It's delicate work, this work we do. People bring us their most difficult problems and trust us with them. They come to us when they are broken. They expect that we will have wise words that will help heal. They rarely wonder if we have broken parts. They usually do not know when we are tired, or sick of hearing of others' pain because we are trying to manage our own.
The day the veterinarian called three minutes before I was to lead the noontime service to tell me my beloved old cat had died while they were prepping her for surgery. The time I was waiting for results of a medical test. The call from a troubled soul immediately after the one when I heard my daughter was hospitalized.
And yet we do this work because we are called to it and because we love it and because it is a privilege.
Eight of the longest hours of my life sitting at the bedside of a dying woman, cradling the woman's weeping mother, as the life literally drained out of her daughter. The shocked look on the face of two young parents as they looked at the new baby, sleeping oblivious to the panicked words of the mother. The single tear of joy wending down the face of an exquisitely beautiful bride as she whispered her vows to the man who adores her.
Every clergywoman I know balances the demands of the work with the privilege of the work. It exhausts us and exalts us.
I am trying to learn how to keep balance between the incredibly difficult work and the necessary time alone or with my husband to recharge my batteries. People's needs don't fit neatly into a schedule, though, and it is not possible for me to say I cannot go to a dying person's bedside because it is my day off.
There are no easy answers to this, but it is something that will be part of my work.