I spent the better part of last week on the road with a member of our church. He's a truck driver, and had to deliver a load of examination tables to the hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He needed someone to help handle the load, since it had to be unloaded by hand. We left on Tuesday at noon. We arrived at Fort Bragg on Wednesday morning.
Our mission went down like this: haul out 32 exam tables from the exam rooms inside the hospital, and leave them on the sidewalk. Haul 32 new exam tables into the hospital. When the truck was unloaded, we had to load up the old ones onto the trailer. The exam tables were very heavy. Very, very heavy. I grew up baling hay, spent time as a scout in the Army, and shoveled sand in an aluminum foundry. I'm not unaccustomed to hard work. This little six and a half hour table exchange was pretty hard work.
After we loaded the old tables onto the trailer, there was a mix up on where the tables were supposed to go. So we stayed over in a motel on Wednesday night and spent the better part of Thursday waiting in his truck for instructions. Finally, the company who owned the beds called and said to bring them back up to Ohio. We arrived back home on Friday around noon. So we were out Tuesday through Friday.
What struck me on this trip was a couple strange events. First, I posted money in the wrong checking account on Monday, and our primary checking account went $400 in the red. My wife was wondering what had happened. I assured her that if she called the bank, and explained the mix-up, they would fix everything and waive the overdraft charges. Needless to say, they did.
A while later, I'm informed by my wife that the gas company shut off our gas while she was out on Thursday. We recently built a new house and our deposit increased. It seems that our last payment went entirely to paying off the deposit, and none was posted on our bill. I assured my dear wife that if she would call the gas company, and explain the mix-up, they would turn it back on. Needless to say, they did. My wife never complained or made me feel guilty for not being there.
I felt like a total heel. Here I am sitting in a truck in North Carolina. My wife is back home dealing with one small crisis after another. My truck driving friend told me, "We have stuff like that happen sometimes." That's when I truly appreciated the strength of my friend's wife. My friend provides well for his family, but it requires him to be away. That requires his wife to be strong if she's not going to make him feel guilty all week long. I know she gets this strength from her Lord.
Some might say my friend would be a better husband by staying closer to home. I would ask those who do to stop using every product in their home. It's easy to sit back, enjoying our affluent lifestyle while judging the ones who bring the affluence from one state to another. I'd prefer to just thank him and his wife for their labors, which they do for the glory of God.
I'm thankful that my friend's wife (who is also my friend) is so focused on the Gospel that she is able to manage her house while her husband is away. It can be a frightening thing to spend your week alone. It can be overwhelming to take care of four small children by yourself. It can be frustrating to want to be close, but realize your mate is a thousand miles away, literally. I know it is the Gospel that enables her to be strong for her husband. It is the Gospel that sustains her, so that she doesn't have to put added pressure on her husband while he's away. I gained a greater respect for her while on this trip. For that, I'm thankful I had the opportunity to go.
Ironically, my truck driving friend is going on vacation next week. Where will his time off take him? To Mexico with To Every Tribe Ministries. (I would highly recommend you check out their website, and listen to David Sitton's message at the 2006 Desiring God Conference for Pastors.)
My friend is flirting with the idea of becoming a missionary, and has been looking forward to this trip for over a year. He's also scheduling a trip to Papua, New Guinea. His dear wife will stay behind with the children while he's gone. Again, I know someone may think he'd be a better husband to spend some time with his family. Trust me, he spends time with his family.
Who knows whether God has been training this couple in daily dying through the strain of truck-driving? My friend has always looked for opportunities to share the Gospel, or a meal with those out on the road. Perhaps someday he and his wife will share the Gospel in some far away land. They've decided the best way to spend time is by advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who've never heard it. Sure it costs them. The time apart is a type of dying to themselves. I'm thankful that God raises up those strong couples who place the glory of God above their temporal comfort and pray that God raises up more Gospel-centered couples.