The Hidden Face of God – Finding the missing door to the father through lament
Author: Michael Card
If you think about it, teardrops and raindrops have a lot in common. The rain occurs when the clouds become oversaturated, usually in association with a change in pressure in the atmosphere. Tears occur when our souls become oversaturated with pan or joy. Somewhere inwardly, a pressure builds up, which is only released when our tears start to flow. Even as the ground is watered and nourished by the drops of rain, so it is time for us to wake up to the nourishment and healing power of tears. Those small salty drops that burn our eyes are as fundamental to life as food an air. They are a mystery that cannot be explained away.
Most of us do our best to hide our tears. We try to hold back the pressure when we sense it building in our hearts. We mistakenly believe that if we can control our tears then we can control the pain.
Jesus seems never to have done this. He is so exquisitely turned to His soul that whenever suffering appeared, His own or anyone else’s, Jesus wept. His tears come freely when He arrives on the scene of the death of His close friend Lazarus. This was not a weakness but one of His greatest strengths (John 11:35).
He weeps when He sees Jerusalem, knowing the extent of the destruction that is just around the corner (Luke 19:41)
He weeps for sorrow in the garden, confessing to His disciples that the sorrow is about to kill Him (Mark 14:34)
Jesus was no stranger to the mystery of tears. He never once hid his face when it ws wet with them. If He was to be fully human, then tears had to be a fundamental part of the incarnate experience for Him. Like you and me, the first sound Jesus made to show that He was alive was the sound of weeping.
And so, from Jesus we learn that in order for us to become complete, to become fully human, we must take tears more seriously. We must understand that following Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, will mean more tears for us, not less. Perhaps we should be reminded of all this every time we sense the pressure changing and experience the “tears of the sky,” realizing all along that our own tears are older and more fundamental.
Each of us has a unique set of perceptions, based on our life experience, our upbringing, and many other factors.
Perception is when we understand, comprehend, and judge what one has gained through one’s senses.
Perceiving is “the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation.
The interpersonal communication gap is the difference between the message you intend to communicate and the message that is actually received by another person. The ICG is influenced by the feelings, intentions, attitudes, and thoughts of both the speaker and the listener.
Narrowing the Interpersonal Communication Gap (ICG)
There are three primary communication modes used by people to transmit information from inside themselves to the external world.
- Tone of Voice
- Body Language
When receivers hear and see the speaker’s communication, they must decode that message and figure out its meaning.
Major ICG occurs when the listener infers something different from what the speaker intends.
It is possible to decode different messages from the same encoded message.
Words do not mean the same thing to everyone. (The same is true for tone of voice & body language. Connotations vary from individual to individual, and also from culture to culture.)
Awareness of the ICG allows:
- More effective use of lag time. (We listen at a faster rate than we speak; lag time is the difference between the two rates.)
- Reduction of errors in communication
- A means of testing our perceptions for accuracy
- Fewer errors in messages sent. We never reach perfection.
- Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and validated by a trusted listener will diminish.
- Painful feelings that are ignored will gain strength.
Basic Concepts of Validation
- Acknowledging the other person’s feelings
- Identifying the feelings
- Offering to listen
- Helping them label the feelings
- Being there for them
- Remaining present physically and emotionally
- Being patient
- Being accepting and non-judgemental
This is simpler than we think!
We have found that if one just validates another, the other will usually be able to work out their own emotional problems even faster than if we were to give them our advice.
In summary the pastoral caregiver is present to help a patient and caregiver experience as fully as possible the love God has for them. Pain is often present in a patient’s room. We cannot fix pain. Emotions are always present. We can validate their emotions. We enter the room knowing we cannot fix those who are present; in fact, the pastoral caregiver should not even try. But we can love them. Loving them means “”hearing” them, that is, acknowledging their concerns and feelings as authentic. Loving them, depending upon circumstances, often means touching them; loving them often means praying with or for them. The purpose of the chart is to illustrate some of the ways a pastoral caregiver can bring the love of God to patients and their loved ones into the room.
To learn more register to our workshop below. A 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss.
Tom Nuckels our facilitator of this event and his assistant Valerie Crim snapped some pics of their training session learning together, role playing, and a group shot. It is an amazing workshop with a lot to learn and also a lot of fun. Big thank you to the registrants of this workshop.
Group Photo, MTIL-1, Central Texas, May, 2017.
“Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss” is a two-part training course for spiritual caregivers. Intended primarily to train Lifeline Chaplaincy’s pastoral care volunteers, the course is open to all persons who have an interest in developing spiritual care skills. Men and women involved in ministry, church leadership, and helping professions such as medicine, nursing, counseling, and social work have found this training to be highly valuable in both their professional practice and their personal lives.
(formerly called “Creating a Healing Community”), is a 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss. Registration fee: $50.00, payable at the door. Scholarships are available if needed.
Loss and Crisis
From Casual Visit to Spiritual Encounter
Perceptions and the Interpersonal Gap
Basic Listening Strategies and Communication Skills
Grief and Grieving
Self-care for the Pastoral Caregiver
Effective Hospital Ministry
Degrees of Emotions
Behavior is driven by emotions. Emotions are driven by thoughts. Thoughts are underpinned by beliefs, and the human mind can believe anything!
How Emotional States Play Out in Life
The tables demonstrate how various situations produce emotions that in turn cause behavior. The search for the emotion or feeling behind the behavior (and hleping the patient or other recongnize thier own feelings) is one of the pastoral caregiver’s primary tasks.
Expressing your feelings can be demonstrated directly or indirectly through various behavior; commands, questions, accusations, name calling, and sarcasm. For example: Using a command – Directly: “I hurt too much to hear anymore.” or Indirectly: “Shut up!”
Understanding the concept of “Emotional Intelligence”
Defined in 5 dimensions:
- Knowing one’s own emotions (self-awareness)
- Managing one’s emotions
- Motivating oneself
- Recognizing emotions in others (othe-awereness)
- Handling relationships
A primary goal for he pastoral caregiver is to help the patient and family acknowledge and understand their emotions.
Each of us is responsible for developing the innate characteristics that have been provided by our Creator. Some areas that may be most useful to focus on are listed below.
- Spirituality. The development of our spiritual dimension is unquestionably the single greatest determinant of pastoral effectiveness. As one deeply spiritual chaplain has said, “I want everything I come in contact with to be affected by the presence of God in my life.” This statement lies at the core of the pastoral relationship, especially when interacting with those in crisis and loss.
- Religion. How we connect our spiritual dimension to our religious tradition is another key component of effective coping with the crises that come our way. Religious practices and community can be sustaining during these times.
- Family. Those who have the blessing of a strong nuclear and extended family will be able to draw on these bonds during times of disruption.
- Personal Foundation. One recognized school (Coach University) that trains personal coaches emphasizes the need to develop (in advance) a strong personal foundation. “One can go further with greater ease if one first takes the time to build a strong personal foundation.” In coaching language a personal foundation includes the following.
- Life experience. There is no substitute for having experienced the realities of life’s ups and downs. The more one has experienced in the past, the more one can trust that the current situation will work itself out. Trust generates peace. In Christian terms, if we know God has been with us in the past we can more easily trust that He will be with us in the present and in the future. Philip Yancey has said, “Faith is believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.”
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3 (The Message)
Earlier in my career, I served almost a decade as a chaplain in the United States Navy. During those years, I spent a lot of time aboard warships at sea, supporting the sailors and Marines who form the backbone of our sea services.
One of the indelible images that remains with me from my years at sea is that of an operation known as underway replenishment (or, in Navy jargon, UNREP). When a Navy ship needs more fuel, food, or other supplies, it doesn’t always have the luxury of pulling into the nearest port like you or I would pull our cars into the nearest gas station or convenience store. It has to be able to get what it needs through underway replenishment. During an UNREP, the ship comes alongside a support ship, hoses and lines are strung between the two ships (which, by the way, are moving), and the support ship provides whatever is needed. It’s thrilling, and a little scary, being aboard a ship during an UNREP. The ships are close together, and the operation tests the nerve and ship-handling skills of both crews, but the result is worth the effort.
“Coming alongside” is an apt image for the spiritual care Lifeline’s volunteers provide to the patients and families we serve. In underway replenishment, each ship is fully seaworthy and has its own captain and crew. The supply ship doesn’t take over the mission of the other ship. It simply comes alongside and provides the support that is needed. Similarly, in pastoral encounters with patients and family members, our volunteers come alongside, not to fix or to take over, but to listen, to pray, and to engage in caring conversation. By doing these things – and even more importantly by simply being there – our volunteers offer reassurance of God’s steadfast love and abiding presence. This is the unique contribution spiritual care makes to patients’ healing and wholeness.