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Does Life Offer us Second Chances?

It was the second week of January, and I was alone with the three kids as my husband was off to sunny California on business. The first night he was away, my youngest son had a little fight with his older sister. He was so upset that he came to me and asked if he could sleep in my room. I automatically said “no,” as I have never allowed my kids to sleep in my room and wasn’t going to start now. But he put on the saddest, longest face that I eventually caved in and allowed him to sleep in my room. 

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

And I remembered why I never allow my kids to sleep in my room. I am a very light sleeper and any movement or sound will wake me up. My son started off the night by kicking me hard, then like a sleep walker, he got up and started mumbling to someone. He started scratching his arms which turned into tossing and turning. I was woken by him every 30 minutes. By 4:30 a.m. I was a mess and told him to get up and go sleep in his room. He promptly left and I slept peacefully for about two hours until my alarm clock went off at 6:10 a.m.

When my youngest son got up, I looked at him sternly and declared right away, “You will never sleep with Mommy again!”

He had a surprised look on his face and sheepishly said, “But, what about second chances?”

I said that I don’t give second chances, especially when it keeps me up at night. He complained, “You have to give second chances.”

That moment he reminded me about ‘second chances’ was an epiphany. Isn’t life about getting second chances? Many people go through life on a terrible path and they are given a second chance at life. 

Where would I be without second chances? Where would most of us be without second chances in life? Most of us are only where we are because we got second chances. People who experience serious accidents and survive are given second chances in life. When we think about our faith journey, isn’t that a second chance at life? Isn’t that the essence of God’s grace?

I have now been teaching full-time for eight years and I got my second chance. As I reflect on my early teaching years, there are a lot of ‘could haves, would haves, and should haves.’ One of the many would haves is to take better care of myself.  Yes, that is right, ME!

I had two babies while I was doing my Ph.D. and then had my third child after I finished my doctoral program. I started teaching in 2004 and it felt like I was bulldozing through life. I wasn’t sleeping well, eating well, taking breaks or taking care of myself at all. I wasn’t exercising frequently and I started to gain weight and have terrible body ailments. Having three little kids at home was more than I can handle. And then juggling three kids with my teaching position was overwhelming. I was literally running around feeding my kids and driving them around town as well as trying to teach, attend faculty meeting, guide students and write coherent papers. I was overwhelmed with seminary teaching responsibilities as well as family obligations. It felt like I was driving a car out of control that was heading for a wreck. I was giving myself to family, teaching and everyone else…except for me.

The constant giving came crashing down in the winter of 2008 when my entire body started to deteriorate. In just two months, I had gotten the flu, an eczema break out, eye infections, skin rashes, joint aches and then was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Something needed to change or I was just going to keep going downhill. As women and as mothers, our bodies take a beating. We give birth and do not take the time to allow our bodies to heal. Our bodies are the last thing that we take care of on our long to-do lists. Thus many of us just collapse at the end of the day.

This is a big “should have”…. I should have taken better care of myself before my body started to break down.  

Now, I work out daily. And have been for the past three years.  I eat a lot of fresh fruit and take my vitamins ritually. I try to make time for myself be more conscious about self-care.

Life is about second chances.  And yes, I did end up giving my son a second chance the next day and all worked out well. I think as young scholars and professors, we all need to extend ourselves this grace – these second chances, and even third, and fourth chances – as a way to practice offering that privilege to others, like our loved ones. In the midst of all the craziness, teaching, marking, preparing, writing, deadlines and expectations, we all need to take better care of our entire being, body, mind and soul…because we all need second chances, and thankfully they are there for us.


Grace Ji-Sun Kim

About Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Grace Ji-Sun Kim received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is a Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author or editor of 19 books, Hope in Disarray; Keeping Hope Alive;Reimagining Spirit; Intersectional Theology; Healing Our Broken Humanity;The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Holy Spirit, Planetary Solidarity:Mother Daughter Speak; Intercultural Ministry; Making Peace with the Earth; Embracing the Other; Here I Am; Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice; Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style”; Contemplations from the Heart; Reimagining with Christian Doctrines; Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Power; The Holy Spirit, Chi and the Other; and The Grace of Sophia. She is a Series Editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for Palgrave Macmillan Series, “Asian Christianity in the Diaspora”. Kim was on the American Academy of Religion’s Board of Directors as an At-Large Director and was a co-chair of AAR’s “Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism Group. Kim writes for Sojourners,, Wabash Center and Feminist Studies in Religion (co-editor). She has also written for TIME, The Feminist Wire, Feminism and Religion, The Forum for Theological Education and The Nation. Kim is an ordained PC (USA) minister and more of her writing can be found on her blog site She also writes regularly for The Huffington Post, and has been a guest on MSNBC, PBS Chicago, BBC World, ABC Soul Search, Keep Hope Alive radio show and numerous podcasts. You can follow her on twitter at

Reader Interactions


  1. Thanks Grace, what a great reminder of the important to cut ourselves some slack and try, try again when things don’t go the way we hoped. After all the hard work throughout doctoral studies of “perfecting” our research, our c.v., and our (adjunct) teaching it is hard not to carry these expectations of perfection into our first full teaching position, and lose sight of other important things like our health and life-career balance.

  2. Hi, Grace,

    Thanks for your post! Your words about second chances were right on the mark and so encouraging. When I was getting started teaching, I had to keep reminding myself that it was ok that I wasn’t the teacher I hoped to be 5 or 10 years down the road. I couldn’t get to where I hoped to be without taking the first inexperienced steps. In connection with what you shared, I had to give myself second chances. I’ve realized over the years that others are actually more willing to give me second chances than I am myself — I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things in a certain way and now and then I get a glimpse into the reality that my colleagues and students don’t have as rigid of expectations of me.

    I also appreciated your comments on attending to our bodies and the challenges of working parents. Thanks for sharing!

    Rob Muthiah

  3. Thank you, Grace, for this reminder of second chances and of the need to give those second chances to others and ourselves. I have received so many second chances in my life, and am grateful. God reminds me frequently of the graces of second chances and I hope that I am grace-full enough to remember to offer second chances to others. I love what the airlines “emergency procedures” message says — before trying to help someone else with an oxygen mask, be sure to put your own on first. Sounds initially selfish, but makes ultimate sense.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Kim-

    What a refreshing reminder to make conscious decisions daily to honor God, ourselves, and those whom we love by making our health and happiness a priority. Though I am a father, here are a few things we share in common: I have three daughters (two arrived during my doctoral studies and one after my program); had developed and endured similar medical ailments as you (but now on the mend); know about carting my little ones to and from school, taking them to my meetings and the like; and, have for the past year worked out daily while taking my multivitamins. Even still, the great similarity is what we can acknowledge without reservation: we are in constant need of grace.

    Thanks for sharing this. What a refreshing reminder to honor self!

    Be well,
    K.R. Gilbert

  5. AMEN. I wish I knew how to do this as well as you do. Do you have any good advice for how to start?

  6. thanks for all your wonderful comments, thoughts and encouragements. This is all very encouraging to me.

  7. Again, so grateful to each of your comments. I wish i can respond to each of your comments, but this site is unable to do so. All your responses of your own personal experiences of grace and second chances is very comforting to me. And to Mary Hess – my personal suggestion is to take it one day at a time 🙂 Thanks for your leadership!

  8. Great blog Grace! And I’m now in the teach and parent phase and I hope my students are giving me second and third chances (as I try to give to them) as I figure out how to make it all happen on less than ideal sleep. Endeavoring to learn from those who came before, I’m remembering the self-care part! Blessings!

  9. Monica,
    Thank you for your comment. You have got a handful with a teen and a newborn. Please continue to take good care of yourself and I hope your students will gracefully offer you second/third chances. blessings to you my friend.

  10. Thanks Grace,
    I think so many of us blow the first years of teaching so far out of proportion that we forget to do what we deep down know is best for us. Getting tenure certainly helps, but you’re absolutely right that taking care of oneself is an important thing to do at all stages in one’s career (and even for the sake of one’s career)!

  11. Chad, thank you for reminding us that taking care of ourselves is important for all stages of our career.

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