I’m alone. I am the only chaplain at the hospital. The other chaplain, one of my mentors, and the Priest stop by early, 7:30ish, to make sure I have the print-out of the daily census for the hospital. It’s on the shared server that I have yet to access, so they stop in on their way to the mandatory Spiritual Retreat that all the real chaplains in the hospital system need to attend.
I say, “You two kids go have fun.” (Their both older, especially the Priest.) They smile warmly, and I feel confident as I place my imaginary chaplain hat on. Previously, I was in training. But this time, I’m the only chaplain here. I am the chaplain.
And that’s when I really feel it – what is called Incarnational Theology. It’s distinctly Christian in that it deals with the theology that arises (one of many, mind you) from the Gospel story of Jesus Christ. Many Christians believe Jesus Christ himself was God. Many others posit that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I’m not entirely sure what either mean, especially the latter whose language arose to describe Emperors in ancient Greek culture.
I consider myself a Christian, and deeply ponder who and what Jesus Christ means to me. I don’t feel I have a sufficient answer for myself yet, but I truly believe that seeking is not a sign of lack of faith, but of deep faith. I hold the questions carefully in my heart because I understand that they have eternal significance (whatever THAT even means!). But I feel it, with every fiber of my being, even if I don’t quite understand it.
So, when I put on my imaginary chaplain hat, I know in some way, some beautiful, mysterious way, that what I am to the people I visit is the incarnation of a God that:
cares deeply about them
listens to their pain
is with them in the deepest sense of the word
Because I am the only one here, I really try to fully embrace this – I attempt to set all my feelings of inadequacy aside, all the other “stuff” that clogs my brain surrounding my life.
And I visit patients, family, staff. From the depths of my being, I try to embody love in the best way I know how. I know, with that great knowing, that I am always inadequate, yet God uses such an open, seeking heart to minister. Where I fall short, the grace of God steps in.