I have had one hell of a week and I don’t think I have been this happy to see a week come to an end since grad school finals. And I’m ending it with working in the emergency room on Friday the 13th after having a full moon this week.  Now, I’m not saying I believe in these things, but I do believe something happens in hospitals-we call it the full moon effect.  Chicken or the egg-whether people are responding to an actual moon shift or the sheer theory of it, something happens to people on such days. 

A young child came to the ER on Monday night and had died on the way here. The little guy had been born with a terminal illness yet they weren’t expecting it so soon. One of the security guards said to me, “God knew what was right. He knew the right time for him”.  Finally having an opportunity to respond in the moment and hopefully shield someone from this talk I said, “That may be comforting for us but it might not be for the family right now”.  I’m all for this belief if it comforts someone, even if it doesn’t comfort me.  If the family says something to that effect, I will affirm it to the nth degree, happy that something could be of help to them at such a time but otherwise, mum’s the word.   

Ministers run into difficulty when our spirituality and beliefs don’t match others in our community.  And quite frankly, it can be kind of lonely at times.  Just today I spoke with my colleagues about a question we often revisit-should we just agree with someone or can we ‘break the bubble’ on this or that particular topic (and at this time)?  How do we encourage spiritual growth without undermining what is meaningful to someone? 

Even though I know I have education that makes me a little more objective about such things, we’re talking about a very subjective topic-beliefs.  I feel more confident about what I know in regards to psychology or communication; those areas are not as relative as religion. 

Truth can be relative from person to person-what one person believes to be truth another may just see as different, not better or worse, or more right or wrong, just different.  (I know many believe in inherent truth and caution against relativity, but rest assured, I’m not talking about that). 

My indecision, my “P” (Myers Briggs), my open mind sure keeps me humble but I crave a little grounding sometimes.  Yet we wonder in this day and age what would give someone that grounding?  Would it be knowing the truth from the beginning and let our understanding of that evolve rather than the story evolving? People hate feeling duped or tricked.  But we also have the wise guidelines from educators about how to present information in an age/stage appropriate way. 

The classic example for this issue is about Santa Clause vs. St. Nicholas.  How will kids trust us if we lie to them; how can they recover from that blow when they find out?  And on the other hand people ask, don’t we want to encourage their imagination? (to that last question, I can confidently say children’s ability to imagine is pretty intact regardless). Does it depend on each individual person? If so, how do you know when a child is at such a young age what path to take?  It reminds me of the immense struggle of parish work-moving a vast and diverse community in their spiritual development, all at the same time, for so many different people.  Makes me glad I work one on one.  Even after a week like I had, I’m still glad I do what I do.

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About Lauren Ivory

Lauren Ivory is a hospital chaplain working on Chicago's diverse north side. After receiving her Master of Divinity degree at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO she went on for further hospital ministry training at the Cleveland Clinic of Ohio. On the side, she enjoys helping couples plan wedding/commitment ceremonies and works with couples as a certified premarital guidance counselor.

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