" That's the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things. There's a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn't really expect to find it, either."
-from Rev. John Ames in a letter to his young son from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
All I'm trying to say is that people everywhere are hurting, and when you step in as a chaplain or a minister and make yourself available, you are most likely not completely prepared for what you will hear and take in. What I'm learning is that the "biggie" emotions that cause the most suffering are these: loneliness, loss/grief, and fear.
A chaplain at a local hospital told me once that when she goes home at the end of a long, emotion-filled day, she often doubts if she can come back tomorrow. The grief is too much, the sorrows too numerous, and she feels the burden. But somehow, somehow God gives her the strength to rise anew the next morning and go back to work. He equips her for service and allows her to minister to those in crisis, those whose emotions are rubbed raw.
I have discovered in the last few months that I am approachable and empathetic to those I serve. This did not come as a surprise to me, as I feel that I am using the gifts God has given me when I serve as a chaplain. What has surprised me are the burdens that I bear, some of which move me to tears.
I picture the ideal chaplain as put-together and self-assured. Nary a hair out of place, with a warm touch, a steady heart, and a truthful, encouraging word at the proper time. I don't know how I measure up to the picture, I just know I have experienced my share of life's pain, and when someone experiences something similar, my heart goes out to them. And then I begin to wish I had used waterproof mascara.
Yet, even as I adjust to this new role, I thank God for the tears. For a heart that feels on behalf of another, for a desire to offer spiritual comfort as crises arise. My only prayer is this: "Lord, please help me to know what I should do and say. Then let me leave the rest to you, knowing it is outside of my control, and that your goodness is real and will be known in how you help this person through this trial."
So I cry a little sometimes, or perhaps the better term is "tear up." I don't know how much it has to do with me being female, but I do know this: I want to remain true to who God has created me to be, even if the way I offer assistance looks different than it does for the next person. I want to be faithful to who He has created me to be in the places that He wants for me to serve.
And I am a little surprised that each day I feel a bit more comfortable when confronting loneliness, grief, or fear. This must be God's good work in me, teaching me how to offer the gift of presence in the emotional moments of life.
Ephesians 2:10 (Amplified Bible)
10For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), a]">[a]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].