Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Starting Point

I have been thinking and feeling a lot, and writing only a little this week. I am near the end of the orientation week at a city hospital, where I am entering the Clinical Pastoral Education program and will be serving as a chaplain intern for the next four months. My heart and spirit led me to this point--now my brain is absorbing all the procedures and protocols; my fingers are taking notes; my eyes are reading manuals. I've been sitting in meeting after meeting, trying to absorb the most important parts of this awesome responsibility. I think of families in pain; in panic; in grief; in fear. Will I know what to do, what to say, how to be? What does the hospital expect of me? What do the doctors and nurses want? How will I ever, ever measure up to all the expectations and remember all the important things when I'm on call tomorrow night with a seasoned chaplain, responding to emergencies?

Driving home, brain-weary and struggling with huge waves of self-doubt, I prayed and prayed a wordless prayer. Will I know what to do? How will I know? How, God, how? I absently directed the car in the late rush-hour traffic. I passed under a bridge. Something inside me gently spoke. Just love the people, the voice said. Start there.

A huge sense of relief washed through me. That I can do. That I already do. In the presence of pain, something tender inside me reaches. The protocols and procedures--the paperwork and the directives--those things may take some time to learn. I may not get that right, right off the bat. I may lose a form or forget the phrasing I've been taught. But I can surely love God's people and be present while He loves them Himself. That's where I'll start.

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