Every once in a while, who am I kidding, at least three times a week, I wonder if I was crazy to do a chaplaincy residency in my first year of marriage. Last week, when I felt overwhelmed, I realized that I sometimes forget that this job is hard in itself — even if nothing else in my life was difficult or changing, being a chaplain in a children’s hospital is hard. This may be stating the obvious to those not in the midst of it, but what one does daily becomes normal.
When I am at a low point I tell myself that our first year of marriage shouldn’t be this hard. I ‘shouldn’t’ have to deal with negotiating work difficulties, bearing witness to traumas and death, spending way more group time discussing my feelings than in the last five years of my life combined. We shouldn’t have to deal with the figuring out how to gracefully fit into each others families, praying for vocational discernment, and have friends move away all at the same time and the resulting tears, quiet periods, or frustration. Oh “shouldn’t” what a loaded word, and really not a useful one.
Then I realized, we’ve been given room to practice grace. I remember talking to a good friend of mine when I’d been married for just a few weeks, and I told her how my husband was doing considerably more dishwashing than me and maybe I should stop him, and she told me that many habits are set in the first 6 weeks of marriage and not to mess ;). In similar form, we’re practicing grace.
We’re practicing early to express our feelings and to know how to ask the other person what they’re feeling. We’re practicing seeking out the other when we need comfort or tears dried. We’re practicing boundaries and what to share and what to keep at work. We’re practicing praying for each other throughout the day. We’re practicing finding joy in hard days. We’re practicing how to make time for Sabbath. We’re practicing showing each other grace and receiving grace in return.
Yes, there are things I would change. Primarily, I wished we lived in a world where no child got hurt or died. I wish we always understood each other and our families and always communicated in healthy and open ways. But that’s not always going to happen, and as I’ve learned in my residency, “practice makes better.” If in these first months we are making habits and patterns that will be harder to change later on, I would prefer, in the long term, that we work them out in grace. Better now than when things get harder or in later years when little people are added to the mix. I want to make a habit of grace.
To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health — or when work is hard or easy or family is complicated or dealings are simple, when friends move away or new friends emerge, there is never a day that goes by where grace is not needed for the journey. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to practice and an example to follow.