Monday, June 2, 2008


In our class, we have weekly reflections that we hand in on Tuesday mornings. I may have posted some of the same thoughts here (I know I was going to do that tonight with the reflection I wrote for tomorrow), so I thought I would post bits and pieces of the first two reflections. They say what I've thought about "dumping" here pretty much. But I'm taking out any references to people and "group" stuff etc., hopefully for obvious reasons...

One random side that's not in these reflections: When I was at HSC going to see patients/meet people who work on the floors today, I decided to see if I could get myself lost and then find my way back to somewhere I was familiar with. It was a little bit fun/interesting to see where I ended up and what happened when I got there. And it was nice out, so I got "lost" a little bit outside, too, before I went to my car. :-)


Reflection 1

As we have gone through this week, I have been thinking a little bit about my own faith tradition and the concept of “dying to self” or “emptying of self” to become more like Christ. I have seen and felt how counter-culture it is to be open about being drained and vulnerable...and thought about how that’s part of what we’re in our position as a chaplain for. To let people become open and vulnerable. So, I have actually been grateful to have that experience this week of being there myself. At first it felt like inadequacy or “What am I getting myself into...maybe I’m not cut out for this”. I tend to feel that way when I don’t do something exactly right at the first shot....or when it doesn’t seem like there’s one specific way of doing something (it seems like there’s a lot of “figure it out on your own” even though part of this program is class-like). Part of what has made me feel that way, too, is that I noticed that I’m the only one in the group who hasn’t already gone through or isn’t currently in seminary. Part of that is an awesome privilege to me, to get to do this program having not been a part of that, and another part of me wonders if that’s something that’s needed to be better at chaplaincy.

Maybe this emptying/anxiety etc. just a process I, and we all, have to go through before God can really use you and fill you with Him, so there is less of you and your judgments/biases etc. that may get in the way of our work as chaplains.

I have already realized, too, how important it is going to be to take care of myself fully so that I can be completely present for the people I encounter. To not do so would be a disservice to them and ultimately mean my not doing my job to the best of my ability. It’s amazing how easy it is to not do things like getting enough sleep, eating right, spending my own time with God/time for myself...and how much it takes a toll when I’m not doing those things. I was really frustrated with myself this week that people, especially patients, noticed that I wasn’t fully present because of not getting enough sleep (which I think had a lot of factors behind it), not wanting to take over or be too much in what the chaplain I was with was doing on his floors. Since they weren’t my floors and it’s important for them to be the one developing relationships and establishing himself as the chaplain on the floor, I thought it was important for me to hold back...and I had a hard time finding the balance between fully being present while holding back and letting the other chaplain do “his thing” at the same time.

Part of what these visits and this orientation so far has shown me is how much I can use what I’ve learned in school through the counseling program, and that it’s more about who God made me as a person rather than having the degree at the end of the program. It has already been interesting to see that the things we’ve talked about in this program are things I learned in classes...and how intertwined being good at what we do is with being a pastoral counselor (which is what I was doing at Saint Joe’s) or someone in that type of field...while they are different at the same time. It will be cool to see, too, how the social workers and chaplains etc. may work together in this program, especially since social work is the route I’m looking into for school.

I also realized that it may be important for the group to know how I’ve found I process things in a group setting. I have found that a lot of the time, I listen and process and come back later with thoughts when they’ve fully been developed. I don’t like to come out and say something until I’ve fully thought about it and put it together. Sometimes I have found that that means coming back the next time with thoughts from a previous time, or coming out with an email or something in between meetings with people. So, part of the way I will hopefully challenge myself more this summer will be to speak up more at the time, rather than analyzing or over-thinking situations or what I want to say about what’s going on. I just don’t want my “off the cuff” responses to things to seem silly or for me to not be able to fully explain what I’m thinking. I don’t want that to be frustrating either for myself or for the group. But I know that my holding back won’t be helpful for the group, either.

I noticed this on Friday when I felt one of my comments in group seemed random/out of place/bringing the conversation to being about myself and not about the person we were talking to/about. Once we got out of the group setting and she and I were going to our cars, I was able to have a deeper conversation with her about it and she got where I was coming from. But I was frustrated with myself that that’s one of the only comments I made in the group setting and I didn’t think I explained well that that’s what came up for me when she was talking about everything that’s been going on with/for her. I have noticed this week that when people talk about what’s going on for them (both in and out of our group setting), I’m able to relate it to something that has previously gone one for me, and I’m not sure if/when that’s OK to bring up.

There were a lot of different emotions/thoughts etc. that came up this week. I guess that’s normal for the beginning of a program one has never been involved in, though. It will be awesome to see how all of these things develop, as well as the things that are going on for others in the group, as we continue this journey together this summer.


Reflection 2

My sense of pastoral identity and authority is changing even since our last interpersonal session. I think having the conversation, both in my session with my supervisor and in our group session, about my feelings of inadequacy and ineloquence etc. opened the door for me to really deal with what I was feeling in a positive way rather than just getting upset about it at home or inside myself. I think that conversation opened the door for me to be more comfortable opening up in group, too. I’m already not really as intimidated as when we started. And I’m realizing that I’m GOING to mess up and not do things exactly right (and sometimes not even the way I plan them out) and that I need to cut myself some slack and learn from those experiences.

Also, I had about a half hour today before lunch where I got the chance to pray and read my Bible. Before the opportunity to be a part of this program came about, I had really been longing for and praying about having a job where I would NEED to rely on God. I am confident that this program was God’s answer for me at this time in my life. I have seen the times that I’ve broken down already and not felt qualified enough as a chance for God to empty myself of me and fill me with Himself. As a result, God makes me more qualified because He is doing the work through us, and we’re not doing it on our own strength. I just need to remember to look to God through everything.

I found today, too, that people sometimes relate to you in sharing their stories and struggles and being given the chance to ask about and hear about your own. God gives each of us a unique story, and we are the only people in the world who are qualified to relate it to others. Not that it will always be in sharing your story that one is able to work as a chaplain, but I found today that He will use the sharing of a part of your life when it fits. In a way, I’m lucky to have common ground with some of the patients in the hospitals that were born with a differability or have one now because of something unexpected. I know that God will use my story and my experiences in the lives of whatever patients He has in store for me to relate them to, at whatever appropriate times it comes up. And in turn, I know He will use the stories and experiences of the people I have met and will continue to meet in my life as well.


Melissa said...

I am glad to see that you sill enjoy getting lost. Hey what is life if not an interesting adventure.

Emily said...

LOL! Still doesn't top our getting lost story! I probably won't ever top that. At least lets hope not!

Melissa said...

Yah, I hope I don’t top that one either but I would not put it past myself. Adventure follows me everywhere I go.
My prayers are with you this summer.