STORY: Missing Husband
Sometimes I think it’s just pretty unlikely that the Christian God exists. Like when someone truly thinks they hear God say they are to marry a specific person, but the other person doesn’t hear the same thing. Or even moreso when I seek direction or help in my life by praying, and I don’t hear anything and nothing seems to change.
After realizations like this, I often ask myself, “if it doesn’t seem true, then why do I still believe.”
Janie doubted she would ever meet a boy like she hoped for. In Marysville, Washington, in 1938, the boys were made of only cat calls and football talk. Men talked down to their wives face to face and ridiculed them behind their backs. By age 18 Janie knew every one of the boys in the small high school well enough to know that even tho she dreamed of marriage, none of them would be as good as living life alone. She resolved never to marry a boy from Marysville.
Then one day, she saw a young man walking through her father’s apple orchard, admiring the peaceful beauty of the ripening fruit. She went to him. He wasn’t from Marysville.
Kirk and Janie met just a year before World War II started. Their romance sprung up and engulfed them like a flame. They were married within six months. Kirk was kind and wise, and his integrity was forged deep. She thought, “I want to be a better woman for him every day.”
He insisted they read the funnies every morning and watch the tonight show every night so they could share their first and last laugh of every day. They decided to hang up Christmas lights all year round because they both loved them so much. They taught the kids at Sunday school together to prepare for their own kids someday. They played tennis or hiked mountains or rode bikes at least 3 times a week so they would have more healthy years to live together. Because this love was so good, they hoped they would never die. They looked forward to growing old together, but not to saying goodbye.
But then Kirk was drafted.
Because of Kirk’s deep integrity, keen intelligence, and his german ancestry, he was chosen to do undercover reconnaissance work. And because of the nature of his work, he could have no correspondence with people on the outside.
So Janie and Kirk said goodbye.
Janie cried for months. She missed him like Washington apples miss a hand to hold them and eyes to see their beauty. But she did not rot away. She read the funnies and watched the tonight show every day to keep in good spirits for him. She made sure the Christmas lights were always working so that if he came home he would not only know she still lived there, and that she had not married another. She continued to teach the kids at Sunday school. She rode her bike and climbed mountains alone, or sometimes with a friend, to stay beautiful for him for when she saw him again. She wrote him letters, in the rare case that they would ever reach him.
A few years later when the war ended he did not come home. There was no news that Kirk had died, but the bickering couples in Marysville whispered more and more that he was never coming back. They watched her keep herself and the big house beautiful and whispered to each other, “what a shame. She’s lying to herself.”
But to Janie, there was nothing shameful about it. She watched the other people in Marysville get lazy and fat, watching football and gossiping at the TV. Children congregated at her house. It was a house of joy. She taught them jump rope games and how to do puzzles. Dozens of kids spent their summers with her. She raised them as much as their own parents did, fortunately for their futures.
All the men who saw Janie walk with poise, grace and joy through the grocery store or to the post office silently wished their wives were that way. They didn’t know she was that way because her husband had treated her like she was that way.
And she would always be that way. She had made the resolve, like the one she had made to never marry a Marysville man, to never stop living like she was married to Kirk. She would never stop being a better woman for him, even if she never saw him again.
There were hints from the military that Kirk could still be alive because his mission had become long term and crucial for the country, but almost nobody in Marysville believed it and no one expected he would return. Even Janie. But for her, the possibility was worth the wait.
The truth about Kirk was that he WAS still on a crucial mission that continuously supplied the USA with information that eventually became critical in the cold war. And he stayed on this mission for his country until he died. He was an excellent spy. The only crack in his armor of secrecy was that he never remarried. The Germans and Russians wondered why a man of such high quality kept so much to himself.
The American government had worked out a system so he could read every one of Janie’s letters from afar, but he could not respond. An editorial printed her anonymous letters in a German paper which Kirk read every day. The whole German nation read them, not knowing who it was to. And it was Janie’s undying commitment to love him and to continually become a better woman for him that kept him going and striving to be better himself. When Janie passed away, it was shortly after that Kirk went too.
No one in Marysville suspected that Janie’s committed love was what kept the Americans ahead in the arms race for so many healthy years.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a good idea to keep loving and serving God, even when it seems unlikely that he exists. But then I see the man that it’s making me into, and the story that they say is behind it, it then again seems worth it.
And as far as hearing the wrong thing from God, or not hearing from him at all, sometimes i think maybe that proves to me that he is more real than anything in my head. That God is as real as true love and gritty war, where signals get mixed, feelings get hurt, and battles for hearts are won and lost by faith, sacrifice, and sometimes lonely perseverance. And none of these things mean he doesn’t love us or that he’s not trying to speak to us. But that he is there listening to each of my love letters, each night as I bow my head before bed and tell him I wish he were here.