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Tending Your Soul
Sacred Encounters

C.P.E.

Having some limited but educational experiences in various hospitals, I’ve been known to say with some determination: “The only way you’ll get me in a hospital is D.O.A.” Like so many other emotionally laden statements, I have lived to see a change in my attitude and choice. After listening to chaplains who really enjoyed their work, I began to ponder the possibility of engaging in chaplaincy work in the hospital and identified a local hospital where a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education was offered. I could adjust my other responsibilities around the CPE, so I applied for and was accepted into the program. Class sessions were informative, group sessions were tolerable and individual supervision proved to be downright helpful. Visiting the patients was excruciatingly painful. I forced myself to enter room after room of strangers, coping with amputations, terminal cancer, horrendous results of car accidents and those who cringed at the presence of someone labeled “chaplain.” I dreaded every minute of it and expressed myself clearly to God in my journal: “I hate going into these rooms, not knowing what to say, feeling so helpless in the face of people who feel hopeless and angry. What difference can I make? What can I say that will change anything? I just hate this!” God didn’t seem to be in a responsive mode, so I just kept complaining. One day in the cafeteria, I had just selected my favorite yogurt and fresh fruit for lunch and was headed toward the cashier. Walking across the short distance I suddenly heard quite plainly in my heart: “You may be helpless, I am not!” I had to keep walking and then eating as if nothing had just very deeply stirred my heart and soul.

God your words went to the core of my soul. They still remain etched permanently in my heart. How little room I was leaving for your power and presence working in these patients and working in and through me. In my short-sightedness I could only see my deficits. You swept in with your light and truth in a most unexpected time and place. I treasure your response to me. I’m glad you caught my attention in the cafeteria.

Reflection/Discussion:
What image, feeling, question or memory of yours surfaces as you read this story?

When have you had an idea, suggestion or offer of assistance refused? What was it like? What was your sense of God’s presence in that situation?