally causes an inconvenience to us or to guests who would stay in our home: I never have a male guest stay in our home when my husband is absent unless he is a close relative. This was essential to our testimony when we lived in Mexico because of the cultural mores.
Upon returning to the States, some friends thought I was overly cautious. Yet after living next to one neighbor for about ten years, I could have picked my teeth up off the floor when she named off who had visited our house, when and how often they had been there. I had never noticed her close observation of our house, but she had noted every time Jaime was absent.
Master the Attitude
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. (Ephesians 5:15)
Obeying the command, “Always be full of joy in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4), requires a prepared attitude even as I drop my husband off at the airport. To this end I worked out a battle strategy for those lonely hours. I love to be creative but it requires a lot of time and effort, so I decided to save creative projects for the times Jaime travels. Planning a new dress to sew, a chair to decorate, or a picture to paint can almost make me eagerly anticipate having my husband leave. On the other hand, planning to accomplish tasks that are clearly disagreeable only increases the dread of being husband-less again.
There is a necessity to avoid the pitfall of becoming a hermit. We all have a significant need to be with other people. One thing that facilitated relationships for us is our son would invite his friends over, or I would invite friends to dine or stay with us on their travels. The Christian fellowship encourages me, gives me an opportunity to minister to others and it comforts my husband to know that I am not so solitary.
Using our God-given spiritual gifts in our churches and local ministries is a real key to a joyful attitude. The Lord had a ministry for me as well as for Jaime. I rejoice to see how God has given me the privilege of being involved in Bible studies, discipleship, counseling, and teaching. This commitment did not just fill empty hours but provided wonderful relationships and allowed me to be part of God’s program.
Shielding a Husband
“A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” (Proverbs 14:1)
A friend with a brother sent into a war provided a much-needed lesson on whether to share all those problems that occur at home during an absence. She told me of the meticulous care their family took when writing to her brother to not mention problems that he could not help solve. Consequently, he would not feel the need to be home, and thus fail to perform the duties entrusted to him. If there were any way to handle a bothersome situation at home (a broken washing machine, a disobedient child, a small accident with the car) without involving the person who is absent it would be advantageous.
When Jaime is away, we attempt to involve him in problems only when his input is needed, or a decision requires a contribution from him. This policy enables Jaime to focus on the work God has set for him to do. As a result, we thwart the designs of the evil one (“For we are familiar with his evil schemes” – 2 Corinthians. 2:11) to cause Jaime to become disheartened. He can proceed with his ministry without feeling hindrances from home.
Safeguard the Family
“Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” (Proverbs 31:11)
One of the most difficult assignments when a husband travels is to be the sole authority in the house one day and under authority the next. This can be a challenge any time, but it provides an opportunity to practice how to love our children and our husband (Titus 2:3).
Many children do not deal well with a change in authority. Each time Jaime left I could count on having to administer correction for some rebellion of my son within 24 hours. When it dawned on me that this was a pattern, I began saying to our son just after the plane took off: “your father and I decided that today….” Then I would follow with something Joel enjoyed, such as: “we could stop on the way home for ice cream” or “you can invite a friend over for dinner.” This reinforced Jaime’s continued authority and involvement even in his absence.
When a warning was in order, rather than it being just my word, “Don’t ride your tricycle into the street,” it was, “Remember, Dad and I want you to keep your tricycle on the sidewalk when you ride.” Joel began to realize that there was no room for, “Well, Dad would let me do this” or “Dad is not here so I can….” This taught Joel that rules continued even with a change in authority (Proverbs 6:20).
It was necessary to openly turn the reins of authority back over to Jaime upon his return. Joel had learned to respond to my direction during his father’s absence. My task was how to show Joel that the authority was back in his father’s hands. It was a joy to send Joel to ask his dad if he could watch television or have some juice or a cookie, with a phrase such as “ask your father,” knowing Jaime would love to say yes to those requests, maybe watch TV with him or eat a cookie. But our son learned that the supervision of our house was back in dad’s hands.
When Jaime was home, he and Joel needed extra time together. So occasionally I would decline to go on a simple outing leaving just father and son together. They also got in the habit of spending a couple of hours together on Saturday morning. Our son cherished this man-to-man time. It provided the ideal setting for Jaime to impart to Joel the precepts of God.
Taking Advantage of the Opportunities
“Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
But I also learned that Jaime’s absence gave special opportunity for time with Joel. Some evenings, we put on slightly more formal attire and went out to eat. This not only gave us a unique treat, but it also opened new avenues for communication and set up great times of teaching –such as how a gentleman opens a door for a lady and pulls out her chair, how to have a good conversation at dinner, and other etiquette.
Going to restaurants also provides a break from cooking meals and eating alone. However, my husband is always eating out when he travels and he really looks forward to eating home cooked meals in his own house. Eating out once in a while with our children, even at McDonalds, will make the creation of home cooked meals enjoyable for all of us.
Delight in the Future
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Proverbs 31:25)
After 30 years in a traveling evangelistic team, my husband’s ministry has expanded and he travels as much as ever. Even though the framework of our life is one I would not have chosen at one time, now it is one I cherish and would not change for another. Our son, now 49, and his wonderful Christian wife love and serve the Lord and are raising our four grandsons to love the Lord. I am now free to travel with Jaime a good percentage of the time. Yet it was those first years that taught me how to guard my heart and submit my will to experience God’s unique grace in all circumstances so that I could be content when I am alone again.
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