Ok. It’s been an intense summer. I moved back to Virginia on May 22 and on May 29, I started my summer CPE (clinical pastoral education) program at VCU Medical Center. If you have done a summer CPE or know anything at all about it, then you know that the word intensity doesn’t begin to describe what you go through. It was full time chaplaincy with full time classes, group work…and full time processing. It was emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually draining. I started to meet a new Linda. I’ve despised some of her and loved most of her too. (For those who truly know me, you know that statement is hard for me to say.) If you noticed, I said “started”. I decided to continue the process of meeting her and applied for the chaplain residency position at the Level 1 Trauma Center and was accepted. Now I get to meet more of Linda and find out who she was and who she can become.
Well, because of the intensity and the work, I was told to take a week off between the summer CPE and the residency. So I went to the Outer Banks, the closest thing to Heaven for me – with the oceans, the sand, the wind, and the most majestic and beautiful lighthouses around. I knew I would find rest and renewal there. I was looking forward to relaxing and being still.
The oddest thing happen though. For the first two days, I couldn’t “be still”. I kept doing things, making plans, and running around the place and I could not sit still and breathe. It was insane. The most beautiful place in the world for me and I couldn’t sit down and enjoy it. As I went to God in the evening of my second day, the words kept coming to mind “let it be simple”. I was praying for the physical outcome of a friend of mine, but those words kept coming back to me. So I took it as a whisper from God to be still and listen. So by the afternoon of the third day, I was deliberate that I wouldn’t plan anything or go anywhere, except sit on the beach, listen to the waves, read, watch the people, and play around in the ocean. All afternoon and early evening I did that. It was wonderful and I thought I actually caught my breath.
But I also caught a couple of other things. I upset some bacteria that were hiding in my ears and because of that, they decided to reek havoc on my left ear and cause a tremendous amount of pain and suffering, known as acute swimmer’s ear infection or Otitis Externa. The next day I was at UrgentCare in Kitty Hawk and two days later, at Patient First in Richmond. The ear canal was swollen shut and Vicotin and Advil were assigned to the painful rescue. By the second and third trips to Patient First, the other ear caught onto the infected madness and swelled shut too. My ears are loaded on antibiotic steroid drops and another oral antibiotic. I can barely hear a thing. With the infection, swelling, and pain, I am out of work for a week.
I am missing my first week of residency.
As much as I want to be there right now, maybe this is a learning lesson for me. Residency is three times the summer intensity – with full time graduate classes and full time chaplaincy, for an entire year. There is no settling down and being still during that time. Unless I make it so. The past five and a half years, have been a roller coaster of emotions, challenges and change. It’s been a whirlwind of running, hiding, and running some more. It’s been anything but keeping still and knowing God on the level that I should as a servant of God. It’s supposed to be simple to “Be Still and Know that I am God.”
I am forced to be still now. I can’t work and I am a little afraid of driving with the hearing loss. So, I am still. I am sitting on my front porch on the most beautiful of days. I can see the sun’s rays dancing on the maple leaves in front of me. That view reminded me of last week’s moon beams shimmering on the ocean waves. I can’t hear the wind, but I sure can feel it and see it move like the Holy Spirit before me. It’s beautiful and comforting just like the waves that were talking to me last week. They are still talking and I am listening, in a way I couldn’t before.
I don’t believe God gave me these ear infections but I am coming to understand a few things about God in the process. God can’t be the only one in this relationship and in many ways, that’s been the case. God has been there for me throughout this emotional roller coaster. And to see how God used me during my summer internship was the most meaningful experience of my life thus far. The sacred moments that I’ve encountered have been just humbling. Like I said, God can’t be the only one here. In many ways I thought I was there, with the work I was doing, the hours I was keeping, the emotions I was holding…I thought I was getting to know God more. But I wasn’t taking the time to breathe. I wasn’t taking the time to breathe in the spirit and the love of what God has provided for me. I processed it but I didn’t live into it. This time of forced stillness is helping me to realize that.
Once the ear infections are clear, I am anticipating the ride of my life with this residency program. I can only imagine what I will do, see, and learn in the process – the sacred moments of life and death; of healing and hoping; of comfort and crying. I can only imagine the person I will know and become when it is all said and done. However, in order to do that, I must listen to God, in the whispers and in the wind. I need to be still and know God on a whole new level, a level that will take me to the depth of my soul. This is a level that I am looking forward to reaching.
Having this infection has been a pain, in more ways then one. At the same time, it’s been a treasured gift. I can’t hear all the noise around me, but I can hear the voice from within, calling to me, and asking me to sit down and take a breath. I am sitting on the porch and God is sitting next to me, ready to tell me the most beautiful parable in my journey.
And it’s time for me to listen.
Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God