Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Wounded Healer

I just started this new gig as a hospital chaplain here in the Chicagoland area. I am an intern, which means I am still a student, but my learning is not in a classroom. It's in getting thrown in and sinking or swimming--learning from success and failure.

Last Thursday our hospital took three of the Northern Illinois shooting victims. This was baptism by fire as they say. I stood in the swirling activity of the ER waiting for the helicopters to arrive with the victims. As I waited I imagined what I might see or be asked to do. And I started reflecting...

As I reflect on my learning from last week I am struck by the repetitive nature of my learning. The past week has been a time of revisiting my woundedness. I suppose there are things in everyone’s lives that despite our best efforts at self-knowledge and self-awareness, still rise up and sting us.

I had one of those weeks. Feeling like I had fallen back into negative patterns of thinking and acting. This was incredibly discouraging for me. I have achieved so much healing. It was strange. Things were bugging me, but it all felt superficial. Like I was “acting” at being bugged--cognitively I knew it was not how I was really thinking or feeling. Once again I was in a wrestling match with myself, having to free myself and throw off all that entangles.

I found myself revisiting my woundedness, failures and humiliations. And once again I was reminding myself there is no shame in the journey--despite the opinions of others. I talked and processed a great deal this week. It was a week of being tired. Tired of these same issues. Tired of talking about it. Tired of the same lessons. It was a week of feeling vulnerable and exposed. A week of re-accepting this is our proper stance before God.

God is merciful. Today, when He speaks to me, I bounce back in days instead of years. Today when He tries to stop me, I hear Him. He says to me, “I have chosen a better road for you. Do not deviate. Stay on the one I have for you.”

And Thursday night, when the NIU victims came into our doors, I stood calmly and confidently outside that trauma room. I knew there was no coincidence with what I had been through the past week and what was about to transpire that evening. I thought about Nouwen's classic book, The Wounded Healer, and I got it. God needed me acutely aware of my weakness and vulnerability so I could minister to others out of that place deep within me.

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