Healthcare chaplaincy involves an initial assessment of the patient’s needs.Through conversation and an awareness of the patient’s surroundings, social needs, psychological coping, medical landscape, support systems and non-verbal cues, the chaplain initiates questions and observations that draw on the patient’s own faith traditions. The chaplain sees the patient as an entire person whose spirituality underlies all of his/her life. By drawing on this area of being, the chaplain can help the patient integrate meaning into life’s circumstances.
Chaplaincy has been the only ministry that I have been involved in that leaves me more energized after a long day than drained. An old friend once said to me,"That means you’re in the right place!" I have watched as the threads of my life have been woven together throughout this calling--the spiritual direction, the counseling, and co-owning a medical billing company gave me the medical background to understand what I am seeing!
But it is not only in what I bring to the ministry, but equally important is what this ministry has done for me. I have learned to love each patient unconditionally without judgment or preconceived notions of what is needed. I have learned to listen and to be attentive to the work of God in each person whether or not that person shares my beliefs. When I fail to be attentive or nonjudgmental, something in my spirit disturbs me, and the Spirit of God leads me into a deeper place within myself where I am challenged to examine the dynamic of what is occurring within me. What might it be in my past or present that is blocking my ability to give this person what is needed? And then God does God’s work--that which I cannot do on my own, and the ensuing freedom opens up my life more fully to others.
Not only does this work free me to walk alongside patients more meaningfully, it carries over into my relationships with family, friends, parishioners and neighbors--not seamlessly, of course, because most of these are long term relationships and, because of our history together, there is more to unravel, more to forgive and more opportunities to fail in being attentive and nonjudgmental. But the same dynamic exists. When I recognize that something or someone is troubling me, I am invited to go deeper within myself and allow God to work in and through me. This dynamic helps both of us on our life’s journey - God’s journey.
You will find examples of God at work in my chaplaincy ministry on my blog. May God use these examples to challenge you to greater freedom in your own ministry and life!