I will admit I can be a perfectionist sometimes (the pathological type, not the psychological). In school, I would proofread a paper numerous times to make sure each comma was in its proper place…I would study every Greek and Hebrew word until I could recite them in my sleep…I would focus on the frustration of the questions I got wrong instead of rejoicing in the questions I got right. Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Get a life, Jenny,” but it feels like it is part of my DNA. As I have written in prior blog posts, chaplaincy has taught me to break free of some of those tendencies, to be more spontaneous and in-the-moment, to embrace the messiness, and to give myself grace when I felt like I was failing as a chaplain.
This came out particularly in the last few weeks, which have been crazy for me. Work was busy, full of meetings and end-of-unit assignments. On my weekend off, I attended a friend’s wedding in Miami and on the drive to the wedding, found out my granddad died. Therefore, I turned right around from the wedding to head to his funeral in Montgomery, Alabama. I then turned around from his funeral, worked for 3 days, and then flew to St. Louis, Missouri for a family reunion with the other side of my family. I came home from that trip exhausted from fun and activity and went right back to work. I couldn’t find myself getting into any routine at work. My visits felt casual and surface level, and no matter who I was talking to, my mind felt like it was somewhere else. I became frustrated with myself and found myself close to tears on several occasions that day. I like to keep my ducks in a row, and I felt like I had left some ducks quacking in Miami, Montgomery, and St. Louis.
As I was trying to piece together my thoughts for this blog, I received an email from my seminary friend, Melissa. She, along with many other pastors (or so their facebook statuses have told me), are working on their sermons for Sunday, many of them using the text where Jacob struggles with God at Peniel. She was asking if she could use me as sermon illustration with my calling to chaplaincy coming through fear and wrestling with God. She wrote a paragraph about my struggle with God that brought me from fear to excitement about this new call in my life. She states, “Because God blessed her, she had to do something about it.” (Of course I emailed Melissa and asked if I could use her illustration in my blog). Her words made me smile.
It was a beautiful moment of God reminding me that we do not go this journey alone. We are called to be in relationship and to empower one another when we doubt ourselves. I talk with patients about this all the time – finding support through friends, family and/or a church community. I guess I needed to take a dose of my own medicine. Melissa helped me to remember that we give God whatever we can and God will work through it to make something incredible. And I am reminded that in our humanness, we can never be perfect. No matter what reality shows, magazines, or advertisements try to tell us. By our human nature, we will always fall short…we will always miss commas and misspell words…we will always lose faith in ourselves from time to time. And that is why grace is such a beautiful thing.