Getting Back to Work

“One of life’s greatest questions centers not on what happens to us, but rather, how will we live in and through whatever happens. . .Our choice, then revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances.” — Henri Nouwen
I got my test results on Thursday and on Friday I had to be back to work visiting patients. I did not want to sit at home and think about what was happening to me. I needed to stay busy. When the employees of the hospital lost their loved ones and they were back at work after a couple of days, I was always recommend that they stay busy but not overdo it. They would all say that if they stay at home, they would be depressed and think about their loved ones day after day. Now I understood what they were talking about.
I visited my patients like I normally would and tried to keep a happy face around the staff as well so that they would not suspect that something was wrong. But it was impossible. A couple of the employees noticed that something was not right and asked me if I was ok. I told them I was struggling with a cold. Some of them believed it. Others did not. “There’s something else wrong, Chaplain. We can tell.”
I have always wore my feelings on my sleeves and this was not going to be the exception. Whenever anything happened, good or bad, I would always let it be a part of my day. Whenever good things happened, I would share with everybody. Whenever bad things happened, I would be more calm or wear a sad face. I am normally a very happy-go-lucky type of person who tries to see the good in everything. I like to joke around with everyone and don’t mind it all when they joke around with me. Humor can be a very therapeutic. Especially when we laugh at ourselves. However, humor can be used in the wrong way: sarcasm or to put someone down. This is not good for anyone and can actually be very damaging emotionally to the other person. I won’t get into the why people use these kinds of humor because that’s not the purpose of this journal. But sufficient to say, that people have been very hurt and they have learned it from someone else, usually one the parents. It’s their way of keeping their true emotions and feelings at a distance, especially their pain.
But when humor is used in the proper way, it can actually be very healing. I once listened to a sermon by Joni Ericson Tada, a paraplegic Christian woman who lost her ability to walk and partial movements in her arms, where she said “would not be a very good Pentecostal because she couldn’t move her arms around” and the congregation laughed so hard they could hardly stop. But she also said after she gets raised again in the resurrection, with a new body, she will “jump and run and move her arms around” and join all the Pentecostals in the worship service! She had the congregation in tears! In her condition, she sings, preaches, writes books and even paints with her mouth. Her paintings are so good you would never know that someone painted them with their mouth. In all my pastoral counseling with patients who lose their ability to move, I share the story of Joni Erickson Tada, so that they can see what happened to someone like them and she made a choice to fight and not give up. But if you read her story, you would discover that she did not start out that way. One day laying in her hospital bed not feeling anything, she begged her best friend to cut her wrists and let her die. Obviously she didn’t but today she’s happier than every before. In fact, she tells everyone that she never “knew” Jesus until this happened to her. Someone reminded her that when Jesus was also a paraplegic. When she questioned how that was possible, they mentioned that when He hung on the cross, He could not move His arms or legs. And that He let them do it to Him so that He could conquer death and raise those from the dead with a new body just like His, free from illness and death. After that she saw illness as a gift and not a curse!
It will be a while before humor becomes a part of my healing process. I do watch funny shows on TV and I love a good romantic comedy. There are some good websites that are humorous.
Yesterday, I told both of my bosses about it. I had really been praying about whether or not to do that. If this had been any other job in any other organization then I would have never shared it with them. But this is Christian organization and both of my bosses are Chaplains. And they reacted exactly the way I expected them too: understanding and compassionate. One of my bosses said that he wished he could be here for me so that we could meet immediately. But he was in Puerto Rico doing some seminars. I shared with him that I was sharing this with him because he was not only my boss but also a very good friend and that I knew he would never abandon me. I cried. And he prayed for me. He asked if he could share with my other boss and I agreed. Then he called and we prayed and we are meeting on Tuesday of next week to talk about this and see what is best for me and the organization. He told me that I have the full support of both of them. God is so good! So merciful! If I ever lost my job, I don’t know what I would do. My job is the one fulfilling thing I have in life!

It has been a week since I got the test results. I have called the neurologists to ask for antidepressants and started taking them last night. Marcie from the HD Research Clinic called me yesterday to see how I was doing. We talked for a couple of minutes. And she was a lot of help.

I am still dealing with this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and I can’t shake it. I spent almost two days sleeping and not wanting to go to work or going to work and just closing my door and sleeping on the couch for a couple of minutes before going on the floors. Only yesterday did I muster enough strength to venture out on all the floors. I felt so much better that I did not want to go back to my office. As I became visible to the staff, they began asking me to see this patient and that patient, which I gladly did. Then I was called to the ED to minister to a family who found out that their 25 year old daughter has a brain tumor. As I sat in the quiet room with them, I could feel their pain as I remembered how it felt when I got the news. The same happened with a family in L/D where a family just had a baby girl and she diagnosed with a terrible cell disorder and would probably not last for more than a couple of months. Their pain was horrible. I was entering into the world of hopelessness and helplessness of other people and I was going in with just my presence. I had no words of wisdom. I had no special scripture. I had nothing. I was just as drained. I just said that I was so sorry and that I could imagine their pain. I would pray for God’s presence in their lives and that He would walk with them during this terrible journey; that He would be their strength. While I prayed it, I was praying it for myself. Now I could understand Henri Nouwen’s label of “the wounded healer.”

“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” — Phil. 4:6,7

Father, You know that I can not do this alone. I am still dealing with these feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. There are days that the I just don’t want to get out bed and it hurts so much that I just want to end it all. I cannot do this alone! I need Your strength. I need Your peace. I need You. Amen



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