“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”
Heart sinks. Grab the thermometer. Say a quick prayer it isn’t COVID-19. Call the pediatrician and see if we can get an early morning appointment. Thank the Lord it’s just strep throat. Just.
And then, a whole lot of sitting on the couch, watching movies, pushing Pedialyte popsicles and hoping the 1-year-old doesn’t catch what her big sister has, all while juggling work and figuring out child care.
It was exhausting, and I was waiting for the moment my patience would run so thin I’d snap. But, by the grace of God, we survived those few days of sickness and sadness with minimal yelling and just a few calls to my mom asking for advice.
On the evening of the third day of the great strep-throat battle of 2021, my husband looked across the dinner table and joked, “Sickness and health, right?”
We said those words five and a half years ago. The assumption is that you’re vowing to remain faithful, compassionate and committed to one another — husband and wife — on the healthy days and the sick days, in the prosperous times and the lean times, in the joyful moments and the moments of struggle and pain.
Then, God-willing and in His time, come kids who also get sick, feel sorrows, rejoice, struggle or battle their big feelings. And those vows to one another start to expand, mysteriously now encompassing tiny humans who are entirely dependent upon the two of you, who stood in that church, all gussied up, entirely unaware of what was to come.
When we sat down in our first marriage prep session with our friend, Father Jeff, he told us his favorite thing about marrying couples was watching them grow up and watching grace pour out upon them, helping them manage the moments that would otherwise be impossible.
It’s in the sacraments that God’s presence and grace is made visible and poured out in the world. Tangible, ordinary things, and moments, become sacred. Unleavened bread transformed becomes living bread from heaven, sacred words spoken by a man in a stole bring forgiveness, cold water poured onto a forehead ushers in new life.
And, in a real way, the grace of marriage and the sacramental moments are seen when sick kids are lying on a couch, when a husband pours his wife a cup of coffee, when a decision is made about jobs or homes.
That God is seen, felt, known and pours out His love in moments we might miss.
Because moments of sickness, poverty or bad times, moments we are essentially hardwired to avoid and hate, become holy moments of patience, generosity and hope. Moments otherwise awful can be transformed, sanctified even, by the grace God bestows upon those of us in need of His presence and strength.
No mother or father enjoys scrubbing vomit out of a couch cushion or delights in dabbing a feverish forehead with a cold washcloth. But those moments can be joyfully tolerated, even in some way can be embraced with a desire to grow in holiness, because of the grace God gives.
But for the grace of God do we embrace it, perhaps coming to invite it.
Couples vow to embrace it all — good and bad, easy and hard, prosperous and lean, healthy and sick — not because they know they can handle it all, but precisely because they know God will help them to handle it, survive it and, with Him, even thrive in it.
Prejean McGrady is an award-winning author and podcast host. She lives, writes, broadcasts, and chases her two daughters with her husband, Tommy, in Lake Charles, Louisiana.