By the time I became the first ever board certified chaplain in my healthcare system, no seminary, no college, no ecclesiastical endorsement ( a statement from the ordaining denomination), and only one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) or some church experience was required to become a chaplain in our system. My departmental manager’s lack of credentials had become departmental standards. I had worked to become an asset, in a system where negative consequences were now the rule for positive achievement. Trusted friends responded with sadness, compassion and understanding when I told them it was time to go.
I spend my days in relief and in grief. Relief from the stress of departmental policies, grief in this seemingly unfathomable outcome. It is as if someone is throwing a switch I seem to have no control over. Relief at not having to wonder whether I’ll trigger an office land mine for accomplishments I’ve worked for. Grief over the loss of work friends. Relief at being able to express myself without fear of reprisal. Grief over the loss of working with a staff chaplain who could finish my sentences. Relief that I have time to tend to the stuff piling up at home. Grief over reluctantly giving up work that I love.
It is easier to surround oneself with the burdens of others. This is particularly true in hospital ministry where a loss of a limb or an impending death is right in front of you. There is less time to think of one’s own concerns when caregiving to another. There was comfort in being too busy and wishing for time to do what I want. Now I have time; Where did all those things I want to do go? I am on a new path and I don’t know the way. My steps are uncertain. I don’t know this path. The road signs seem to have vanished. Who am I, if not a chaplain?