This last week has helped illustrate to me how much I have missed both being a full time chaplain and how much my three month break in hospital ministry was an absolute necessity. In the time between my last CPE unit and the beginning of this one I have had experiences that, as a chaplain, I thought I understood but experience has
One of those experiences was the despair that accompanies a partial diagnosis... It's a terrible dry place of unknowing in which a person who has received enough information to doubt the future, but not enough to make peace with the inevitable languishes. Fortunately, I received good news... But the experience did help me to recognize the depth of feeling that those situations engender.
The other experience was participation in a substance abuse recovery group. While, as a chaplain to behavioral health patients, I had led many of those groups; it had been quite a while since I had been on the other side. I hated it. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to go back. I did anyway. Those meetings helped to shed light on what even the most well intentioned, experienced, and educated facilitator may forget: Sitting in the hot seat is hard at first. Of course I intellectually realized the difficulty of it, but I didn't really remember the struggle. I wanted to be in that meeting. I drove myself there. I recognized the rationale and necessity of getting help, but I was still extraordinarily uncomfortable.
Those brief and dirty windows into the sufferings of others are a gift, and I am grateful.