The fruit of the spirit: unlimited devotion
By Brooke Stacia Demott
Jetlagged and battle weary, our hero turns the corner of the airport terminal. Relief washes over him; he recognizes immediately the tearstained faces of his loving family. Cheers of joy and long-awaited hugs greet him at the gate.
The soldier served his country faithfully, and faithfully, his family awaits his return.
My experience wasn’t like that.
I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. I wasn’t afraid of being at war; I was terrified of the commitment I’d made by joining the Navy. Panicked, I became obstinate, argumentative, rebellious and reckless during training and deployment. I was trying to get kicked out. And, once my battalion returned stateside, the commanding officer gladly granted my wish.
At the airstrip, someone was waiting for every soldier except me.
One 20-year-old girl with a broken family and a bad reputation left that airfield alone. Nobody anxiously awaited my return.
I had a track record of jumping ship. At 16, I quit school. It was boring, and mounting social pressures proved too much for my weak character. Instead, I found that drugs and men distracted me from choosing a path of lackluster stability. I left home, sometimes living with friends, sometimes homeless. My parents’ unhappy marriage eventually dissolved.
Realizing that life offered little to the uneducated pot head/high-school dropout, I joined the military on a technicality, and spent the whole tour in Kuwait and Iraq. That is, until my unceremonious release.
Burning bridges was my full-time occupation. Bouncing from one guy, job, and social group to the next, I left them all in flames — running far and fast away from anything that resembled “settling.”
And it definitely left me unsettled. Truthfully, deep down, I longed to have stability and commitment. I just didn’t know how.
Everyone around me thought little of quitting jobs, leaving town, or ditching their marriage. When life got hard — or uninteresting — they’d just start over. I didn’t see anybody slogging through hard times to get to a brighter side of the same coin.
My world didn’t value loyalty. Commitment meant resignation to a life of regret.
So I confused chaos for fulfillment, because chaos was familiar. It wasn’t until God stepped in that I understood what I was missing.
The Lord decided to show me exactly what faithfulness looked like, in the form of a 6’1” drummer with an easy smile and an obscene amount of patience.
Brian pursued me so subtly that I barely knew it was happening. He was something I hadn’t encountered yet — dependable. He showed up when he said he would; and often, when he didn’t have to.
When we started dating, he promptly explained to his female friends and exes that he would no longer be joining them for lunch or fixing their cars. They weren’t happy; I was stunned. Secretly, I was flattered.
Brian asked my father for permission to marry me on the night he proposed. Since my family wasn’t close, I thought it unnecessary. Secretly, I was flattered.
He promised to love and care for my daughter, whose father had skipped town when she was 2. He eventually would adopt her.
Everything seemed perfect. But shortly after we were married, I began to panic. Sharing my space was new and frustrating. When things were good, I held my breath and waited for the sky to fall. When they weren’t, I’d erupt in angry rage, suffocated by domestication. But Brian was patient.
After many years, the stress of marriage, parenting, and regular life brought me to the end of my staying power. Our problems mounted; frankly, we’d stopped trying. I told my husband that I needed some space, and asked him to leave. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
So, he left. But every night, he came to read the Bible to the kids and tuck them in. He always said as he was leaving, “I’m not going to give up on us. I’ll be back tomorrow. I love you.”
He never threatened me or issued ultimatums. Our problems needed attention; we both needed to change, and we did. But what held our marriage together was Brian’s unshakable faithfulness.
In my experience, people quit when things got hard, but my husband refused to give up. Why?
God has taught my husband to be faithful, by His own example of fierce loyalty. Brian has experienced the power of God’s faithfulness, and the depths of its eternal value.
There’s a story often called “The Prodigal Son.” In it, a boy demands an inheritance from his father and runs headlong into the world to places that offer him pleasure without responsibility. His father lets him go. But he waits, every day, for his wayward son to return.
One day, the boy runs out of options, and he does return — penniless, without excuses. His faithful father runs up the path to welcome him home with no explanation required.
The father is God. The wayward son represents us. And sin is the road we wander, losing our inheritance, but there is good news.
God, in His unending love, has cleared a path for our safe return. Jesus is the way back to God; He is our road home.
My husband taught me, perhaps, the most important spiritual truth of all — in every season, in good times and bad, love is faithful.
God is waiting, every moment, for us to turn the corner, so He might run to welcome us home.
• Brooke Stacia Demott is a columnist with In Good Health newspaper. Got a question for Demott? Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.