Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Honeymoon is Over

One of the inevitable transitions that has to be made in the life of a newly married couple is the movement from the "honeymoon phase" into what might simply be called "normal life."

It's that time in a marriage when the newness and excitement of living as husband and wife wears off and gives way to the more dynamic realities of sharing a life and space with another human being. You know exactly what I'm talking about...it's the transition from "Isn't this exciting?! We're cooking together!" to "Ugh, he left the dishes in the sink again..." or "Yay! We just picked out our first bedroom set!!!" to "Great, she didn't make the bed...again." Sometime this transition can be jarring, and sometimes it happens seamlessly. And, depending on the couple, it can occur after a year or two, or a month or two. Whenever and however it happens, it happens...and it's in this less-than-exciting, challenging, rewarding, annoying, joyful, mundane, pain-staking, sweet time that a husband and wife really begin to learn how to love each other more and more.

And you know, it's not much different in the priesthood...

Claude Laydu as the Curé d'Ambricourt in 1951 film,
"Diary of a Country Priest"
The "honeymoon" phase ended for me pretty early. Part of this was due to the fact that my first priestly assignment took me into the far reaches of northern Maine and I was immediately thrust into survival mode: how do I start a new life where I don't know anyone? how do I go about my days without regular or easy access to my family and friends? how do I live without the amenities of urban life? And then the practical challenges of serving 10 very different churches in a territory that is the size of Rhode Island soon took over. All of this presents a newly ordained priest with a big dose of reality that ushers him right out of the overwhelming thrill of his honeymoon phase into the everyday ups-and-downs of the priestly life. The elderly die...and they need a priest. Babies are born...and they need a priest. The Ladies of Ste. Anne are having a party...and they need a priest. A woman is getting evicted from her apartment....and she needs a priest. The kids are going to religious education...and they need a priest. A family's house burns down...and they need a priest. A man has a debilitating stroke...and he needs a priest. A young father has a pornography addiction...and he needs a priest. A young couple wants to get married...and they need a priest. A woman is addicted to pain-killers...and she needs a priest. The world is happy/sad/joyful/angry/excited/fearful/lonely/desperate...and it needs a priest. The day you wake up and truly realize that the priest they need is you...honeymoon over.

Every so often a friend or family member will call and ask how I'm doing. Sometimes I think that the expectation is that I say, "Things are great! I'm fantastically happy! Really life couldn't be any better!" After all, priests are so close to God that their lives must be perfectly wonderful...they can't possibly know what it means to feel lonesome, or tired, or aggravated, or anxious, or worried, or anything of the sort...in fact, it's disconcerting for many to even entertain the possibility that priests struggle through life like the rest of humanity. But the reality is, we do. We know what it's like to be just as happy/sad/joyful/angry/excited/fearful/lonely/desperate as anyone else. And you know what? It's actually okay! All of these ups-and-downs, as I have found out rather quickly, are opportunities to encounter Christ in ways I never thought possible.

I'm only in my eighth month of priesthood...hardly a seasoned and weathered priest by any means. But the circumstances of my assignment, the demands of my parish, and the grace of God have allowed me to quickly settle down in the reality of what the rest of my life will be like. And it's in this less-than-exciting, challenging, rewarding, annoying, joyful, mundane, pain-staking, sweet time that a priest...that I...can really begin to learn how to love God and His people more and more.

If you've still got a pulse and breath in your lungs, chances are you're going through some kind of struggle right now. No matter what it is, whether it's mildly uncomfortable or absolutely debilitating, know that you're not alone in this. And I don't mean this in some patronizing, cliché, or sentimental way...but in all truth and sincerity. Open yourselves up to the enduring and constant presence of Jesus Christ in your lives and you will find your strength. Your struggles will not disappear and your disappointments won't cease, but you'll discover how friendship...friendship with God Himself...can truly make this life worth living. And by embracing Him in this way, ceasing our expectations that He'll just magically make things wonderfully fantastic, our honeymoon can come to an end and real life can begin.

1 comment:

  1. I can not imagine my life without God. Well, yes I can, it was in a downward spiral and headed for self-destruction. Praise God that his love and mercy endures forever!