God comes first and the rest simply falls where He wants it to.
From the moment I met my husband, I knew my life had changed forever. Not necessarily because I knew within seconds that I wanted to marry the man I just shook hands with on a set-up blind date, at a party on New Year’s Eve, but that I was, in that moment, stepping into something bigger than myself. Until I met Michael, I am not sure I truly understood the notion of sacrifice or the notion of priorities. On December 31st, 2010 I was an eighth grade American history teacher who loved kids, teaching history, and assistant coaching softball, but my world was small and my sacrifices minimal. Michael left for Kabul, Afghanistan less than two weeks after we met, returning sixty days later, as was his rotation as a contractor and former Airman. The very first night we met, we talked about God, family, and country until three in the morning.
That New Year’s Eve changed my life, as most women would say about meeting their husbands. I went from being single to being a fiancé in less than four months and in this time he showed me what mattered in life. Neither he nor I were or are perfect, but he showed me what it was to have a servant’s heart. A servant to God, his country, and what would be our family. It was not until after we got married, had our first son, and came up on the seventh sixty-day deployment in just over two years, when the competition for second place started. Which was more important, family or country?
After welcoming out first son into the world in April of 2013, I was terrified when Mike left for Kabul six weeks later. I had this tiny human to take care of, a job I had no clue how to do, and my husband was going half a world away to a war zone. We decided in order to keep things as stable as possible for our growing family, that I would stay home with the kids as long as we could make it work financially. The incredible gift of a new baby shook our world, our marriage, our faith. Between sleep deprivation, going from teaching every day to being at home, and a complete change in daily tasks and priorities, I started to wonder how long we could and would actually live this life style. Does helping people in another country mean more to him than me and our son? After thinking this and feeling selfish for such thoughts, I finally voiced it first to my dad, who came back with an answer that upset me at first and then stuck with me and will for the rest of my life. He said, “You told him before God that you were in this with him, for the long haul even if he did this forever.” Initially, I thought in my heart he would eventually love me enough to want to be home, to quit because he loved me more. But I learned with time that the concept of “God, Family, and Country” is not inert. It is fluid and it has life. It moves with us in our lives acting as a reminder, not a rule that restricts us from loving one thing more or less than the other.
It took four moves, a second son, a stateside job, another job overseas in another war zone, lots of communicating, and more faith than I ever knew possible for me to realize it did not and does not matter the order by which our life revolves around country and family because they overlap, change priority, and evolve depending on the hour, day, week, and year. God comes first and the rest simply falls where He wants it to. Country and family will always be priority for both Mike and myself, how we serve them both varies depending on the day and they are not in competition with one another; they complement each other as the success of our children is the success of this country and the success of this country contributes to the earthly success of our sons.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
Ava Jacobs is an OpsLens Contributor and the spouse of a U.S. Air Force Veteran and former CIA counterterrorism official.