Leonard: Deep down, we all believe that there must be more to the ‘here and now’ (column)
Life just isn’t easy sometimes. We’ve all been there (and hope to not go there too often). Over the past 20 years, I have had the privilege to be “there” for people when life gets turned totally upside down. As one of the local, on-call chaplains at Vail Health, I get to help people quite a bit.
A few years ago, when I was on call, I got the call to head out for a car accident. A mother who was driving cross-country lost control of her car and rolled it. While she and her two elementary-aged children walked away with minor cuts and bruises, her two teenage daughters died. I remember crying and praying as I got onto Interstate 70 in Edwards … just writing this brings back the heartache. “What do I say to her?” was all that was going through my mind.
When we (chaplains) walk into the emergency room, our role is to do whatever we can for the patients and/or loved ones in the waiting room, as long as we aren’t in the doctors’ way. We need to free up the doctors and nurses to do their jobs while we get water, get food, talk with, pray with, sit with or tend to their needs, doing our best to never leave a patient alone.
When I got to the ER that day, the mom was beside herself. I quickly introduced myself as the on-call chaplain, but her tear-stained eyes tore my heart out. Before I knew it, I was holding her hands, doing my best to console and listen to her, and then jumping from room to room, spending time with the two little ones while their mom got stitched up and called family members to tell them what had just happened.
These are the things that seminary (the type of grad school where many Christian pastors go before they go into vocational ministry) could not really prepare me for.
I’ve lived through similar scenarios more than a few times, and almost always, at some point, the conversation turns spiritual. The conversations that people often shy away from when life is going fine, they run toward when it falls apart: “Where was God … is there a God … what happens if/when I die … how can we know for sure?”
It’s as if, deep down inside our heart of hearts, we all believe that there must be more to the “here and now,” but most people don’t know who to ask those questions to. Most people don’t have anyone who they can trust on the topic who has actually spent the time studying all of the above. After asking many of those questions myself for years, I finally found answers that made sense. The next thing I knew, I was thrown into the seminary, then the ministry and now I’m showing up at the hospital as a chaplain.
I went to lunch with a newer friend of mine three weeks ago, and when he found out what I did, he said, “I’m agnostic. I’d like to believe that there is something or someone out there so that there would be some meaning to our existence, but I just don’t know.”
I love that he threw that out there, knowing that I believe so differently than he does. And though I didn’t try to persuade him toward my beliefs, I hope I get a chance to share them with him and why I believe they can be defended against the toughest of critics.
Ultimately, I’m hoping that this column will serve as a place where, if you have questions about spiritual matters, you can feel free to ask them without having to wait until you find yourself in the ER. Not only is it very freeing to talk about spiritual stuff, it can be a lot of fun and I’ve found out, after having so many conversations about it, that most people don’t have a good understanding of what people who follow Jesus believe.
Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions. Regardless of what we might agree or disagree on, it would be fun to get some feedback on this column.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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