Who ought I be? Where is the Holy Spirit leading me? These questions have centered my theological development. Next week I begin my newest assignment from God. It is an exciting challenge as a resident in chaplaincy. I have told many others that God could have saved me from so much if he had led me here sooner. My Mother, upon hearing me say this, would have explained that I would not have been ready; that God chooses the time and place, and you either accept or not. Fr. Boudreaux, from Montserrat in Dallas, added to this by saying God never gives with only one hand. That he presents your options with both hands full and asks you to choose. This is the very essences of free will. The choices in free will abundantly bless me, even though I am a less than a perfect candidate for so many gifts. One of my awards given by my supervisor during my externship in chaplaincy guides my thoughts today, it is a plaque that says “I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent”. I am ready, but a little scared. I need to make sure that I walk with God.
When I first decided to really look at my faith life, I was thirty something. I was a little lost and in need of a path to a love-filled life. I had just had my last child, who died four hours after birth. My husband and I began our grief in the same place, but grief has its own path for each of its recipients. He and I traveled different paths in finding our way. My friends and family were significant in my recovery from grief. My husband and I stopped sharing our feelings in hopes of not bringing the other to a dark place. We were kind and shared the bright moments, but we left each other after a time to a solitary existence in the dark. Upon the advice of a very good friend we continued to offer kindness and compassion when we saw the pain in each other. My best friend (other than my husband) had experienced a deep grief when her mother died. A cancer diagnosis occurred shortly after that death. When my son passed she was eight years cancer free. While she did not believe in God the same way as I do, she was the spiritual guide that I had not expected. She saw the human spirit differently than I did. It was one of the many things that bonded our friendship. We taught each other.
When I found myself in the midst of anger at God, she was the one that shined light on my hypocrisy. I remember saying, “I am just going to give up on this whole God thing. I mean really, what has it gotten me? My baby is dead and I am heartbroken”. She looked at me said, “Are you really going to allow his death to separate you from God”? I was shocked; she went on. “You really want this baby to be what separates you from your faith? You are going to place blame on God and allow your child to carry that guilt into heaven? That is so selfish and unlike you”. Wow, I stammered out a “Well no, well I don’t know. You don’t even believe this stuff.” She then pointed out quietly, “But you do”. She opened my eyes to what I had missed. That I believe in a good and living God. That I believe in the communion of saints. That God too was hurting, that God’s plan is for us all to be born and live a fulfilled life. That sad things happen, but love, which is God, is the way out. That offering my pain to a healing disposition would reunite me in this communion. That giving up would hold me hostage to pain and suffering. We all feel pain when we lose control and an unthinkable outcome results. Blaming God did not offer any truth or escape from the pain of grieving. I was never in control of what was going to happen. I was only in control of my faith, my love, and what tools I chose to use in my healing process.
Blame is an awful game that hides shame and pain. This lesson is one of the many that I have experienced in grief. God’s offer in this chaplain residency program allows me to use my insight. I can help others reframe their hope and love. I will not meet others that have the same concept of God or beliefs, but I will be able to hear their needs and desires. I pray I do not have to challenge them as my friend challenged me. I am ready to listen and hear what needs come through. I initially offer empathy followed by compassion that can help others recover, see light, and find the path that allows their spirit to move forward. My friend has passed on more than twenty years ago as cancer decided to revisit her body. I miss her every day, but I feel her presence and know that her wisdom is part of me. My prayer in this residency is to keep the bits and pieces of others as a treasured offering that prepares me to hear those in need with an open heart. I further ask for wisdom to develop my open heart so that my words and actions are compassionate. I smile with confidence that the Holy Spirit will be busy reminding me of who I am in God and who ought I be.