CPE has ended and I'm reflecting on what I have learned. We had to have learning goals, so I'll write about those on here in two posts and end with a big ol' overview of the entire process.
LEARNING GOAL #1: How to put theoretical knowledge into a practical theology
Why this Goal?
I did an internship at a local church and some feedback that came my way was that I sometimes spoke too complex for people to understand. In Bible studies I would leave people behind with the concepts and vocabulary that I employed. It was my fear that I would do the same on my visits. It was also a fear that I would try to be a problem solver and in this role and in doing so I would offend and miss the real problem that was bothering the patient.
This learning goal had many aspects to it. First and foremost is developing reflective listening skills which I feel I have made much progress with. The second would be to learn how to boil down complex theories, concepts, and vocabulary into accessible and clear statements, which when I did speak, would be understood with little room for misinterpretation. I really felt that I harkened back to my advertising background. I re-learned how to present myself, simply, clearly, and yet still hint that there is still more to me than what is being presented. Likewise, I learned how to locate the patient, meet them where they are, and yet still realize there is more to their story as well.
All this to say that I found that I tend to lead with my head but it is informed by my heart. This is the type of “heart religion” Jonathan Edwards spoke about. What Phillip Otterbien called “a scholarly pietism.” These pillars of my tradition state that you can think things that are cognitive, but if you don’t feel it then it’s worthless. I feel that this goal has helped me realize how I act and respond. I am able to use my seminary training to recognize religious and theological frameworks that are presented by patients and explore them. I am able to match up how the patient’s theoretical theology matches up with what they are feeling in the moment. If the theory and the feeling match, I don’t mess, but if they don’t, I am able to offer alternatives that are both cognitively and emotionally comprehended.
The growing edge with this goal and the progress made is not falling back into a purely cognitive style of working. I doubt this will happen, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned here and this new awareness of self. I don’t want to lose this vulnerability and risk and take a defensive stance. I always state that the best theology is one based on questions not answers, and it seems I’m finally taking my own words to heart.