Caring for Creation
My understanding of this Mark is that in some ways it is foundational to pastoral work. I can preach, lead, stand for justice and mercy, and be spiritually formed–yet if I do not deeply care for God’s good creation, then my participation in the Divine life is personalized and interior. God’s love, and the incarnate revelation of that love in Jesus the Christ, is for the people. For earth and everything on it–for it is still good.
I see myself in this Mark because my first call to ministry was to provide hope and healing to a hurting world, an indicator of this Mark. I have never experienced the Holy as I did when praying with patients and their families. The day that I got a call from a nurse who asked if I could talk with a mother who was about to make the decision to take her daughter off life support was gut and spirit wrenching. As I spiritually prepared to make the call–what do you say to a woman who knows she is saying yes to her child’s death–I became very still and quiet. I felt the blessing of my call as I asked God to grant me words that would let her know she was not alone–to be at peace and have no fear.
I have selected the following artifacts to demonstrate my engagement with this Mark:
- Mental Health First Aid Certificate
- Boundaries Training Certificate
- MID Retreats
- SEC Board of Directors Retreat Agenda (Transition Planning)
As I write this, I have just received an offer of a residency for 2021 with Emory Spiritual Health. I applied for a residency as I was completing my first CPE unit during Summer 2020. I was still basking in the full, gratifying, profound experience that was unlike any experience I had ever had. I worked hard to learn everything I could from CPE—from the education hours, to the didactics, to group feedback, to the one-on-ones with my educator, to the actual touching of patients and their families. All of this was done virtually due to Covid-19. I went into CPE wanting to learn the words to say to help people who were sick, dying, and lonely. I left with a sense of equanimity. It was no longer a matter of what I wanted, but of continuing along a path. It simply was.
My final CPE Evaluation, including comments from my educator, provides a narrative of how I met ACPE Standards, as well as my own learning goals. Throughout the experience, I had this Mark, Caring for All Creation, in my mind to guide me. I entered the discernment process to help people in this hurting world. That phrase was in my mind even before I knew it was a Mark. That was my call, the motto of my call. Today’s (December 2) headline reports that U.S. coronavirus cases top 200,000; hospitalizations are at 100,000. The death toll could reach 450,000 by February. This is advent, and we wait on the vaccine like we wait on the newborn king. The U.S. is experiencing a post-election turmoil that I can only pray will be resolved by the time you read this. The pandemic of racism has taken what feels like an eerie calm, likely to see whether a new administration will spearhead any meaningful change. All this gives my call to care for God’s good creation a sense of urgency in a topsy turvy world. Which is why I want to re-focus my discussion on caring at a personal level.
My son suffers from debilitating anxiety and depression, and my family has its share of struggling with addiction. Thanks to God and the Twelve Steps, he is in recovery. D quit college with one semester left, after he collapsed during class with anxiety. The thought of going back sends him spiraling, so we don’t mention it to him anymore. If he tries to go for a job interview, anxiety kicks in and he is sick in the car. He began displaying symptoms of his condition in his mid-20s. His journey into depression caused him to lose a relationship and a sports internship. The day he told my mother, “Nanny, I almost made it,” was one of the very few occasions I have seen my mother cry. He began calling me in the middle of the night, afraid of what the future held for him. I began dreading the night and the possibility of the phone call it might bring. Then I, his mother, began to put my phone on silent at bedtime. “Mom, do you not think I tried to call others before calling you?” he had asked me. But what does this have to do with my ministry? Jackie Kennedy once famously said if you fail to raise your children well, then nothing else matters. My children struggle, and when they were younger, I pitied them. I have carried a lot of guilt over my children. Pity and guilt do not help, though, and they more often hurt than help. They are not the most loving choices to myself, my children, or to God. As a parent of adult children—and as an adult child myself, for that matter—I understand being direct, firm, and kind in setting boundaries. And I have unfettered admiration for my kid’s stickwithitness. I’m in awe of them both.
I have an awareness of addiction and mental health now that I would not have otherwise had. My inclination up to now has been to plan; I like to look toward the future, to work toward something. If it is a weekday, I can’t wait till the weekend. If it is spring, I look forward to summer vacation. I used to think this way when it came to my kids and grandkids. I looked forward to their grades, graduation, college, career, families of their own. I was missing a lot by doing that. And, when those events didn’t happen, what were we all left with? Last year, my family had one of those middle-of-the-night meltdowns that you can only understand if you have had one. When I last visited, my mother looked at me—with sad bewilderment, not tears, in her eyes. “I always thought we had the perfect little family, and now, this. I never would have thought it could have happened to us.” But we are a human family, with great flaws but also great spirit. I guess a lot of candidates write about caring for God’s creation on a larger plane, with a 30,000 foot view. But not me. My ministry is with the local, the people in front of me who are broken—children and parents and siblings and strangers. I want them to know they are not alone.