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Emergency room care for the soul

June 3, 2010

I have the amazing privilege of volunteering in an emergency room one evening each week. As a volunteer I get to assist the patients and visitors. I answer questions, assist people to rooms, provide pillows and blankets, communicate with the medical staff, and I do my best to calm and assure people. A trip to the emergency room is never on someone’s list of things they want to do, and time has not been scheduled onto their calendar for it so often people are tired, frustrated, hungry, scared, and stressed out when I interact with them.

When a patient comes into the emergency room they check in and they tell us a quick summary of what is wrong.

Maybe they have an injured ankle, a cut finger, or a tummy ache. They may be suffering from dizziness, chest pains, or some mental/emotional/behavioral issue. No matter what the issue is we take the information down and our next job is to do what we can to verify the issue is accurate and there are not other complaints, and to treat it to the best of our ability.

Typically a patient has to wait for a time before they receive a more complete assessment. We call this triage, which means one of the medical staff checks things like blood pressure and records more details about the issues which then allows us to assess what type of care the patient needs and what resources we need to make available for them. This allows us to put them in a room where they can be treated fully, and allows us to get them to the medical staff that is best skilled to care for them.

When they are taken to an exam/treatment room we then begin to treat the issues and are able to learn even more about what is going on with their body. Sometimes we find that the symptoms that were exhibited are only part of the problem. It is the role of the medical staff to do all they can to serve, care for, and heal those in their care.

Author Larry Crabb in his book Connecting writes about his experience of a trip to the emergency room and how he was left wondering if we could care for our souls in ways that are similar to how patients are cared for at an emergency room.

When we go to the emergency room the barriers come down, and we openly share about information we would keep private in other situations. We share history, insights, thoughts, and private actions with the medical staff. Although sometimes patients may worry about judgment toward some of their choices, they realize that the staff needs the facts to be able to provide real care. The medical staff witness people at their worst, in need of care, and stand with people who are wracked with pain. Their words hopefully bring knowledge and insight, and are full of hope because the patient can see the medical staff is engaged in their care, and seeking the best for them.

Crabb asks some powerful questions. “If I wanted to share the battles going on in my soul, could I? Do I know what they are? I know how to complain, to tell others what I don’t like is happening inside me, but can I express in words the most significant war that is waging? Is there a more serious struggle going on than I realize?”

“Has anyone ever actually witnessed the contortions my soul sometimes goes through?

Whom do I trust enough to be my confessor, to see up close the blood that spills during my spiritual battles, the cowardly retreats I sometimes take, the fears that occasionally paralyze me? If the answer is no one, then do all the words of encouragement I hear have no more power than sentimental poetry inside greeting cards?

Am I willing to lose my personal privacy so that a few people can speak deeply into a battle they understand?”

Are there people in my life that I can confess to, turn to, and share my soul struggles with?

Transparency and authenticity about our struggles, our sins, and our needs has become something that is not commonly accepted in our churches today. Even Christian’s do not seem to really want to hear about the tough times, but instead just want to know about the good things in life.

We all have tough days, and sometimes those difficult times move from being a few days to an extended season.

What if you wanted to share the battles going on in your soul….could you? Would you? Have you even taken the time to recognize what they are?

Tonight I will again have the privilege of serving people during their time of need. I want to care for their bodies, but even more I serve because I care about their souls. It is such a blessing when I have the opportunity to speak with people about their spirits, their souls, and the condition of their heart.

On Sunday I get to spend time with friends/family at church. I love their company, I care about their lives, and I want to hear about their weeks, but more than anything…..I care about their souls. I want to be there to witness the contortions of their souls as they find the Lord. I want to be there for them to confess to, share with, and fall apart on during their time in need. I want to be a safe place where they can be transparent, authentic, and real. I want to hear about the battles in their souls and I want to walk with them and love them through it.

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