Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hope for the hurting

Working as a chaplain in a residential group home, I bear witness to stories so tragic and hopeless that I'm often at a loss for words (which is probably a bonus to those to whom I am listening).  I attended a training this morning where I learned about rehabilitating adolescent sexual offenders and heard case studies that threatened to make me physically ill.  It would be easy to fall into hopelessness about the state of our world, and particularly our children (and I've been drawn in that direction more times than I can count).  But the thing that stuck with me about this morning's training was the counselor for this kids who reminded us that underneath all the labels and deplorable behavior, they're just kids, looking for love.  I wrote the following piece for our quarterly employee newsletter as a way of personally processing, and helping to find hope in all the hurt we encounter on a daily basis:

Cyberbullying.  Sexting.  Assualt and battery.  Sexual offender.  At-risk.  Disabled.  Abuse.  Neglect.  Each word is like an attack on my heart, and yet, they become normal topics of conversation in our line of work.  Dysfunction and “differences” become the new “norm” and I long to run home and put my own children in a bubble, terrified of all the fates that could possibly await them.  Many people talk about how the world is so much worse these days and how Christ’s return must be eminent…how many are the apparent signs of the “end times”.

And yet, in my calmer, less fearful moments, I am reminded that we’ve lived in a broken world since Adam and Eve severed the perfection and calm of Eden with one act of irreverent disobedience.  A casual read through the Old Testament will give witness to crimes and deviations that would shock even our numbed souls.  Though they didn’t have the technology or the terminology, our ancestors of faith had the same access to darkness and evil that we do today.

We are a broken people, whether or not we’ve been labeled as such or convicted of a crime.  Whether we fit a DSM-IV profile, a doctor’s diagnosis, or a psychologist’s evaluation, we are all in need of love and nurturing.  We are all seeking something greater than ourselves, an answer to our bigger questions for purpose and meaning.  We are human, fallible and fumbling, yet seeking connection with one another and the Divine.

As we work together in our mission and calling (and in our own personal quests for love and acceptance), let us look beyond the labels and reach out and offer the only source of help we have—the love and grace of God, who sees us all as the bits of dust we are, and yet accepts us anyway as God’s beloved children, regardless.

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