Give Yourself a Break

Ruth Bell Graham, daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, religious leader, and spouse of a famous man, once said something that may be ricocheting around in your brain in these quarantine days. Her husband was the evangelist and counselor to Presidents, Billy Graham. They had a houseful of children but Rev. Graham was not home very often. He was always off calling crowds of people to repentance, visiting with dignitaries, carrying on his ministry far from their home. Ruth Graham was often interviewed by people who were curious about the home life of this great man. I believe that she sometimes shared that it was not particularly great to be married to a partner who was not there for most of the middle of the night illnesses and broken hearts and misplaced shoes and squabbles of their brood.

Apparently one interviewer asked Ruth Bell Graham if she had ever contemplated divorce. After all, having a mostly absent husband and such a busy household might lead some people to decide they needed to move on. I imagine the interviewer was trying to catch Ruth Graham in saying that she had thought about divorce, thereby undercutting the conservative teachings of her husband. Mrs. Graham’s response was classic. She said, “Divorce? No. Murder?. . . . ”

Perhaps you already knew that quote and it has come to mind for you in the last 425,000 weeks—no, wait, that might be an overstatement—that you have been stuck in your home with the same other beings. Maybe your human domestic partner about whom you were just having such warm feelings in January is now driving you crazy along the lines of “if he cracks his knuckles one more time. . .” Maybe it is your children, those little darlings whom you could not wait to bring into the world or into your family, who are pushing every button you have just to see your head explode one more time before dinner. Maybe it is your pet who keeps staring at you when you sit in “their” chair or who purposely puts a paw in the water dish and flips it over right in front of you just to make their point. Maybe it is your houseplant that has always loved that sunny window but is now turning yellow and dying (you are watering it too much!) no matter how kindly you talk to it. Maybe it is the dust bunnies under your bed that, no matter how often you shove that Swiffer under there, just seem to escape your best efforts. “Divorce? No. Murder?. . .”

Give yourself a break—literally. Find a way to shut them out for a while: headphones, a walk outside if you can, locked bathroom door. Remember, even Jesus could not stand to be around the same 12 guys and the women who were part of his entourage all of the time. Sometimes they seemed so dense, not understanding what he was trying to tell them, and he just had to walk away. He let them get in the boat while he was alone with his own thoughts. He went away from them to pray. Even at the end, he wandered to the other end of the garden to be alone for a moment and they could not even do what he asked.

Be easy on yourself. You do not have to learn a new language, read every book on your shelves, start lifting heavier weights during your workout, or even get dressed every day. If you turn off your bedside light at night and everyone else (plants, dust bunnies, pets, human beings) is snug in their beds, it was a good day. Remember, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not even our impatience, or grief, or longing for a different time. God is with us.
The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago