In one of my previous lives, I’ve had a few, I was a hospital chaplain. I did a year of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wake Forest Baptist Health right after I completed my PhD in Counseling and Counselor Education. It was the hardest year of my life. I sat with people as they died. I sat with families as they watched their loved ones die. I held a baby moments after she took her last breaths. I held and sat with individuals in the most sacred of spaces. In the midst of dark places, I learned more about myself and acceptance than I could imagine.
One evening I was on call and got paged to go to the surgical waiting room. A woman was there waiting as her teenage daughter was in surgery. She explained to me the situation and how she was told by doctors things were not going well. We went into a private waiting room so she could have privacy. She told me she was Muslim. I offered to call the imam from the local mosque. She said that would be nice. I went and called and found out the imam was not available, but that he was calling some elders to come pray and sit with the woman. I went back and waited with her.
When the elders arrived, I was ready to excuse myself when one of the men asked me to stay and pray with them. Not only did they want me to pray for the woman’s daughter in surgery, they asked me to pray first. I was overwhelmed with the offer; I was overwhelmed with the sacredness of that moment. I continued to wait with the mom and elders as the daughter was moved to ICU.
After a few hours I eventually left them. As I walked back to the on call room, I started to process the experience. A woman from a Christian background was invited to pray with a Muslim woman and two elders from the local mosque. I had to ask myself if the roles were reversed would a Muslim chaplain have been as welcomed in the sacred space with a Christian family. I think the answer is clear with the way many are responding in our country at the time.
I am not naïve. I understand what is happening with extremists in our world, but the key is the word extremist. In the same way I am not naïve in understanding what is happening in our own country with mass shootings and white males in their twenties. There are extremists from every walk of life. There are individuals that interpret sacred texts in violent ways (Christians are also guilty of this). I refuse to label all because of the actions of some.
I was invited into one of the most sacred spaces and it taught me so much about acceptance. I was shown love by being invited into sacred space. I want to show that same love. I want to show that acceptance.