The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Sometimes the path leads places I don’t want to go, like to seminary or to places where I’ll be vulnerable. Or even to the Emergency Room. CPE is something i'm required to do and it stands for Clinical Pastoral Education. I work as a chaplain from now until Dec. 15th. Funny for a risk-adverse guy like me who has been in the ER only three times in his life.... i don't like hospitals and can't even watch Discovery Health without feeling queasy. i was in the room for Eve's birth, but that was a bit different, being with strangers is another story.. so i'm worried.... but i've found that this is what believing in God does for me, to lead me to the uncomfortable places and to wrestle before I cross over to the other side of the river. Am I wrestling with God, an angel, or myself? I never know. I just know that where I am at is different than where I was.
I have just followed around a veteran chaplain for a day on the floor, so my experience has been limited thus far. It has spawned a slew of new thoughts and considerations. I have been kicking around the idea of whether or not “religious” people are different from nonreligious people. I thought that there really was no difference aside from one day a week. But seeing the work that is being done in Lancaster General Hospital, I think that there’s more to it. Religious people do things that no one else will do. it's like they're jump'n right on the tracks of the oncoming Suffering Express! Going into these hospitals and listening to stories and hearing of the suffering people are in boggles my mind. Then I notice that no atheist is in a chaplain role. To put oneself right in the way of suffering is something I only see being done by those who subscribe to a belief system.
Then there’s the belief system to consider. In seminary, I attack any logical inconsistencies in my own as well as my fellow classmates theologies but in a chaplain role I found myself just listening. Even when I feel the hairs starting to stand up on the back of my neck, I consider where the other person is coming from. I empathize. From shadowing the vet and hearing my supervisors talk, this is what chaplains are supposed to do. They are largely into hospitality; care for those in trauma making sure nothing is lost in the chaos and visits and prayers for those who are in long term. They don’t run around and tell people what to believe and they aren’t there to make others feel better, although people do after a visit. Largely they are there as a sounding board, to let the person who is suffering know that they aren't alone.
Maybe that’s enough. To know that you aren’t alone, that someone is with you. Just like I find comfort that I am not alone and I trust that God is with us, Immanuel.
So I am already learning a lot! I like my peers and the diversity they bring and how they make me consider various aspects of my own faith like miraculous healing and what I make of Jesus’ role as a healer. I am only nervous about doing my first Code T or T Alert and hope I will be shadowing someone during that time.
All in all, I feel supported and excited to be learning new things and discovering “blind spots” in my own thinking and theology. I’m looking forward to seeing how God is at work in the world beyond my limited scope. I am nervous about trauma but the support from both the LGH staff and from my family is very reassuring.