Saturday, June 30, 2007

why i carry my bible

On Monday I'll start my fourth week of CPE. Clinical Pastoral Education, that is, a kind of hospital chaplaincy internship. It's a funny job. I tell people it's like getting the entire spectrum of human existence in an hour. Every hour.

Tonight I was carrying my Bible around as I got called to rooms, or as I was just walking the hall. It's kind of a funny thing to do. When I'm doing an 'on-call' shift, and I don't have a list of patients to try to visit, it's generally all I carry as I walk around.

Here's why I carry my Bible:

-It feels appropriate in its ambivalence. Sometimes when I walk into a room, I get sheer joy. Other times, it's sheer despair. The Bible has both of these, and has been both of these to me. It's like carrying around the aformentioned 'entire spectrum of human existence.' Maybe I'll encounter something tremendously liberating when I walk in that room. Maybe something tremendously oppressive. Probably some combination of the two. Similarly with opening the Bible.

-It's a way to carry my churches. Someone suggested that I say, "I'm from the hospital," when folks ask what church I'm from. I've decided I don't like that answer, though I tell folks I work for the hospital. But I also tell folks which church I go to. My tradition supports a ministry that is authorized and empowered by a local congregation. So it feels really good to carry a Bible that was given to me as a gift by Hurlbut Church when I graduated from the third grade. It reminds me that my authority, my ability, my grace comes from God, but comes through them, and through my other churches.

-It's a good identifier. I don't always have a clipboard, and I don't wear a uniform or a stethescope. But to be that guy, the one who carries that crazy, enfuriating, transformative, stupid old wonderful book- that's a good way to be known, a good way to be identified.

-I visited a woman while I was doing my rounds. She was worried and confused, and didn't really know where she was or what was going on. She was just really anxious, and nothing I said could console her. I asked if I could read to her. I read her the 23rd Psalm, and she repeated every line as I read it. I could see her whole self relax to those familiar words.

Sing them over again to me indeed.


Rachael said...

way to quote a Methodist hymn so cryptically! beautiful words, wonderful words!

Thomas said...

Comforting words, and something to look forward to. Thanks.