The Stigmatized and Neglected: Military Families

Being in the military is an adventure. Being a military family is a whirlwind.

My husband is a Loadmaster in the Air Force and his job flies him to new places almost every week. I am a stay at home mother and my job flies me to new places almost every week too, usually off the handles. Our life is a constant blur of flight schedules, TDYs, doctor’s appointments, bottles, dirty diapers, laundry, dishes, cleaning house, and total, complete, bone-numbing exhaustion. While we honestly do love every second of all of that, it’s nice to have Sundays with our church family. We get the opportunity to be around people that love us and support us on our Christian walk and that will gladly hold our baby for a few minutes when our arms get tired. 

The love shown to us by our church home is powerful in so many ways. It inspires us to keep going when we hit a wall of exhaustion half way through the week. It encourages us when we can’t find the will power to encourage ourselves or each other. It rejuvenates our passion for our Christianity when we hit difficult times in our personal lives. It reminds us to have our eyes set on the prize of life eternal and to live our lives according to the word of God, especially when living the way we want seems much easier. 

That being said, the love of our church home can sometimes be overwhelming and, though given with the best of intentions, very alienating. If you’re having trouble understanding how love can alienate a military family, think about it in terms of a “helicopter parent.” Though the parent just wants to show their child all the love and protection they can offer, what they’re actually doing is pushing their child away. The constant barrage of “how is your husband?”, “when is his deployment?”, “do you need anything?”, “how are you feeling spiritually?”, “we really appreciate your service”, “what you do is inspiring. Thank you for your sacrifices” makes us feel pretty uncomfortable after a while. We love that our church family recognizes us, but we definitely wish sometimes they would tone it down a bit. After all, we really are just a normal family with normal problems on normal days. Of course there are things that set us apart from civilian families. We have to cope with being apart more than we’re together, we have to schedule time together around weird work hours, and we deal with issues that hit home more with us than with civilians, but those things don’t mean we want special treatment or extra attention. Expressing gratitude is one hundred percent okay, and as a military family, we love that people recognize that we are set apart from civilians, but as a Christian family, we don’t need special attention. Our family goes to church to give gratitude and worship to God, not to receive praise and attention from others. 

Another problem we’ve recently encountered after moving across the country has been neglect. Yes, neglect. Although I don’t believe this to be a military family-exclusive issue, I do think we encounter it differently than other families that may experience this within the church. For instance, there are members (rare though they are) that are very outspoken about where they stand politically and choose to ignore us completely. There are others that are callous towards military spouses that miss a few Sunday classes because we’ve been home alone with our children all week and ignore our wishes to help teach. There are members that just don’t reach out or try to make a connection because they believe someone else will. Of course I don’t believe that every church has the same problems, just like I don’t believe any of the above hypothetical members act out of malice. The question is how can church families prevent the isolation of their military families?

Accept us. Accept us with open arms, just like we as a church should accept anyone that walks through the doors, because we want what you want; we want to learn and give praise and love to our Lord. Don’t get caught up in who we are as a couple, get caught up in our desire to worship and to grow in our faith.

Remember, we have the same problems you guys have as a family. We fight over which way the toilet paper roll goes (over, by the way), we quibble about how the dishwasher is supposed to be loaded, we have a wild, crazy baby that we’re constantly chasing around, we sing loudly to songs on the radio, and we secretly love Taylor Swift’s 1989 album too.

Yours Truly and In Him Always,
A Military Family

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” - Romans 15:5-7 New American Standard Bible

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