Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stranded on an Escalator

Hi!  I haven't written anything new in a long time.  I hope you are well... 

I started working part-time as a hospital chaplain five months ago.  Although I have wanted to write and share with you, I haven't been sure how to go about it.  But, the time has come to try. 

For the last two months, my job has included visiting one of the nursing homes within our hospital system.  While horror to some, it is my delight.  However, it is an emotionally expensive delight.  It is an honor and tremendous privilege to serve people who live with hearts full of gratitude, but would always rather be somewhere else.  Like home.  Yet, they face each day with courage, hope, patience, and an award-winning sense of humor.  They have taught me that my God is too small.

I have never met a more heroic people.  

Included in this group are "young" people in their 50s and 60s who are stricken with ALS, MS, or other mobility thieves.  As I listen to their stories, I grieve for what they've lost and the losses that are to come.  Their burdens have become my burdens and I have been surprised by my need for a compassionate heart and a good set of ears.

As long as I can remember, I have been the "listener".  Eager with questions, interested in details, and carrying no burden of my own to squash my willingness to carry that of another.  Until now.  I have gradually transitioned from a good listener to a professional listener, and with that have become increasingly dissatisfied with how well others listen (or not).  I listen to people all day long, and I love it.  However, when I am on the talking-end, I find myself abandoned mid-story or mid-sentence.  I seem to be welcomed as a sprint, but loathed beyond the 40-yard line.

My strong preference for texting rather than talking has upgraded to my overwhelming preference.  I am more comfortable with being briefly engaged or ignored than being half-listened to.  My temptation is to withdraw or at least shut up.  Stay with pleasantries.  Forgo the deep.  But, I love the deep...That murky place where feelings hide until chased out by the light of a great question.

But, the questions don't come and I start feeling suspicious.  It slowly dawns on me that if I leave every conversation disappointed, the problem has to be one of two places.  With everyone else.  Or with me.  My discomfort grows... 

Rather than hastily condemn either party, I ask a question of myself.

"Where is God in all of this?"  

I think He was sitting on the edge of His throne waiting for me to ask because the answer(s) arrived before I tacked the question mark on.  He answered once with the Litany of Humility, a second time with St. Francis' Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace (below), and a third time with an old memory of a funny video I saw once.  An escalator broke down and two people were "stranded" halfway up, yelling for help.  Can you imagine this?!  (Hint:  Google "people stuck on escalator".  It's definitely worth two minutes!)   

It turns out God isn't in the middle of this "nobody can hear me" crisis.  I am.  Since beginning this post, I realize I've been like the people on the escalator, waiting for someone else to show up, ask a question or give a thoughtful reply, and fix it.  But, there's no repair man in sight and I'm not too handy, myself.  So, I gotta take the stairs and keep moving.  Yelling from the middle doesn't do a damn bit of good.


Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.



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