Over and over again, I am humbled, amazed and touched at what God does to bring healing, connection and meaning into our broken world.
A couple of days ago I was at a local shelter where I serve as a part-time chaplain, making myself available to clients as well as to staff or anyone else who happens to show up. This ministry is all about showing up and being present with whomever and whatever is.
This week I have been delighted because another chaplain, toward the end of his professional training, would begin making rounds with me. This is something I have dreamt of and worked towards over the past year, at least. I feel certain God wants more chaplains available, out there where people are on the edge of things. Chaplains with training and tools – very important elements as this work involves wading into sometimes faith-challenging territory. It involves venturing into the wilderness.
So I made arrangements to meet this new chaplain at a designated point, so I could escort him into our first afternoon of front-line work. I scurried to a health center lobby and greeted him. Just at that moment, a man in a state of distress got my attention. “I have an emergency. I need to talk with you.” I immediately whisked him outside where we could talk, leaving the chaplain to wait.
About 10 minutes later, I was free again, and thought: “I hope the new chaplain’s okay.” It wasn’t the most welcoming thing to leave him on his own, right off the bat. I went back inside, into the lobby where I’d left him. Things had changed. One woman, who had been fairly quiet moments before, was singing a refrain from a gospel hymn. She was smiling and glowing, full of the spirit. She looked up at me and said: “Your husband is a wonderful, kind man.” I explained that he wasn’t my husband, but agreed he’s a good man. I explained that we were chaplains.
Meanwhile the new chaplain was seated with his back to me, listening intently to another woman speaking about how blessed she feels by God, about how much gratitude she has, knowing God is with her, no matter what. The tears streamed down her face as she leaned forward, telling her story.
We stayed just a few moments more. The new chaplain doesn’t need my help. He is connecting. He is listening to God, and he is listening to the people he encounters. That’s all any of us need to do. Show up and listen. Show up and pray. God loves to show off in such moments.
In moments like this, grace happens.