Finding Life

2150708_origOver the last several weeks of working as a chaplain, I have had the experience of being engaged in a ministry that has challenged me to practice ministry in a context in which relationships are created within minutes of entering a patient’s room.  The challenge is finding a way to connect with a patient within the first 60 to 90 seconds of introducing yourself to a person.  Yet, even more importantly to me, is finding a way to experience life in that moment.

As I have walked this journey, I have had to let go of my interpretation of ministry and accept another interpretation of ministry in order to be an effective chaplain to the patients in the hospital.  The challenge for me is to find life in the midst of a ministry that I do not feel called to as my vocation in the Church.

I am just now beginning to discover the aspects of being a chaplain that can provide a life-giving experience for the person serving as the minister.  The past five weeks have been spent viewing the tasks assigned to a chaplain as tasks that have to be completed for a job – not as a call to a vocation in ministry.  In the past week, I finally got beyond seeing the work of the chaplain as tasks to be done for a job.  I finally began to see the encounters with patients as the place that can provide a life-giving experience for me as I am formed into a minister to serve God.

Though I have found life-giving moments – times when God is at work in others and in me, I know that I am not home.  I am not with and among people that encounter God the same way that I do, and perhaps I am being called to see my reflection in people that do not know God the same way I do.  Instead of being with people that worship, pray, and minister in the same way I do, I am surrounded by mirrors that remind me how God works in all people’s lives – regardless of background.  I am challenged to listen to God and to see where God is working out in the real world.  I am challenged to get out of the ivory tower of theoretical discussion and into the dirtiness of a real world ministry – especially a real world ministry to which I am not called.

In the present, I am called to remember my tradition while also appreciating the traditions of others.  I am reminded to celebrate the many different ways that God is present in people’s lives, and I am relying on my tradition to give me the strength to move through each day.  By using the Daily Office as a way of standing still in the midst of the hospital, I am able to encounter God in a way that is meaningful for me.  I am able to take the time to quiet my mind and listen to my heart.  I am able to seek the conversation with God that I need to have in that moment.

I must continue to use prayer to discern what I am learning through the process of CPE.  I have to continue to push myself to reflect on how I can improve in my ability to be pastoral to others.  I have to continue to remind myself that I am there to be a servant to others while hoping to learn from the experience.  I pray that I am growing from the experience, and I pray that I will be able to recognize the growth that comes out of that experience.  I pray that I am able to find faith, hope, and love in my ministry.  I pray that I am able to share that faith, hope, and love freely and openly with others.  I pray that I continue to find life in the midst of a ministry that is not my own.  I pray.