Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The meaning of it all

Some days at work, I feel like a child.  The tasks seem too big and I feel about two feet shorter, surrounded by giants.  I feel unqualified and worry that everyone can feel my own sense of inadequacy.  And then, some days, I feel just my age.  I feel my experience on my shoulders and my God-given gifts ready to assist.  Fortunately, thanks be to God, today was one of the latter kind of days.  It was certainly unexpected, which is why God gets all the credit (and should anyway, although sometimes I'm too selfish or stubborn or prideful to admit it).

This morning, I was standing in the checkout line of Walmart when I got a phone call from my supervisor, the Dean of Students, saying that there was an emergency at Hollins and I needed to meet her in the counseling office ASAP.  Heart pounding, I pushed the poor cashier to hurry (not a good scenario in Wallyworld), with multiple scenarios racing through my head.  Upon my arrival, I discovered that a beloved professor had passed away unexpectedly.  We had to put a plan in action.  After three weeks in my job as interim chaplain, I was being called to help support a hurting, grieving community.

Death is a viscious thief, not only robbing us our loved ones, but also eroding our confidence and security.  Within the span of a hour of the news getting out, I had the opportunity to counsel staff and students struggling with their own mortality issues.  While I wondered about being new and not having built complete trust yet with the community, I was awed by how they opened up to me and sought me out.  I was also touched by the spirit of community and collaboration.  I worked to plan a service where faculty, staff, and students could come together to grieve.  As I was on the phone trying to arrange flowers, I saw a student walk by my office window with a handpicked bouquet.  Another student volunteered to play piano, and held her emotions in check until the service ended, then let the tears flow.  I saw staff comfort students, and faculty support one another.  Several students hugged me as well, and I was given many words of thanks for my (brief, inadequate) words.

But I realized yet again what a gift ministry is.  How sacred, to be part of so many aspects of one's life.  To bear witness to the joys, the struggles, the celebrations, the unions, the births, and yes, even the end of life, when we ponder questions of meaning and purpose...and God.  What a gift to be able to offer comfort, and to feel the peace of God gently falling around.  What a blessing to see people coming together in support and love...and shared tears. 

I know there will be days when I question my calling, and when I feel small and incapable.  But I hope I'll remember how God guided me today, inequipped as I was, to be a presence of peace and hope.  Let me remember how God gifted me with the eyes to see the hope around me, shining through the hurt.  Let me not forget the meaning of it all.

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