Something to Say
It’s an interesting thing about writing—there is always something to say, but am I willing and able to say it? My time at the hospital, in Clinical Pastoral Education, is proving to be more learning than I’d bargained for. It is alternately amazing and completely overwhelming. It is helping me know how to minister to people in new ways and showing me the ways in which I’ve never learned to minister to myself or allow myself to be ministered to.
And I don’t mean minister in the sense that a preacher-type person stands in the pulpit of my brain and tells me what I’m doing wrong or where I need to clean up my act; I mean ministry in staying with someone (maybe myself) while she cries; embracing someone (maybe me) who doesn’t have the answer she needs in order to feel safe; looking honestly into the face of grief (maybe my own) without turning away or losing hope. I’ve come to understand that ministry is a job that requires a bottomless resource of honesty and courage, and it demands a willingness to go into the dark, clinging to the hope that the promises are true—that we somehow bring light with us when we remember God.
I haven’t been posting to the blog because I wanted to be able to write about things that uplift and affirm us. I want these posts to be encouraging and invigorating for us as we experience God in the details of our days. But my experience at the hospital is teaching me about suffering and about not having the answers for others when they are in almost unbearable pain. Underneath it all, I know what I believe: I believe God is in there somewhere; I believe God is faithful and true and tenderly involved with each moment of our lives. But even believing this, I have no good answers for a woman who loses a child or a husband whose wife is dying. Reassurances don’t help the man who would rather die than have another bypass or console the woman who still carries the scars of her husband’s abuse.
I guess what I want to tell you is that I believe we can go into the dark places—in ourselves, with others—knowing that God is faithful in our pain and uncertainty. In every aspect of our humanness, God completes us with his perfection. But I can’t tell you this is a joyful and praise-filled experience for me. I’m not skipping down the hallways of the hospital after I end my time with patients. More often, I need to go sit in the chapel or the office, or walk through a sunlight-filled hallway to ask God to lift the waves of suffering I feel pouring from my heart.
And you know what? He does. Maybe that’s the whole point.