By Mrs. Miho Ealy
It’s been a little over a month since I started working in a hospital as a chaplain resident. The hospital I work for is very large. Every day new patients are admitted. Many births and a few deaths happen on a daily basis. Yes, it is hospital life. But, I’m just in awe of the number of sick people. So many of them! In our daily life, we do see doctors and maybe visit hospitals once in a while. However, how many people like to stay in a hospital? I don’t think it’s a popular thing to do. To be honest, it is not pleasant being a patient. You’re far away from home. You’re not with your family and friends. You’re sick and need some assistance for a lot of things that you used to be able to do by yourself without even thinking twice. Your freedom is limited, because you probably have to follow certain rules and may have to share a room with someone else. You can’t eat what you want. It’s just not as same as your home.
One of the hospital chaplains’ missions is to provide patients and their family moral and spiritual support. Many people ask me what I do as a chaplain. I answer, “I try to make myself available to the people when they need some support.” My work is not to preach the Good News (!) to sick people, but it is rather to help people find a way to connect with a transcendent power in the time of distress. For Christians, this transcendent power comes from Christ. For Native Americans, it may be spirits in the forest. For Buddhists, it may be a superior existence of the universe. As an Orthodox Christian, I would describe this transcendent power as the Holy Spirit and Christ’s mercy.
How can we find a way to connect to God? First, we must really believe Christ is our savior. As Christians, sometimes it is not easy to admit that He is God; to really believe that Christ is our savior. My biggest question is “How can the son of a human being be God?” My brain knows the basic teachings of the church on Christ’s nature. Yet, my heart still has many question marks about my faith. Do I really believe in Christ? Well, I have to admit that faith in Christ is still a struggle for me at times, and I don’t know how strong my faith is. Through my experience as a hospital chaplain, I feel I am given the chance to really see what is required of me to believe in Christ. And it seems that the biggest thing I must do is surrender to God’s plan.
One of my assigned units is a rehabilitation center. There I see many people with spinal cord injuries and some of them are paralyzed. When I approach them, some tell me their stories. I’ve met a few people who had unfortunate accidents while they were drinking alcohol. One woman said to me, “I can’t remember what happened. I just wanted to feel numb.” This phrase “feel numb” sounds familiar to me. When I’m feeling sad or disappointed, I sometimes want to feel numb, so that all bitter feelings go away. The same woman also said, “I’m not so much of a church-goer, but now I think it’s important to turn into a higher power. I had to be [paralyzed] like this because God wanted my attention.” She used alcohol to feel numb, but after the accident, she has come to realization that she needs to connect with God rather than depend on something harmful to her body. This dialogue made me wonder how we can surrender ourselves to God in difficult times.
Surrender to God – this easier said than done. And, of course, it is not a new idea, either. In the Gospel of Mark (9:14-27), we read about a father who asked Christ to heal his son who was demon possessed. It is painful to see your own child suffering from any sickness. Maybe going to see Christ was a last resort for this father. The father had faith in Christ and in God’s ability to heal, but could not accept that the miracle could really happen merely because of his own faith. When he said “I believe: help my unbelief,” he surrendered himself to Christ. He was desperate, so he admitted that his faith was shaky, but that he would still trust and surrender himself to God.
Unbelief is a recurring theme among all Christians. At this point in my life, I realize that I have a yearning for God’s presence and for His guidance; even though there are things I cannot understand. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I don’t have to believe in Christ blindly. I’m hoping that God forgives me for questioning faith. I admit I’m an imperfect human being. I may not be a saint. But I am content to be like the boy’s father and say ”˜I surrender.’ Or more profoundly, “I believe; help my unbelief!”