Sometimes in ministry (in life for that matter), we feel equipped, empowered, even gifted to do certain things. There are areas in my ministry over the last 20 years that seem to so very naturally match up with the gifts that God has given me. Things like leading worship, teaching children about God’s love, writing curriculum, orchestrating events and even leading pumpkin patches are things that I jump at the opportunity to “get” to do. None of these are “have to” tasks or experiences for me. These things aren’t easy by any means, but I don’t have much fear with regard to facing these tasks, because I know that God has equipped me to do them.
Now, we all have those areas of our ministry or our jobs or our life, though, that don’t seem to come as “naturally” as other areas, right? I have found that while there are some tasks in ministry I enjoy more than others, there aren’t many tasks that I actually “fear,” except for those in which I have very little (or no experience). It’s in these times, that I begin to doubt my gifts, doubt my experience and qualifications and doubt my credentials.
One of the only areas of ministry that I just don’t have much experience with as a Pastor is such a sacred and personal time…stepping into that holy ground surrounding someone who is dying. I hide behind being “just” an associate and not a senior pastor or being “just” commissioned/licensed and not “credentialed” enough. (I know, I know…ridiculous, really.) Still, my apprehension and downright fear overtakes me. This summer, my Senior Pastor was on vacation when he got the call that one of our church members (an Elder Emeritus) was in his final moments of life. He texted me from his vacation location to ask if I would go pray with the family. I, of course, replied that I would and then proceeded to have a meltdown in the office. Oh, you know, I said and did things like:
- Panic and doubt myself, my call, my everything.
- Make excuses (I was just going to be a teacher who went to summer camp, I’m not a “real” minister/pastor)
- Get the keys to the senior pastor’s office to scour his bookshelves for a book with “101 things to do and say when sharing the final moments of someone’s life”–which by, the way, is NOT on his bookshelves.
- Google the above and then realize how ridiculous I was for doing that.
- Cry to my mom (who has a gift for pastoral care and is an amazing lay-leader of our congregation). She even offered to go with me, and I told her I needed to “do this” myself.
- Doubt and panic some more.
Then I got in my car to drive to the Senior Care Home where this man and his family were. As I drove, the song “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli came on the radio. It is currently one of my favorite songs and quickly moving up in my list of all time favorite songs. I pulled into the parking lot, opened my hands, closed my eyes and let this song become worship and prayer for me. I breathed deeply and tried to let go of my fear and my doubt.
When the song ended, I went to the front door and rang the bell. When no one came to answer, I thought, “okay, well, I tried–thanks for the ‘out’ God.” I actually turned to walk back to my car and stopped. I turned back around and waited…waited for someone to come to the door.
I entered into the room where the family was gathered with the patriarch of their family. There was a hospice chaplain there…another reminder that I was “not credentialed” to do this. I looked at the bed where this man, this man who use to tower tall like a mountain was curled up. His daughter was curled up in the bed with him. I introduced myself to the other daughter on the other side of the room and then I locked eyes with his wife–this beautiful, wonderful, sweet woman of our church that I have known for many, many years. When she saw me, there was a glimmer of joy in her eyes, and her countenance changed from sad and stressed to comforted and safe. She said, “Oh, Kristin. I am so happy to see you here. Thank you so much for coming and for being here with us.” She was so genuinely happy to see me. We visited for a few moments and then I prayed.
This was the moment I was fearing, remember? This was the moment that I feared…after all, there was no possible way that I could have the right words to say for this prayer… this prayer for this sacred moment for this family.
I prayed anyway.
I was invited into this holy moment with this family. A moment I will never forget. I don’t remember the words I said, but I remember holding their hands, I remember hearing their sniffles and helping to wipe their tears. I remember the feel of the hugs. I remember being completely overwhelmed with gratitude for how the Holy Spirit was so very present in those moments.
I returned to my car and I exhaled.
and then I laughed.
I laughed at myself and at my doubt and at my fear and at my behavior leading up to that moment. (I have done that with every “new” experience I have had in ministry. You’d think I would learn to not do this).
Funny how doubt works. How silly I now felt.
…and how grateful I was. How grateful I was to believe in a God that is ever-present. How grateful I was to know that the Holy Spirit moves among us and through us, especially in the most intimate and sacred moments of life shared with others.