I received the most wonderful note today from a young hospital chaplain whose company I have recently been enjoying nearly every week. It is always such a gift to sit quietly with individuals whose work affords them the tragic opportunity to become so intimately acquainted with suffering.
Week to week I hear of the challenges he experiences when he enters into hospital rooms to offer pastoral care to families who may or may not have some interest in his presence there. He shares his truest feelings of feeling misunderstood or even dismissed by doctors who may not perceive the value of his deep pastoral heart. He describes how the pain of his patients lingers in his heart, mind and soul beyond each visit. Every visit leaves so much left undone. Lately he describes a spiritual heaviness that will not leave him.
“…the pain of his patients lingers.”
And yet, out of the well of his pastoral heart, he took time to send me a note.
His message to me simply read:
Thinking of you, my friend. So grateful for you. I stumbled across this today. May it bless you richly.
“Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness and remains far behind yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
Hope you are well.
I could not help but sense that this dear man was prophetically reminding me of what grounds the time we spend together. Not my strength. Not my worthiness. Not my credentials. Not my wisdom. Rather, instead it is my own true heartache that allows me to enter into a time like this with a deepening sense of integrity, curiosity and wonder. No wonder I feel most like myself when I am listening on behalf of another.
These are hidden moments marked by a common commitment to being ourselves. Really. I can not help remember a handful of similar words written by my hero, Brennan Manning.
“There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”