I am at a church caregiver training this weekend, and I feel sorely insufficient for this calling. I hear that God enjoys using all types of people, however, including those who feel like they don’t measure up. So here I am. God used unlikely people in the Bible, right? I think that He is good at that. I’m counting on it. If not, I’m screwed.
The training was going pretty well, as we have covered the basic areas of congregational caregivers, such as prayer, listening, boundaries, visitation, mental health issues, and organization.
And then we came to a topic that scares me more than anything else: death. I don’t know if it is those few stubborn postpartum hormones still holding on paired with anxiety and my hamster-wheel runaway train thoughts of possible tragedies and losing my children, or if it is the guilt that if my parents died that I would exhale a sigh of relief. It could have to do with the sex games that people played with me when I was a child, seeing how close they could kill me without actually snuffing me out entirely. I imagine that being smashed against the pearly gates and raped would deter anyone from ministering to the dying population in the church.
During the session, I persevered valiantly for roughly 45 minutes. The tears stayed balance like little champions on my eyelids. I didn’t allow them to spill over. I was also conveniently sitting front and center, so there was no means of a clandestine escape from the workshop. But slowly, I felt those child parts nudge their way to the front of my consciousness and take over ship. My feet carried me out of the workshop, and I quickly found what seemed to be a safe place to hide. I let myself cry and breathe for a while and looked at my feet. I saw bricks….probably a hundred or so, each engraved with memorial words for loved ones who had passed away, elderly, middle-aged, babies with only one date. I sighed. Perfect. I escaped the teaching session on death and dying only to be “rescued” by the memorial garden of this mega-church, with a hundred bricks screaming at me the reality of death.
I asked God for a little favor. I’ve done that a lot lately. I just asked for him to show me that He cares and that I’m worth something to Him. Just then, a young pastor came and sat next to me. This church is so large that they have a pastor of prayer. Her sole job is to build and equip the prayer ministry of the church. And I hoped that her presence was the answer to my prayer.
We started to chat, and I fumbled around, trying to communicate in as few words as possible the source of my extreme angst. This is a game that I often play with people. My belief is that surely I am a waste of peoples’ time, so I better see how few words I can use to communicate so that they can go on their merry way, liberated from my tedious presence. So I played my 25 words or less game, but this young pastor actually seemed to care. Better yet, she trusted me in that moment enough to share a vulnerable and honest part of herself as well. She’s scared of death too. She and her husband are both pastors, and on Easter, they each had to do a funeral. Hers was for a baby born at 22 weeks gestation. On Easter Day. Then, she and her husband watched The Fault in Our Stars together that night and wept in each other’s arms, terrified of death. And they are pastors. She spoke to me of her anxiety and her own hamster wheel, her struggle of not knowing sometimes how to stop the wheel, and her difficulty in communicating it to her husband. Like we were friends. She just trusted me.
And you know what? That’s what I needed. I needed a friend.
Not a pastor. Not a counselor. But a companion. He cares. God cares. I’m still scared of death on so many levels. But so is Katherine, my friend. And it is pretty clear that I am worth something to God.