As a hospital chaplain, I ask a lot of personal questions.
They aren’t as personal as the ones nurses ask about bowel movements and pregnancies, but they don’t hurt as much either.
My questions are part of a spiritual assessment designed to connect patients with their own spiritual resources. Today, I offer these questions as a way of directing you toward the spiritual resources of the new year.
Do you have a spirituality, religion or church?
Recently I asked this question, and a woman exclaimed, “No, but I’m ready.” Other patients indicate that they’re “agnostic” or they’re “not religious. “Religion is only a form of spirituality,” I tell them, “but we’re all spiritual.”
Many are missing this reality. You don’t have to accept everything religious leaders preach, but one must come to terms that there is something outside him or herself. We were created with a “god-shaped” hole in our lives that tells us we aren’t alone. Absent that acknowledgement, it is easy to become your own god.
What are you praying for?
This question often brings an annoyed expression, which says, “Duh! I’m obviously praying to get well!”
But it really isn’t that obvious, because the sicker people tend to be, the more they tune into spiritual things. The more they resonate with the spiritual, the more they tune out their own needs and tune into the needs of their families and fellow human beings.
Recently, I challenged a patient to pray for someone other than himself. The next day when I asked him if he’d been praying, he exclaimed, “I’m praying for my daughter.” Then through squelched sobbing, he told me that he had never prayed for her.
Whatever you’re praying for, Christian scripture admonishes us to pray without ceasing.
My addendum to that is: “pray without excuse.” Talk to God about anything and everything. Most of all, pray for others more than yourself, not forgetting the additional scripture, “Pray for those who despitefully use you.”
What is the scariest part of this?
Patents often tell me waiting is the scariest part. Many tell me if they only knew what was going to happen, they could prepare for it. The feeling they are naming is powerlessness over the unknown.
When it comes to powerlessness, I borrow advice from the 12-step groups.
Step one: “Admit you are powerless.”
Step two: “Believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us.”
This question goes back to the first question: Do you have spirituality? Because if you don’t, it won’t help to simply admit you’re powerless, you have to know that restoration is coming from a higher power. That restoration could be in this life or the next, but it will come.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
This question comes from the book “Who Moved my Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, and it reminds me of what we’d ask our kids when they’d say they didn’t know what they wanted for Christmas.
“What would you want if you did know?” we’d ask them.
Deep down I think we know what we would do if we weren’t so afraid. We know what we want.
Not one patient has ever told me he was “afraid” he hadn’t spent enough time in the office. No hospice patient has ever told me she has “loved too much.” They’ve never said, “I wish I had made more money.”
No, they knew what they wanted. They wished they hadn’t been so afraid to express love. They wished they’d spent more time with their families and they wished they’d done more to know God.
They wish they’d spent more time facing the real questions of life. New Year’s blessings to you and yours as you explore these questions.